Best cars for towing
Whether you're planning to tow a light trailer, a giant twin-axle caravan, or something in between, these are the models you should be considering...
You're asking a lot of a car when you hitch it up to a caravan or trailer. After all, you're expecting it to pull something which could weigh almost as much as the car itself, while still keeping up with traffic and coping with hill starts. And, of course, you want it to remain stable and comfortable.
The trouble is it's difficult to know how a car will perform with a caravan on the back before you buy; turn up at a showroom for a test drive expecting to hitch a 'van up, and you won’t get very far.
That’s why the Tow Car Awards have become so important. Every year since 2007, What Car? has joined forces with Practical Caravan and The Camping and Caravanning Club to find Britain's best tow cars. This year alone, some 40 cars were put to the test, and have been added to the huge archive of more than 500 tow car reviews at thetowcarawards.com
The cars were matched to Swift Group caravans, each weighted to 85% of the car's kerbweight or the legal towing limit (whichever was lower). Plus, they were ballasted to simulate driving with passengers and luggage, and we divided the contenders into five weight categories, to make it simple to find a car of the right weight to make a safe and sensible match for any trailer.
Each car went through the same demanding tests. One of our expert road testers was responsible for the most aggressive manoeuvres, designed to show which cars will stay under control in an emergency. The lane-change was a stern test of each car's grip, poise and stability while the emergency stop from 30mph showed up any deficiency in the car's brakes. Data from the caravan's Al-Ko ATC stability system was used to better understand how each car and caravan combination behaved at high speeds, and while slowing down.
Meanwhile drivers from Practical Caravan and The Camping and Caravanning Club performed tests of their own, assessing high speed stability and carrying out a hill start on a 1-in-6 slope.
A separate team checked over every car in detail, looking for towing-friendly features like a trailer stability system and confirming whether the puncture repair provision was suitable for use while towing.
Even the most dedicated caravanner is likely to spend more time driving without their caravan, so we've also assessed each car as an everyday drive. Running costs, safety standards and value for money have also been carefully considered.
These are our favourite tow cars of 2019...
Up to 1400kg
Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L DSG
List price: £24,225 Target Price: £22,237 Kerb weight: 1295kg 85% match: 1101kg Max towing weight: 1500kg Towball limit: 75kg
The Octavia has won this award several times, but this year was a close run thing. The Nissan Qashqai matched it for towing ability, but as an all-round buy, the Octavia just has the edge.
For a relatively small and light car, it tows very well, feeling stable at high speeds and taking care of itself in an emergency lane-change.
This is the first time we've towed with a petrol Octavia rather than a diesel. Forget any idea you might have that a petrol engine can't be well suited to towing – the 1.5 TSI performed really well, easily hauling car and caravan up to 60mph.
It's when you start to consider the Skoda as a practical family car that it really pulls away from its rivals, though. There's lots of space inside, so tall teenagers and adults will be comfortable in the back. And the plus-sized boot will easily cope with holiday luggage.
Combine that with affordable pricing, generous standard specification and low running costs and you have a worthy winner.
Tow Car Awards verdict: The most complete small tow car around