The cost of living is going up, with record fuel prices helping to drive inflation ever higher. If you are thinking about chaining your tow car this year, here are five of the very best budget vehicles you can buy, whether you are shopping new or secondhand.
DACIA DUSTER BLUE DCI 115 4X4 COMFORT
- Price £20,145
- Kerbweight 1514kg (including 75kg for the driver not included in Dacia’s published kerbweight)
- 85% match 1287kg
- Towing limit 1500kg
The Duster well deserves its reputation as a bargain tow car. Prices for new petrol versions start from £14,495.
If you want to tow regularly, though, we’d spend the extra for the diesel 4×4. Its extra pulling power (192lb ft) means it is better suited to towing, and four-wheel drive makes the Duster capable in all weathers and on all surfaces. It’s 89kg heavier than the two-wheel drive, which helps with matching ratios.
According to official figures, the diesel 4×4 will achieve 53.3mpg. We saw a remarkable 33.8mpg when we last towed with the Duster, so running costs will also be low.
Comfort spec is the most affordable with a diesel engine, with manual air conditioning, 16-inch alloys, rear-view camera, DAB radio, and an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. If you want additional goodies, Prestige models cost £1200 more.
Shop for a pre-owned Duster diesel 4×4, and you’ll spend £17,500 or so for a 30,000-mile car on a 69-plate. You could pay as little as £6000 for an earlier Duster diesel, which really is very cheap for such a capable and rugged small SUV.
SSANGYONG REXTON VENTURA
- Price £37.995
- Kerbweight 2180kg
- 85% match 1853kg
- Towing limit 3500kg
For many years, the SsangYong Rexton has been a bargain heavyweight 4×4. Today’s car isn’t as cheap as it used to be, but it is considerably more polished than its predecessors.
Choose the Rexton and you get four-wheel drive, a kerbweight of well over two tonnes, seven seats and a diesel engine with 325lb ft. That’s plenty of muscle for towing big twin-axle caravans.
As a tow car, the Rexton is very stable in still air, but it does get pushed around in crosswinds a bit more than the very best heavyweight tow cars. Even so, this is a car we’d be happy to tow with on a long journey.
We’re recommending Ventura spec. Not only is this cheaper than the range-topping Ultimate, but because it costs less than £40,000 the VED surcharge for more expensive cars doesn’t apply. That will save £1675 over the five years that the extra charge would be levied on a more expensive 4×4.
If you’re thinking of shopping for a used example, the current Rexton was launched back in 2017 (although it has since been facelifted). Searching online, we found a 2018 car with 58,500 miles on the clock for sale at £25,500. A similar vehicle with just under 96,000 miles was priced at £15,444.
SUZUKI VITARA 1.4 BOOSTERJET MILD HYBRID ALLGRIP SZ-T
- Price £25,549
- Kerbweight £1275kg
- 85% match 1084kg
- Towing limit 1500kg
It’s been around for a few years, but the Vitara remains one of our favourite small tow cars.
You can now buy the Suzuki as a full hybrid, but the mild hybrid is cheaper to buy and has a legal towing limit of 1500kg, rather than 1200kg.
Stick to the 85% guideline for the sake of towing stability, and you’ll be matching the Vitara to a small caravan, such as the Xplore 304, the Bailey Discovery D4-2 or something similar.
So long as you are happy with a lightweight tourer, the Vitara should tow it well. It’s very stable for such a light car, and the turbocharged petrol engine is punchy and willing.
You can save a few pounds by choosing the front-wheel-drive version, but for preference, we would stick with the 4×4 model for its extra weight and the all-weather traction.
SZ-T spec comes with climate control, rain-sensing wipers, FDAB radio and 17-inch alloys. There’s no sat nav, but that’s no hardship so long as you have a smartphone that you can connect though Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
If the price of £25,000 for new models is too steep, there are plenty to be found on the used market. We’ve seen 16-plate 60,000 mile examples for £12,995 or thereabouts.
SKODA KAMIQ 1.0 TSI 110 SE
- Price £21,465
- Kerbweight 1242-1294kg
- 85% match 1056-1100kg
- Towing limit 1200kg
You won’t be towing anything heavy with a Škoda Kamiq. But if you own a lightweight caravan, this is an extremely capable and affordable tow car.
The 1.0-litre engine punches well above its modest capacity. When we tested the Škoda, it happily maintained 60mph on the motorway while towing a Swift Basecamp, so long as we changed down from sixth to fifth gear.
We found the Kamiq stable, too, and we can’t think of many petrol tow cars that could match its 28.1mpg towing the Swift.
The Kamiq is the smallest of Škoda’s family of SUVs, but surprisingly practical. There’s enough space for adults to get comfortable in the back, and 400 litres for bags in the boot.
For an SUV, the driving position is quite low: something to keep in mind if a high-up seating position is one of your reasons for choosing an SUV.
If you are shopping for a used Kamiq, do be aware that the car needs to have been fitted with towing gear, or at least the preparation for a towbar, at the factory, otherwise it might not be possible for you to have a towball fitted.
Provided you find an example that’s ready to tow, you can expect to pya about £17,000 for a 20,000-mile car on a 70-plate.
MG HS 1.5 T-GDI EXCITE
- Price £22,095
- Kerbweight 1495kg
- 85% match 1271kg
- Towing limit 1750kg
Some budget cars look and feel as though they’ve been built down to a price. That’s not true of the MG HS, which is surprisingly upmarket inside.
A few months back we tested the high-spec Exclusive model, but the Excite is £25,000 cheaper and still comes with sat nav, dual-zone climate control, a 360-degree camera system and Apple CarPlay.
You don’t just get a lot of toys for your money, though: you also get a lot of tow car.
Despite being priced to compete against compact SUVs, the MG HS is closer in size to the Mazda CX-5 or Nissan Qashqai. With a kerbweight of just under 1.5 tonnes, it makes a sensible match for a range of lightweight four-berths.
Firmer suspension would make the MG a more stable tow car in blustery weather, but the flip side is a comfortable ride, with or without a caravan. The petrol engine is up to the job of towing a sensibly matched tourer, but doesn’t have a lot in reserve. It needs to be worked quite hard to build speed, and fuel economy suffers – we saw 22.8mpg while towing.
For a used MG HS, you’ll pay around £17,000 for a 69-plate with 30,000 miles on the clock.
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