New car sales have come to be dominated by SUVs. Choose rationally, however, and you can make a good case for the estate tow car being just as good to tow with, perhaps better. With that in mind, in our best estate tow car guide, we’re sharing our pick of the standout options on the market.
As a rule, an estate will have a lower centre of gravity than an SUV, and you can expect more luggage space and a lower boot floor.
Just as choosing an SUV doesn’t necessarily mean that the car will be four-wheel drive, so choosing an estate doesn’t mean doing without it. Plenty of estate cars have four-wheel-drive versions. So if luggage space sits close to the top of your list of touring priorities, these are five of the very best estate tow cars.
- Take a look at our caravan towing tips guide, where we share our advice for staying safe and comfortable on the road.
What are the best estate tow cars?
Škoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 150PS SE L DSG
- Price: £35,795
- Kerbweight: 1620kg
- 85% match: 1377kg
- Towing limit: 2000kg
You can buy quicker estate cars, and others with more upmarket badges. But when you consider value, towing ability and boot space, there aren’t many cars to touch the Škoda Superb – in fact, it made its way onto our best caravan tow car round up.
Diesel power might be out of favour these days, but we still think the 150hp 2.0 TDI is the pick of the range.
It strikes that near-perfect balance between pulling power and fuel economy. The last time we towed with one, we saw just under 30mpg while towing.
The Superb is stable as well as economical, keeping any sensibly matched caravan under control. You might notice some slight movement in crosswinds or when overtaking an HGV, but nothing that is going to have the palms sweating.
The Škoda’s practicality is what really sets it apart. The Superb is huge inside, with more than enough space for one six-footer to sit behind another. In fact, rear legroom is similar to what you’d find in some luxury cars. Luggage space is class-leading, with 660 litres for your bags with the rear seats upright.
See our full review of the Škoda Superb Estate
Volvo V60 Recharge T6 AWD Plus
- Price: £48,380
- Kerbweight: 2064kg
- 85% match: 1754kg
- Towing limit: 2000kg
The V60 Recharge is one of our favourite plug-in hybrid tow cars.
Volvo has upgraded the hybrid powertrain since we last drove the V60. It now achieves 54.7 miles on a fully charged battery, without a drop of unleaded. If you only occasionally tackle long journeys and have somewhere to recharge at night, you could go for weeks without refuelling.
Towing drains the battery, but the V60 is economical. We saw 27mpg towing, and the latest model, with its bigger battery, should be more efficient.
The Recharge is quick and stable as well as frugal. Having so many electrical components and a petrol engine tends to make plug-in hybrids heavy, and the Volvo tips the scales around the two-tonne mark. This helps with stability, and there’s very little movement when towing at speed, even in breezy weather.
Some estates have more space for luggage, but the Volvo’s boot is big enough for most needs.
Mercedes E400 d 4Matic AMG Line Night Ed Premium Plus Estate
- Price: £64,670
- Kerbweight: 1845kg
- 85% match: 1568kg
- Towing limit: 2100kg
We’re under no illusions about the price of the E400 d. You will need very deep pockets indeed to buy one of these. But if you have the means, this is one of the very finest estate cars.
The engine is quite simply addictively powerful, and will cope easily with any sensibly matched caravan.
There’s 516lb ft of torque from just 1200rpm, so you could build a twin-axle tourer from lead and the E-Class would still tow it with ease. The engine is also surprisingly fuel efficient, however, achieving 28.2mpg while towing in our tests.
Strong acceleration is all well and good, but it’s stability that really counts while you are towing. It almost goes without saying that the Mercedes is extremely stable, too.
Our test was in dry weather, but the 4Matic four-wheel-drive system means that this estate should be comfortable making a hill start on a wet road with a heavy tourer in tow.
Inside, the E-Class is, as you would expect, beautifully made, and extremely roomy for both passengers and luggage. The boot capacity of 640 litres easily beats that of the Audi A6 Avant or the BMW 5 Series Touring.
Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE
- Price: £40,155
- Kerbweight: 1760kg
- 85% match: 1496kg
- Towing limit: 1600kg
The Volkswagen Passat Estate has been close to the top of our list of favourite estate cars for several generations.
In the past we’ve favoured diesel, but so long as you have somewhere to recharge at night, the GTE plug-in hybrid makes a fuel-efficient family wagon.
Granted, it can’t match the all-electric range of the V60 Recharge, but an official electric range of 40 miles isn’t bad.
Although unable to go as far on its battery, the Passat has one important advantage over the V60: it costs over £8000 less.
But it’s not as if saving that money means slumming it. The VW is well made, if rather conservative inside, and there’s lots of space to get comfortable in the front or the back.
The boot is a healthy size, too, despite VW needing room for the car’s batteries. Your holiday luggage should still fit.
Hitch up and head out on the road, and you’ll find the GTE a very accomplished tow car. Firm but not harsh suspension helps keep car and caravan pointing in the right direction, even when the wind picks up.
A combined petrol/eletric output of 218hp means it also has a healthy turn of speed.
Ford Focus Estate 1.5 EcoBlue 120PS ST-Line
- Price: £28,570
- Kerbweight: 1395kg
- 85% match: 1186kg
- Towing limit: 1400kg
A lot of people who buy small estate cars are choosing petrol power these days, and Ford has a choice of petrol engines with mild-hybrid assistance. We’re keeping faith with diesel for our pick of the range, however.
The diesel engine promises excellent economy while towing a caravan and in solo driving. Just as importantly, the 1.5-litre EcoBlue has the mid-range pull that a good tow car needs.
Being small and light, the Focus Estate isn’t suitable for a large caravan. But provided you own a lightweight and small caravan, it promises to tow well. It’s stable for such a light vehicle and will happily hold 60mph on the motorway.
It’s when you get a chance to drive without a caravan that you really appreciate the Focus. It’s great fun to drive.
ST-Line cars come with firmer suspension – perhaps too firm for some tastes. However, if you enjoy driving on empty country roads, this is most likely one compromise worth making.
As a new car, the Focus is comfortably the most affordable model in our choice of five, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save a healthy amount buying used.
- Looking for a more compact towing vehicle instead? Our guide to the best small tow cars is sure to help!
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Caravan magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things caravan related.
While estate cars may be out of favour compared with SUVs, that can be a good thing if you are looking for a secondhand bargain.