Whether it’s a trailer, a large caravan or even a small boat, it’s important that your car is capable of towing a load comfortably.
And the annual Tow Car Awards – which is run by What Car? magazine, Practical Caravan and The Camping and Caravanning Club – is a great way of working out what’s best for your needs.
This year saw a slight shift away from diesel vehicles – traditionally the models renowned as the best at towing – and a move towards petrol and plug-in hybrid models.
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace was also the first time an EV has ever been tested, although a lower 750kg towing limit restricts it somewhat.
Forty cars were entered by manufacturers, with nine awards up for grabs. Each car is tested in four categories – towing, everyday driving, practicality and buying and owning.
Each car had a caravan weighing up to 85 per cent of the car’s kerb weight, or up to maximum towing limit, if lower.
Here’s the results:
Up to 1400kg – Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150PS SE L DSG
Skoda is a brand familiar with producing great cars for towing, and its Octavia managed to win this category for the sixth year running. The Octavia’s also well-equipped, affordable and incredibly practical.
1400-1549kg – Seat Ateca 2.0 TSI 190PS 4Drive FR DSG
Seat is a brand that performed well in this year’s awards, and the punchy 2.0-litre petrol engine also saw a shift away from the traditional diesel SUVs that do well here. The Ateca is also good to drive once the caravan is uncoupled and looks the part.
1550-1699kg – Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI 150PS Elegance DSG
More conventional family cars – such as the Volkswagen Passat – might seem like more obvious tow cars, but the stylish Arteon surprised the judges this year. The equipment is also a highlight of VW’s coupe-style model.
1700-1899kg – BMW 520d Touring xDrive M Sport
BMW’s 5 Series Touring is a regular staple in the annual Tow Car Awards, and is a usual favourite to win a category. The stylish 5 Series is an ideal family car in Touring (estate) form and also has a superb high-quality interior.
1900kg+ - Land Rover Discovery 3.0 Sd6 306hp HSE
The Land Rover Discovery might have evolved over the years into a plush SUV, but its ability to excel as a tow car remains unmatched. In fact, the Discovery has won this category for 12 out of the 13 years the Tow Car Awards have been running!
Best ultralight tow car – Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 115PS FR
If it’s a small trailer you’re towing, there isn’t a need for a large model. This is where smaller models, such as the Seat Arona, prove to be useful. The Arona is a stylish and affordable crossover that could also be useful if you need to tow smaller loads.
Best budget 4x4 – Dacia Duster Blue dCi 115 4x4 Comfort
Anyone looking for an affordable, no frills and dependable small crossover is well-served with the Dacia Duster, and it’s a model that also has its uses when it comes to towing. If you want a new car for towing on a budget, this is an ideal choice.
Best economy award – Ford Focus Estate 1.5 EcoBlue 120PS Titanium X
For those towing with their cars, it can often be across country and long journeys that are undertaken. For that reason, the best economy award can be significant in ensuring that you don’t have to spend a fortune on fuel. The excellent Ford Focus Estate with the ultra-efficient 1.5-litre diesel engine is therefore a great option.
Best plug-in hybrid – Range Rover Sport P400e HSE Dynamic
The inclusion of PHEVs in the Tow Car Awards shows the importance of plug-in hybrid models in today’s market. Despite the Range Rover Sport P400e not being able to tow quite as much as its petrol and diesel siblings, it remains an impressive all-rounder and a worthy winner here.
Overall winner – Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI 150PS Elegance DSG
The Arteon certainly isn’t the obvious tow car winner out of all the cars tested here, but it’s certainly one that left a big impression on the judges.
Here’s what David Motton, tow car editor at Practical Caravan said: “A coupé-style fastback wasn’t what we would have predicted to be chosen as the Overall Winner of the Tow Car Awards 2019, but it won because it impressed us enormously. It does all of the sensible, important things that we ask of a tow car, and brilliantly.”