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Now for something completely different- the new Peugeot Rifter, a true multi-purpose vehicle which benefits from all the technology and engines of the modern Peugeot.

In order to sample the newcomer first hand, I travelled to the South of France and to Monaco to learn more and drive the newcomer. Right away one of the most outstanding features of this new vehicle is its huge storage capacity which can be as much as 4,000 litres and to really get the inside line on the Rifter over breakfast one morning I had a long chat with Keith Ryder the designer who has been with Peugeot for some thirty years. Although his focus was clearly on design he was able to provide me with the full story. “The challenge for the new Rifter was to offer an appealing vehicle while still meeting the volume”, Keith Ryder. My how the French take to such a vehicle and for many of you who have taken holidays there you will know just how much they adore and appreciate such a vehicle. Throughout Ireland families and those with active lifestyles will appreciate such a vehicle that is so very multi functional. For example it would make a great support vehicle for those involved in motorsport.

However, it is simply not enough just to have a load carrier but it must have all the other qualities that a conventional saloon or hatchback can offer. Built on a new platform and with Tonka-like styling as I clocked up the kilometres this newcomer really grew on me; with a commanding drive position and good all round vision and riding on generous size wheels it had added ground clearance. I could quite easily live with the Rifter, Monday to Friday for everyday chores and then at the weekend the ideal leisure vehicle.

It is the spiritual successor to the Partner Tepee and it features the much heralded i-Cockpit technology, which is now a feature of many models from the brand including the much awaited new 508 saloon. Many too often without much thought will write such a vehicle off as being van-like; this time you get a premium driving experience. Design wise the new Rifter features a short bonnet, integrated roof bars, both practical and stylish. If you have owned or driven an SUV you will have experienced grip ad descent control, yet another feature of this new Peugeot.

There is easy access to the generous interior including sliding side doors and on some trim levels an opening rear window, which means you do not have to open the tailgate. All of these touches add further to the appeal of this vehicle and when it comes to storage spaces they abound throughout the interior including some very clever ones above head level. The newcomer benefits from the high level of technology that other models from the brand offer, the already noted i-Cockpit, then there is cruise control, an active lane departure warning system, a blind spot monitoring system and even an optional reversing camera.

Power choice and again Peugeot has provided the Rifter with their latest range of petrol and diesel engines and a choice of a six speed manual and an eight speed automatic transmission. How does it perform? Well I had the opportunity to drive and enjoy the newcomer and despite all the space that the interior offers, its exterior dimensions are just 4.4 metres (standard version) and 4.75 metres (long version), which is quite compact for a vehicle of this type. Through the crowded streets of Monaco and Nice it handled like a conventional car and on a route which took me high into the hills above the Med I was able to explore the handling qualities.

At the conclusion of the lengthy test drive I exited the Rifter feeling relaxed, I certainly enjoyed my time with the new Peugeot, a welcome break if I may add from the multitude of SUVs I have test driven over the past few months. Sales of the newcomer are expected to commence late summer.

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