David Motton

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A heavyweight tow car doesn't have to break the bank – Practical Caravan's David Motton reveals five of the best on sale today, each for under £25,000

There was a time when £25,000 was a lot of money. It still is a lot of money, of course, but in new tow car buying terms, £25k doesn't go as far as it used to. 

You can still find honest-to-goodness heavyweight tow cars for under £25,000, but it's becoming much harder if you really must have a new car. Shop for a nearly new or used tug, though, and the choice is obviously much wider.

So if your caravan demands a hefty tow car, we've come to the rescue. Read on as we show you one of the last remaining cut-price heavyweights you can buy new, and a few of the many capable used alternatives, to get you thinking.

SsangYong Rexton W 2.2D

Price: from £22,995 (new)

Forget about buying a new Kia Sorento for less than £25,000. Unless you have incriminating photos of the dealer principal, What Car? reckons the lowest a Kia dealer will go is £27k or so, and that's for the entry-level KX-1. Hyundai's Santa Fe, the other great budget 4x4 of a decade ago, now starts from £31,850.

So, what option do you have if you absolutely, positively must have that new car smell, are looking for a big 4x4 weighing close to two tonnes, but don't want to stretch beyond the £25,000 mark?

Step forward, the SsangYong Rexton W, the last of a dying breed. It's just been revised with a new engine, which should significantly improve the old car's modest acceleration. The new Rexton W 2.2 diesel has 295lb ft of torque, an improvement on the old engine's 265lb ft. Peak power is also up, rising from 153bhp to 176bhp. Prices start from a fiver less than £23k. That's not a lot for a big 4x4 with a kerbweight of 2102kg.

We'll find out how well the revised Rexton W tows at the Tow Car Awards. The results will be published in June.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0 CRD Limited

Price: £22,000 (approx. for 2013 car with 50,000 miles)

Jeep has been building 4x4s for longer than just about anyone else – Land Rover included. You'll struggle to find the current-shape Grand Cherokee for under £25,000, but look in the classifieds and there's a wide choice of the previous generation car.

Towing suits the big Jeep well, with its muscular engine and 2272kg kerbweight. It's stable at speed and the big V6 has more character in one cylinder than some big modern 4x4s with their emissions-friendly four-cylinder engines.

It's not the sharpest car to drive solo and lacks the third row of seats which many rivals have as standard or as an option. But if you want genuine off-road ability – and huge on-road presence – you'll love the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Kia Sorento 2.2 KX-3

Price: £16,500 (approx. for 12-plate car with 45,000 miles)

In my book, the current Kia Sorento is the best of the lot. But however capable today's car may be, it has long since left its budget origins behind.

The much-loved original is getting long-in-the-tooth now, which leaves the second generation. More expensive than the first Sorento, but not as polished as today's car, it sits slightly awkwardly between the two.

But that doesn't mean it should be ignored. Self-levelling suspension makes a big difference to the way the car tows, but so long as you find a car so equipped, Kia's second Sorento is good value. Four-year-old cars can be picked up for roughly half what you'd pay for a new equivalent, and should still have the balance of Kia's seven-year new car warranty to call upon, if anything goes wrong.   

Mid-life revisions in 2013 made for some worthwhile improvements, but expect to pay more for a post-facelift car.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 7st

Price: £7000 (approx. price for 11-plate car with 100,000 miles)

In the collective caravan psyche, the Hyundai Santa Fe has always been in the shadow of the Kia Sorento. That's unfair, when at some points in their shared history, the Santa Fe has been the equal of or better than the Kia.

My pick of the second-generation would be one of the post-facelift cars with the 2.2 CRDi engine, like the one we tested in 2011 at the Tow Car Awards

At the time we wrote how much car buyers were getting for £23k. Spin on five years, and that same car can now be bought for around £7000. That's a big, seven-seat 4x4 with a kerbweight of just under two tonnes for less than the price of most new city cars.

Find a car that's been well looked after and it should give many more miles of towing yet.

Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6 HSE

Price: £11,000 (approx. price for 09-reg car with 110,000 miles)

You didn't really think I was going to make a list of favourite big 4x4s without including a Land Rover, did you?

The Discovery 4 is sharper to drive, but the 3 is more honest-looking, without any of the flashy styling details of the 4 – and it's much cheaper to buy.

Few cars are as relaxing to tow with as a Discovery. It's like a stately home with a six-cylinder diesel engine, wafting along with comfort and composure, however rough the road surface. It's also brilliantly practical, with a spacious seven-seat cabin. 

It would be wrong to pretend the Disco's reliability record is blemish free, but find a good one with a full service history and you'll own tow car royalty.

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