MPVs as we know them are, essentially, dead.
From their heyday of the mid-90s when every brand had at least one boxy and vastly adaptable people mover, the segment has thinned down to virtually nothing.
Ford has stopped taking orders for the S-Max and Citroen has killed of the Grand C4 Spacetourer. The VW Touran and Sharan are no more and even Renault has abandoned the Scenic MPV, reimagining it as a hydrogen-powered SUV for the future.
Now buyers looking for the space, flexibility and practicality of traditional MPVs are having to turn to small van-based vehicles. Models like the Ford Tourneo Connect, Citroen e-Berlingo and the Peugeot e-Rifter.
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As the name suggests, the e-Rifter is an electrically-powered version of the Rifter than was launched in 2018. It, like the related Berlingo, lost all combustion-engined options and now uses a 134bhp electric motor and a 50kWh battery.
That shift has had an impact on the e-Rifter’s practicality. When once you could have a diesel version that covered more than 600 miles on a tank, now the battery-powered version offers a claimed range of 172 miles. In warm conditions we saw close to that indicated by the trip computer but in the depths of winter I’d expect it to drop.
In fairness to Peugeot, 160-170 miles is still good enough for many people’s average use - I could cover my regular weekly trips with no more than a single overnight charge. But any plans for longer journeys to visit friends or take the family on holiday require far more planning, stops and dealing with the UK’s patchy public charging infrastructure. At least the e-Rifter has 100kW charging that will add 80% capacity in 30 minutes.
As with any car, individual circumstances will dictate how suitable it is for drivers, but the relatively small real-world range of the e-Rifter does feel like a limiting factor in what is otherwise a fantastically practical and family-friendly vehicle.
Its looks almost scream plain-but-practical. There isn’t much in the way of cosmetic embellishment to the e-Rifter’s upright boxy design. Some cladding on the wheel arches and roof rails make an effort to make it look less like a van but the shape is unmistakably van-like and touches like the sliding doors don’t help with that image.
The sliding doors might emphasise the commercial roots of the e-Rifter but they’re also wonderfully practical. They create a wide and easily accessible space for those using the second row of seats, and slash the chances of car park prangs as doors are flung wide open. The full depth tailgate needs quite a lot of space to open but, similarly, offers a huge uninterrupted load space, whether you’re packing for a family holiday or loading up your lifestyle accessories of choice.
In standard five-seat models the boot will swallow a massive 775 litres of luggage. Fold the rear seats down and you’ll have a completely flat load area of 1,414 litres 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 litres of boot and a pair of extra seats which fold flat into the floor when not in use, making the e-Rifter one of the few electric seven-seaters on the market.
In either configuration the second row of seats has three properly sized seats that can accommodate adults. However, in entry-level Allure Premium spec the bench splits 40/60 and if you want three individuals seats you’ll need to step up to GT spec.
Regardless of spec, the e-Rifter offers plenty of leg and shoulder room for everyone and ridiculous amounts of headroom. There’s even a high-level storage space above the front seats, complementing the deep door pockets, and huge centre console that will swallow a whole family’s worth of food, drink and devices. Tray tables in the back of the front seats add to the user-friendly nature of this practical people mover.
The Allure Premium spec is positioned at the bottom of the range, with a list price of £31,145 that was intended to qualify it for the now-defunct plug-in car grant. As such, the air conditioning is manual rather than automatic and while the headlights are automatic, they’re not full LED units. It also, bizarrely for an EV, has a turn-key ignition rather than keyless start button. Still, it offers all the basics, from all-round electric windows to a reversing camera, eight-inch infotainment system with (much-needed) smartphone mirroring and even features a 10-inch digital instrument display.
Stepping up to GT trim adds more creature comforts but pushes the price beyond the grant threshold, blunting the e-Rifters big-value appeal.
In a world that’s gone mad for big-on-the-outside-small-on-the-inside SUVs, the e-Rifter is refreshingly practical. It offers the kind of flexible, spacious and user-friendly format that many families still want (just see the soaring values of used MPVs) and, in basic trim, offers remarkable value. If you can cope with its relatively limited range, it’s a winning formula.
Peugeot e-Rifter Allure Premium
Price: £31,14; Motor: Single electric motor; Battery: 50kWh; Power: 134bhp; Torque: 162lb ft; Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive; Top speed: 83mph; 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds; WLTP range: 172 miles; Consumption: 3 miles/kWh; Charging: Up to 100kW