Best hybrid & electric cars for towing

So, you want to do the right thing and buy an electric or hybrid car, but you also need to tow a caravan or trailer occasionally. What’s the best alternative-fuel car for you?.....

If you own a caravan that you take on regular trips and want an affordable car to tow it with, you’re best off choosing a diesel model, such as our current Tow Car of the Year, the Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI.

Discovery towing

However, if you only need to tow occasionally, or have something lighter to tow, such as a small trailer or cycle carrier, you could reap the fuel, emissions and money-saving benefits of a hybrid or electric car much of the time and still be able to use it to tow every now and then.

You’ll have to choose your car carefully, though, because not all alternative-fuel cars are approved for towing and some of those that are have low legal towing limits. For example, the Toyota Prius Hybrid can only tow a braked or unbraked trailer weighing up to 725kg, while the larger, heavier Lexus RX450h has a maximum towing limit of 2000kg.

Here we name the best hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars for towing:

Hybrids:

 Honda CR-V Hybrid

Honda CR-V Hybrid

Maximum towing weight: 750kg

The hybrid version of the CR-V has replaced the diesel-engined options in the latest line-up. However, with less than half of the towing capacity of the old diesel (which could tow 2000kg), the new model doesn’t provide a viable alternative for anyone towing a heavy caravan.

Fuel economy is average at 41mpg, but its CO2 emissions of 120g/km are higher than you might expect.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 2019 front tracking

Maximum towing weight: 750kg

The hybrid version of the Ioniq uses a petrol engine and an electric motor to provide better acceleration than a Toyota Prius.

However, like the Prius, it's not able to tow a larger caravan. Its combination of good driving manners and value for money helped it gain our award for Hybrid of the Year 2019. It's worth noting that the pure electric Ioniq isn't able to tow at all.

Lexus RX450h

Lexus RX450h

Maximum towing weight: 2000kg

Equipped with a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine and a pair of electric motors, the RX450h isn’t as accomplished to drive as German luxury SUV rivals, but it’s surprisingly frugal, achieving 40mpg in our True MPG tests. That figure will drop if you’re towing, though.

Toyota C-HR Hybrid

Toyota C-HR Hybrid

Maximum towing weight: 725kg

Although the C-HR can’t tow much, it performs well when towing a lighter trailer. It feels secure and corners and pulls well, although the engine makes a lot of noise under hard acceleration. The hybrid C-HR accelerates slower than the 1.2-litre petrol version, though, so we actually recommend the latter.

Toyota Prius Hybrid

Toyota Prius Hybrid

Maximum towing weight: 725kg

The Prius is restricted to towing small trailers or bike carriers. With a combination of a 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, its performance isn’t sparkling. It’s similar in ability to the C-HR, though, feeling safe at motorway speeds, although the engine gets vocal when pushed hard.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Maximum towing weight: 1650kg

The RAV4 doesn’t have the best towing capacity and when tested for the What Car? Tow Car Awards, it didn’t perform as well as rival SUVs.

It feels unsettled at motorway speeds, makes a lot of noise under hard acceleration and takes longer to stop than other large SUVs. It’s roomy, though, and fairly economical to drive around town when the electric motor can kick in more often.

Plug-in hybrids

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Maximum towing weight: 1600kg

Powered by an electric motor and a 1.4-litre petrol engine, the plug-in hybrid version of the A3 doesn’t quite have the handling prowess of its petrol and diesel siblings, but it’s a relatively roomy family-sized car with a plush interior.

It’s best suited to those who do lots of fairly short journeys; its batteries will be depleted after 15-20 miles, or less if you’re towing.

Audi Q7 e-tron

Audi Q7 e-tron

Maximum towing weight: 2800kg

The big Audi SUV combines a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine with a battery pack that will let you travel for 34 miles before it needs to be recharged; this is the official figure, though, so expect to cover fewer miles in real-world driving.

That short pure electric range means you’ll have to have deep pockets if you’re going on a long trip, because fuel economy will plummet once the batteries are depleted.

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e

Maximum towing weight: 2700kg

The X5 is one of the best luxury SUVs to drive and unsurprisingly it’s also one of the best for towing, feeling safe and secure with a caravan behind it.

At low speeds, it’s powered by an electric motor, which is aided by a 2.0-litre petrol engine if you accelerate hard or travel faster than 44mph. Its electric range is 19 miles.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in hybrid

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in hybrid

Maximum towing weight: 750kg

Like the conventional hybrid version of the Ioniq, the plug-in has a towing capacity limited to small trailers or caravans.

It drives well and has plenty of pulling power. However, it's not as quick off the line as the pure electric Ioniq, although that version isn't able to tow.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Maximum towing weight: 1500kg

The plug-in hybrid Outlander doesn’t cost much more to buy than its 2.0-litre petrol sibling and is more economical, thanks to its batteries and two electric motors, which let it travel for up to 28 miles (officially) on pure electric power.

Its maximum towing capacity isn’t huge, but it’s enough for a wide range of caravans.

Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid

Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid

Maximum towing weight: 3500kg

The hybrid Cayenne has the best towing capacity of any alternative-fuel car and the sportiest handling, making it feel more controlled and predictable through bends than a BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport.

Its official electric-only range is 27 miles, although you won’t achieve that in the real world, especially towing a caravan.

Range Rover Sport P400e HSE Dynamic

Range Rover Sport P400e HSE Dynamic

Maximum towing weight: 2500kg

The Range Rover Sport hybrid gained the accolade of our Hybrid Tow Car of the Year 2019. Our judges said: “Epic performance meets unshakeable stability. The Range Rover Sport P400e tows brilliantly and, in the right conditions, promises excellent economy and low emissions.”

Volvo XC90 T8

Volvo XC90 T8

Maximum towing weight: 2100kg

The T8’s combination of a petrol engine and electric motor make it the fastest XC90 you can buy, and its 5.8sec 0-62mph time outpaces the Range Rover Sport P400e but isn’t quite a swift as the Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid.

That and its impressive towing capacity make it a good choice as a tow car. It only did 18 miles on electric power in our Real Range test, though, so it’s best suited to shorter journeys.

Electric cars

Audi E-tron

Maximum towing weight: 1800kg

The E-tron is Audi’s answer to the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X. As well as a pretty good towing capacity, it has plenty of power, tidy handling and a Real Range of 196 miles between charges.

Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar I-Pace

Maximum towing weight: 750kg

The I-Pace isn’t quite as swift off the line as the Model X, but it sprints past 62mph in 4.5sec and its standard passive suspension is good enough to mean you don’t need to splash out on the optional air setup.

In our Real Range test, the I-Pace managed 253 miles on a single charge – better than almost every other electric car we’ve tested.

Mercedes EQC

Mercedes EQC

Maximum towing weight: 1800kg

The EQC isn’t on sale yet, but we’ve been told prices will start at £65,650, which is more affordable than the Tesla Model X. It is powered by a newly developed electric powertrain that’ll be used across the Mercedes EQ range.

Consisting of two electric motors – one powering the front wheels and another the rears – it gives the EQC four-wheel drive capability when required.

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

Maximum towing weight: 2270kg

Not only does the Model X have an impressive towing capacity, but it also has a trailer mode, which automatically shuts off some advanced driver assistance aids, such as parking assist and automatic steering, and sets the suspension rather than letting it automatically adjust for height.

With a starting price the wrong side of £100,000, it’s not going to be within many people’s budgets, though.