If you own a caravan, horsebox or trailer, you'll need to choose the right car to tow it. But that's not easy. While you can test drive a car before you buy it, your average dealer demonstrator is unlikely to have a tow ball. And you can't assume that because a car performs well in regular driving, it will be just as able with a tonne-and-a-half of caravan on the back.
That's where the Tow Car Awards come in. Since 2007, What Car? has been teaming up with Practical Caravan and The Camping and Caravanning Club to help buyers choose the right tow car.
We know that even the keenest caravanner is likely to spend many more miles driving without their home-from-home in tow, so each car is assessed as an everyday drive. We also rate every model for safety, value, running costs and resale values.
Next, the experts from The Camping and Caravanning Club fill the cars' boots with a typical load of holiday luggage and look for practical features such as 12v sockets and towing electrics that you can access easily.
Finally, and most importantly, we tow with every car, weighting the caravan or trailer to 85% of each car's kerbweight – the recommended maximum. Experienced caravanners with thousands of miles of towing behind them provide feedback, plus one of What Car?'s expert testers puts the cars through more extreme manoeuvres, including an emergency stop and an aggressive lane-change.
We test cars in five classes, divided by weight, to make it easy to find one that's suitable for towing your caravan or trailer. Read on to discover the best tow cars of 2017.
Up to 1400kg
Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 150PS SE L DSG
- List price: £25,815
- Target Price: £24,189
- Kerbweight: 1374kg
- 85% match: 1168kg
- Max towing weight: 1600kg
- Towball limit: 75kg
The Skoda Octavia is a previous winner in the 'Up to 1400kg' weight class, and returns to the top this year. The 2017 car has updated looks and an improved infotainment system, but the fundamentals haven't changed much. Then again, they didn't need to, given how good the Octavia was to start with.
It's a very roomy car, with exceptional rear-seat space and a huge boot. The Octavia Estate is cavernous, but the hatchback is barely any less accommodating.
Just as importantly, it's a very fine car to tow with. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine has plenty of mid-range pull, which is much more important than top-end power when towing. The brakes proved strong in an emergency stop, and the DSG automatic helped make the hill-start test straightforward.
In everyday driving, the Octavia is very capable, even if it doesn't ride and handle with quite the polish of the Volkswagen Golf, which has more sophisticated rear suspension.
Tow Car Awards verdict: The Octavia is stable, roomy and great value.
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