I have always been conscious that whatever car I am driving is probably someone’s dream vehicle – but even this one surprised me.

I was about to reverse the Rifter off my driveway when a Range Rover pulled up behind with clearly no intention of letting me escape.

A genial chap jumped out and asked if he could have a quick look around it, as he was considering buying one for his wife to transport their three children.

Five minutes later he left suitably impressed and that was without driving it. And it is the drive that is one of the more remarkable aspects of the Rifter.

The car is the successor to the Partner Tepee, but while it shares the obvious advantages of space offered by its van-based predecessor, the Rifter’s ride and handling have taken a huge leap forward.

Cruising quietly at motorway speeds, it is hard to believe that such a large boxy interior can deliver such a refined driving experience.

In addition to the classy drive, Peugeot has added more than a dash of crossover style to turn a sensible, practical and useful car into a capacious vehicle with some real kerbside appeal.

Priced from £19,650, the Rifter is tailor made for people with outdoor pursuits. Lifting the huge tailgate opens up a large square loadspace. If you are carrying long loads, simply pull a handle on any of the three rear seats and they fold and lower to create a perfectly flat floor.

While impressive carrying capacity is the Rifter’s serious selling point, the car is surprisingly fun to drive. A compact steering wheel and eight-inch colour touchscreen dominate the cockpit and there is no shortage of technology on tap.

All models come as standard with lane keeping assist, speed limit recognition and recommendation and active safety brake, air conditioning, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, Bluetooth, DAB radio and aluminium roof bars.

The car driven here, in top-of-the-range GT Line trim, sits on eye-catching 17-inch alloy wheels and simply bursts with equipment from electric rear windows, rear parking sensors and electric parking brake, to tray tables at the back of the front seats, a voice recognition system, keyless entry, automatic dual-zone climate control, power folding mirrors, panoramic glass roof with an electric interior blind and overhead storage spaces. Not to mention push-button SOS and garage assistance systems and 3D satellite navigation as standard.

Small wonder that the car has already been named best multi-purpose vehicle in the UK Car of the Year Awards 2019 and was a contender for the overall Car of the Year title, only losing out to the on-trend Jaguar I-PACE.

The standard version is available with five-seat configuration, whilst the long version is available in seven-seat configuration with the latest range of Peugeot engines, including the 1.2-litre PureTech 110 petrol engine with six-speed manual gearbox, as well as the 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130, with a six-speed manual, or eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Whatever model my Range Rover-driving friend went for, the family are in for a treat.

Auto facts

Model: Peugeot Rifter GT Line BlueHDi 130

Price: £26,305 as tested

Insurance group: 15 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 50.1mpg

Top speed: 116mph

Length: 440.3cm/173in

Width: 210.7cm/82.7in

Luggage capacity: 27.3 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11 gallons/50 litres

CO2 emissions: 114g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles