Choosing the best car for towing a trailer or caravan is hard because the first chance most people get to see if their car is any good with a load on the back is after they've bought it. That’s is why What Car? is involved with The Tow Car Awards.
The Tow Car Awards is Britain’s toughest test of towing ability. Started in 2007, the testing programme is the UK’s biggest and best assessment of a car’s ability to tow a trailer.
All the latest eligible cars are put through their paces at the MIRA Proving Ground in Warwickshire. Cars are assessed by road testers from What Car? and Practical Caravan magazines but that is only part of the testing.
Performance, ride quality, braking and hill start capabilities are all recorded, using a combination of tester feedback and empirical data from the Al-Ko ATC trailer stability system. Judges from the Camping and Caravanning Club assess vehicle practicality, the tow bar installation and spare wheel provision.
Best cars for towing up to 1400kg
The best car for towing smaller loads of up to 1400kg is the Skoda Octavia. In 2.0 TDI CR 150PS SE Business form, the hatchback remains stable at high speeds, with steering corrections only needed above the legal limit of 60mph. Its 2.0-litre diesel engine provides plenty of pulling power, and its handbrake is strong enough to hold both car and caravan on a 1-in-6 slope. The Octavia also scores well on practicality, coming with a spacious interior and a 590-litre boot.
Best cars for towing between 1400kg and 1549kg
There are a lot of very talented tow cars at this level which can tow smaller caravans, trailer tents and all manner of other lighter trailers. This year's winner is a familiar sight on the road, and with good reason. The latest Volkswagen Passat may be significantly lighter than the old car, but it still punches well above its weight when it comes to towing medium-sized loads. Towing is easy at speeds of up to 70mph, and the Passat passed even our emergency lane-change test with flying colours. The 2.0-litre diesel engine in our test car has plenty of torque, at 251lb ft, and can tow from 30-60mph in 11.7 seconds.
Best cars for towing between 1550kg to 1900kg
Loads in this weight category include most mid-market single and twin-axle caravans, horse boxes and larger trailers. Cars here need to have the pulling power and stability to make towing a breeze. For loads between 1550-1699kg, we'd recommend the Mazda CX-5, which in 2.2-litre diesel form offers plenty of power and the added security of all-wheel drive. For larger loads up to 1899kg, Volkswagen's Passat Estate again takes the top honours, this time in 2.0-litre 4Motion four-wheel drive form. For the largest loads weighing 1900kg and above, the Land Rover Discovery remains our preferred choice. Nothing else comes close to matching the big SUV's practicality and stability for towing.
Best petrol tow car
The Ford Mondeo 1.5T EcoBoost takes a win here because its engine is just as strong as the diesel equivalent while also being quiet. Accelerating from 30-60mph took 13.1 seconds, and the Mondeo remained stable at higher speeds.
For full details of every car tested since 2007, visit the dedicated Tow Car Awards website.