The van-based electric people carrier proves that there’s still room for simple, family-friendly alternatives to SUVs
MPVs as we know them are essentially dead.
The segment has dwindled to virtually nothing since its heyday in the mid-’90s, when every brand had at least one boxy and highly adaptable people mover.
Now buyers looking for the space, flexibility and practicality of traditional MPVs have to turn to small van-based vehicles. Models like the Ford Tourneo Connect, Citroen e-Berlingo and Peugeot e-Rifter.
This shift has affected the practicality of the e-Rifter. You used to be able to have a diesel version that would go in excess of 600 miles on one tank, now the battery powered version boasts a claimed range of 172 miles. In warm weather we saw roughly what the trip computer showed, but in the dead of winter I would expect them to drop.
To be fair to Peugeot, 160-170 miles is still good enough for many people’s average consumption – I could cover my regular weekly trips with no more than a single overnight charge. But any plans for longer trips to visit friends or go on holiday with family require a lot more planning, stopovers and dealing with the UK’s patchy public charging infrastructure. At least the e-Rifter has a charging power of 100kW, which adds 80% capacity in 30 minutes.
As with any car, individual circumstances will determine how suitable it is for the driver, but the e-Rifter’s relatively short real-world range feels like a limiting factor in an otherwise fantastically practical and family-friendly vehicle.
Its looks almost screams plain but practical. The e-Rifter’s upright, boxy design doesn’t offer much cosmetic embellishment. Some trim on the wheel arches and roof rails strive to make it look less van-like, but the shape is unmistakably van-esque and touches like the sliding doors don’t help with that image.
While the sliding doors emphasize the e-Rifter’s commercial roots, they’re also wonderfully practical. They create a wide and easily accessible space for those using the second row of seats and reduce the likelihood of parking prangs when the doors are opened wide. The full-depth tailgate takes up quite a bit of room to open, but it also offers huge, uninterrupted cargo space, whether you’re packing for a family vacation or inviting in your lifestyle accessories of choice.
In the standard five-seater, the trunk swallows a whopping 775 liters of luggage. Fold the rear seats down and you have a fully flat 1,414-litre load floor to the window line and you can even fold the front passenger seat flat to accommodate extra-long items.
The long-wheelbase version offers 1,050 liters of boot space and two additional seats that fold flat into the floor when not in use, making the e-Rifter one of the few electric seven-seaters on the market.
In both configurations, the second row of seats has three really large seats that can accommodate adults. In the entry-level Allure Premium trim, however, the bench splits 40/60, and if you want three individual seats you’ll have to step up to the GT trim.
Regardless of the trim level, the e-Rifter offers plenty of legroom and shoulderroom for all, and a ridiculous amount of headroom. There’s even high-level storage above the front seats to complement the deep door pockets, and a huge center console that will swallow an entire family’s groceries, drinks and gadgets. Tray tables on the back of the front seats add to the usability of this practical people mover.
The Allure Premium trim sits at the lower end of the range with a list price of £31,145, which should qualify it for the now-defunct plug-in car grant. As such, the climate control is manual rather than automatic, and while the headlights are automatic, they’re not full-LED units. It also has, bizarrely for an electric vehicle, a turnkey ignition rather than a keyless start button. Still, it packs all the basics, from all-round power windows to a reversing camera, an 8-inch infotainment system with (much-needed) smartphone mirroring, and even has a 10-inch digital instrument display.
Upgrading to GT trim offers more creature comforts, but pushes the price past the grant threshold and weakens the appeal of the great value e-Rifter.
In a world crazy about big-outside-small-inside SUVs, the e-Rifter is refreshingly practical. It offers the kind of flexible, roomy and user-friendly format that many families still want (just look at the rising values of used MPVs) and offers remarkable value in the basic configuration. If you can get by with its relatively limited range, it’s a winning formula.
Peugeot e-Rifter Allure Premium
Price: £31.14; Engine: Single electric motor; Battery: 50kWh; Perfomance: 134 hp; Torque: 162 pounds foot; Transmission: single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive; Top speed: 83 miles per hour; 0-100km/h: 11.2 seconds; WLTP range: 172 miles; Consumption: 3 miles/kWh; Load: Up to 100kW