What Car?'s top cars for towing

Want a new car but don't know where to start? Just send us your criteria and we'll give our new and used car choices, and tell you how much we can save you.......

24 May 2019 14:09

The question:

Land Rover Disco silhouette

Dear What Car?,

I currently drive a DS 5 Hybrid, but I didn't know when I purchased it that I would not be able to fit a tow bar onto it. Having since been in touch with several towbar fitters and manufacturers, I now know that many hybrid cars should not tow caravans and even trying to get a tow bar has been near impossible.

To add insult to injury, the rear spoiler on my car means I also can't fit a cycle carrier to carry our two e-bikes. Towing is a necessity for me, so is my only option to choose a petrol or diesel car instead? Or is there a hybrid which can do the trick?


The brief

SUV compilation image

Jim's in need of a comfortable car which can tow, as well as carry his two e-bikes. He'd like a hybrid, but would also consider a petrol or diesel car.

So, we'll give Jim one of each option for both new and used cars, and see which comes out on top. First up, it's the new car options:

Buying new

Volvo XC90

Our recommended choice: Volvo XC90 2.0 T8 Inscription Geartronic

List price: £67,905

Target Price: £62,863

If you're looking for a hybrid car which can also tow, then the Volvo XC90, in plug-in hybrid T8 form, is a perfect choice. It's our reigning Hybrid Car of the Year, and won the 'best hybrid' category in 2017's Tow Car Awards.

It can tow up to 2400kg, so your average caravan or trailer should be no problem, and has plenty of storage space inside for bikes or gear.

Powering the T8 is a 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor, whose combined power output makes this the fastest XC90 to 60mph, as well as the most frugal. In fact, you can travel for around 18 miles on electric power alone.

Volvo XC90 2.0 T8 Inscription Geartronic - interior

Volvo XC90 2.0 T8 Inscription Geartronic - interior

The whole family can come along for the ride, too, because this XC90 is also the only plug-in hybrid SUV to retain seven seats. In short, it's impressive in every area Jim's looking for.

What about equipment, though? Well, Inscription trim is loaded down with goodies including Nappa leather trim and electrically adjustable seats on top of the already impressive kit list you get with Momentum models, including sat-nav, automatic emergency braking and a powered tailgate.

Also consider:

Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI CR SE L DSG

Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI CR SE L DSG

List price: £25,725

Target Price: £23,609

If you'd rather stick with diesel for its low-end grunt, then how about a comfortable and spacious Skoda Octavia?

Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI CR SE L DSG - interior

Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI CR SE L DSG - interior

We already think it's a great tow car – it won our sub-1400kg category at last year's Tow Car Awards – and SE L trim gets you Alcantara suede and leather seats, LED headlights, privacy glass and automatic emergency braking.

The 2.0-litre diesel motor powering this Octavia is a strong performer, mixing power and fuel economy to make a truly competent cruiser.

Also consider:

Mazda 6 2.0 SE-L Nav+

Mazda 6 2.0 SE-L Nav+

List price: £23,595

Target Price: £23,187

The gutsy 2.0-litre petrol engine in Mazda's executive saloon has enough power to tow up to 1500kg, so, if you don't cover enough miles annually to justify a diesel car, it's a top choice.

Mazda 6 2.0 SE-L Nav+ - interior

Mazda 6 2.0 SE-L Nav+ - interior

Even entry-level SE-L Nav+ models come with front and rear parking sensors, an 8.0in infotainment screen and climate and cruise controls, so there's little need to move further up the price list.

What about used options?

Buying used

2018 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 SE

Our recommended choice: 2018 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 SE

Price: £41,000

Mileage: 11,000

If you're really serious about towing, you'll like the diesel-powered oomph the Discovery delivers.

It's a regular winner in our annual Tow Car Awards, because it combines a huge amount of shove from its 3.0-litre diesel engine (there's 443lb ft of torque to get the ball rolling) with a mighty maximum towing weight of 3500kg.

2018 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 SE - interior

2018 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 SE - interior

It's refined and comfortable and its interior is spacious (with seating for seven and plenty of room for a couple of e-bikes) and luxurious.

You can buy a one-year-old car for just over £40,000, and if bought from a franchised dealer you can take advantage of Land Rover's excellent used car scheme, itself a What Car? used car award winner.

Also consider:

2018 Lexus RX 450h 3.5 Sport

2018 Lexus RX 450h 3.5 Sport

Price: £37,000

Mileage: 13,000

The petrol-electric RX450h dispels the myth that good hybrids are difficult to find, because this ultra-luxurious and beautifully made car can tow a maximum of 2000kg, so caravans shouldn't be a problem.

2018 Lexus RX 450h 3.5 Sport - interior

2018 Lexus RX 450h 3.5 Sport - interior

There's space in the back for a couple of bikes, too, with the rear seats dropped. It's good to drive, and supremely refined, especially around town.

Our budget gets you a one-year-old car from a Lexus dealer. Lexus finished second in our most recent reliability survey for cars up to three years old, and came in first place for cars older than three years.

Also consider:

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0 T-GDI GT-Line

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0 T-GDI GT-Line

Price: £24,999

Mileage: 5000

It might seem like a left-field choice but the petrol-engined version of the handsome Stinger is a bit of a humdinger.

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0 T-GDI GT-Line - interior

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0 T-GDI GT-Line - interior

As far as towing goes, this practical and spacious beauty can tow a maximum of nearly 1800kg, and still feels quick and stable.

You'll be impressed by the rest of the car too, because it's good to drive and comfortable to travel in. On the year-old car we found you'll also get the residual benefits of Kia's seven-year transferable warranty.


Land Rover Discovery

Our recommendation: buy used

The result of this week's Personal Shopper is very much a question of budget. If you can afford it, the plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 which Darren found is undoubtedly the best hybrid car for towing, combining huge performance and low running costs with a luxurious interior and space for seven people. It's a jack of all trades in the towing game, and a master of nearly all of them.

If your budget can't quite stretch to the £62,000 region, though, then you'll be best served by Mark's diesel-engined Land Rover Discovery.

The fact that you can get this luxury grand tourer for around £40,000 and with just 11,000 miles on the clock shows why nearly-new cars are always worth paying attention to.

In fact, the Discovery clinches the win here for its sheer towing capability (3500kg) and for its warehouse-like interior, which can carry everything from e-bikes to relatives with plenty of room to spare.

Our recommendation this time, then, is to buy used.