With a few mods, Crawford Performance has turned a Crosstrek into a proper off-roader
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Peugeot Rifter eh? Like the pushbike? You’re old, and memory is failing you. You’re thinking of the Raleigh Grifter, with a G, the must-have wheels in the late-’70s for snotty flared-trouser youths still too small for the Chopper. Let’s see if we can’t all get archive photos trending on Insta this week. Right. Rifter. Look, it replaces the even more embarrassingly named Partner Tepee, so let’s not mock. OK. It looks very… practical.
My word, you seem to have seen straight through the attempts to make it look like a premium crossover, what with the chrome grille and LED lights and mock undertray an’ all. But yes, practical is what it is. A van. Le camion de Facteur Patrice. Only with extra windows and seats, plus unfeasible amounts of storage for the paraphernalia of leisure pursuits. Or just family debris. But is it torture to drive? Not really. It begins life with a car/crossover platform, very similar to what’s under the 3008, albeit with alterations at the rear to improve load space. The one we drove had a 110bhp version of the company’s three-cylinder 1.2 engine. It feels honest and eager to please, if not super-refined or plush. The chirpy little engine can be quiet if you’re gentle or quite busy-sounding if you’re not, and I soon confirmed the 5,000rpm red line is a waste of paint, easily going beyond. With an unloaded Rifter anyway, it doesn’t feel too puny. The manual box might have the usual French wispy feel but its ratios are well chosen. Steering is fairly direct, too, helped by the small steering wheel that Peugeot always favours. The suspension has longish travel and decent ground clearance, so it isn’t bothered by bad rural roads or urban pot-holes. You do hear the compressions though. And of course there’s body roll: it’s a typical tall soft French machine. If it’s all-new, can I get modern kit? Yup: touchscreen connected navigation, lane assist, emergency auto-braking, adaptive cruise, blind-spot warning, parking cameras. It’s fitted into one of Peugeot’s iCockpits: the instruments are high up, and you look at them over the rim of the little flat-topped steering wheel. There’s an electric parking brake, giving space for loads of trays and cubbies in the sloping centre console. Isn’t that all a bit OTT in a van, where low price and high space trump all? Full UK specs are yet to be decided but we’d imagine much will be optional. Cleverly though, it doesn’t look like lipstick on a pig. The tall cabin is decently finished but – like the dynamics – it’s honest. Not pretending to be what it isn’t. Posh materials would be out of place, and yet the design is smart enough that the gadgets fit the atmosphere. Stop pretending this is a car review. Tell us how useful it is. OK, you can have it in two wheelbase lengths, and five or seven seats. Even in the SWB, there’s a ridiculously boxy boot space in five-seat mode, and the rear seats fold with a neat pantograph motion into the floor. Not enough? The front passenger seat folds too. The back doors slide, which means they have a vast opening, and yet they aren’t too awkward to open and close. They also have proper wind-down electric windows, not the annoying sliding kind. But it’s not just about the big objects. It’ll swallow insane amounts of smaller stuff too. A multiplicity of overhead bins (don’t put anything hard or sharp up there), console bins, a huge glovebox because the passenger airbag is in the ceiling, and even underfloor bins beneath the rear footwells. No doubt I’ve forgotten some. While testing it I was terrified to use most of this storage lest I lost stuff til the end of time. Whatever happened to that mobile phone charger/pair of sunglasses/carton of milk/pair of worn socks. If they aren’t enough, roof rails help you strap even more clobber on top. You could pack your entire life into this and disappear. Why, there’s even a mains-voltage socket so you can still have the comforts of home when you’re away off-grid. Which is really the pitch for the Rifter as a whole: it’s somewhat the outsider, but it’s not too punishing.