Does my new tow car need to be a diesel?
A reader asks if diesel is his only option for a tow car, or if he could haul his caravan with a petrol-engined SUV...
I am looking to buy a nearly new car in the next few months, and I’m also planning on buying a caravan. The choice of caravan isn’t yet fixed, but I do know it will have a maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM, or the entire weight of the caravan and all its contents) of between 1400kg and 1500kg.
I would like a Skoda Karoq, and I assume that to tow a caravan of the weight mentioned, a diesel would be the way to go. Should I go for a 2.0-litre diesel model, or would a 1.6 be up to the job?
My other option is a 2.0-litre diesel Volkswagen Tiguan, which I know is more than man enough for the task.
Given that diesel engines are now being seen as the scourge of the Earth do either Skoda or Volkswagen do a petrol model that would make a good tow car?
What Car? says...
Our tow car expert, David Motton, says: “It’s complicated, because there are two sets of figures for cars and caravans: the legal maximum towing capacity and what The Camping and Caravanning Club would consider to be best practice. It recommends that a caravan should tip the scales at no more than 85% of the tow car’s kerb weight, especially if the driver is new to towing.
“The legal towing limit is often much heavier than the kerb weight of the tow car, but it is based on the car’s ability to tow a certain weight of trailer up a slope repeatedly. It’s a measure of the strength of the engine and gearbox rather than an indication of a safe and sensible weight to tow at 60mph on the motorway.
“Most of the cars you’re considering can legally tow a caravan with an MTPLM of 1400-1500kg, but to do so won’t necessarily be what’s recommended for stable, stress-free towing.
“Abiding by the 85% guideline, the minimum kerb weight of a car for towing a caravan with an MTPLM of 1400kg is 1647kg, or 1765kg if you’re towing a 1500kg caravan.
“In addition, car companies quote a range of kerb weights for each model, because there can be big differences in weight depending on the trim level and amount of standard equipment. Based on the lowest kerb weight for each model you’re considering, the Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4 DSG can tow 1366kg, the Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 150 4Motion DSG can tow 1422kg and the higher-powered Tiguan 2.0 TDI 190 4Motion can tow 1465kg.
“I wouldn’t recommend the 1.6-litre diesel or 1.5-litre petrol versions of the Karoq or Tiguan for towing your caravan because they would struggle. The 2.0-litre petrol Tiguan would manage better, but still not as well as the equivalent diesel, and fuel economy will be poor when towing.
“So, although the Karoq is a good tow car, we’d opt for either of the 2.0-litre diesel Tiguans, because they’re both better for towing a fairly heavy caravan.”
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
The best and worst family SUVs
Deciding which car is best for transporting you and your family is one of life’s more important decisions. So, here we count down our favourite family SUVs – and name the the models that are best avoided.
10. Kia Sportage
Stick to the lower trims and the Sportage is good value, giving you a lot of space and equipment for your money. It isn't as good at dealing with bumpy roads as the very best family SUVs, though, while the engines can be noisy and aren't especially frugal.
9. Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai is the car that started the trend for mainstream family SUVs and, as hard as it is to believe now, it was seen as something of a gamble when it was first introduced in 2007. Fortunately for Nissan, the blend of an elevated driving position and stylish looks made the Qashqai a huge hit. And while it's been surpassed by several rivals in the past couple of years, it remains a sound proposition, particularly if you choose the quiet and efficient 1.3-litre petrol version.
8. Audi Q3
Audi's second-generation Q3 offers a high-tech interior with plenty of space for both passengers and luggage. It's a decent car to drive, too, with composed handling and accurate steering. However, the ride can be a little firm and some of the bigger-selling engines can sound rough.
Best hybrid cars 2023
Everyone from Toyota to Porsche sells hybrids these days, but which models are best and which should you avoid? Here's our list of the top 10 hybrid cars
Suzuki S-Cross long-term test
The S-Cross is one of the more grown-up and practical small SUVs, but does that make it an easy car to live with? We're finding out