David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
When it comes to towing, size does matter. Generally speaking, the bigger and heavier a car, the better it tows. (There's more to it than that, I know, but as a rule of thumb it holds true.)
The trouble is, big and heavy cars have their disadvantages when deciding what tow car to buy and when considering its traits as a daily driver. Big cars generally cost a lot more to buy, and their high weight is the enemy of fuel economy and low emissions. What's more, some cars with a high kerbweight feel cumbersome to drive. And not everyone wants to drive around in a car so large you feel like a supertanker captain when dropping the kids at school. But if you do, we've already cast the spotlight on some of 2015's most exciting new, big tow cars.
Small tow cars can make more sense than big ones, provided you are towing a light enough caravan or trailer. Swift's Sprite tourers have maximum laden weights as low as 1171kg. The Elddis Xplore range has maximum laden weights as low as 1139kg. And there are plenty of niche caravan makers like Freedom and Going with micro-vans which weigh much less.
Owning a small and light caravan means most cars are suitable for towing duties. And there's no shortage of small, light vehicles with potential as tow cars on their way over the next few months.
High on the list has to be the SsangYong Tivoli. Lizzie has already driven the petrol-powered automatic version, and was impressed. SsangYong keeps plugging away, steadily improving its products and gaining a following among caravanners. Launching against the likes of the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur, the Tivoli could be the car that brings SsangYong to a wider audience.
The petrol version is restricted by its 1000kg towing limit (although that's enough to make a legal match for the Freedom Jetstream Twin Sport or the Going Go-Pod). The diesel version which arrives in August will have a 1500kg legal limit and a kerbweight of 1390kg for the diesel version with four-wheel drive. That gives an 85% match figure of 1182kg, and makes the smallest and lightest conventional caravans suitable matches as well as micro-vans. Prices start from £12,950 when the petrol model goes on sale next month.
The Tivoli isn't the only Nissan Juke rival about to appear in showrooms. Mazda is soon to launch the CX-3. Prices for the CX-3 will start from £17,595 when it goes on sale in June. Like the Tivoli, the CX-3 will be available with a choice of two- and four-wheel-drive models. There are three engine options, with a choice of 118bhp and 148bhp petrol units and a 102bhp diesel. Kerbweights start from 1270kg for the 118bhp two-wheel-drive petrol, rising to 1370kg for the diesel 4x4 automatic. That gives an 85% match figure of up to 1165kg. So, like the Tivoli, the CX-3 is only suitable for quite light caravans.
If the official figures can be believed, you'll enjoy the benefit of such a low kerbweight when filling the car up. The two-wheel-drive diesel returns 64.2mpg on the combined cycle. The diesel 4x4 auto is the thirstiest model, but still achieves 50.4mpg.
There will be five spec levels, ranging through SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav. Even the most basic cars will have a seven-inch colour touchscreen, 16in alloy wheels, heated wing mirrors, a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Spec levels are increasingly generous up to the fully loaded Sport Nav, which has LED headlights, 18in alloys and much more. I'll be driving the car next month, so I'll report back in more detail then.
Both these cars will have to beat the new Fiat 500X, which has just gone on sale. Yet another addition to the growing family of Fiat 500 models, to my eyes it's a lot better looking than the dumpy 500L Trekking or 500L MPW. Hopefully it will tow better than these cars as well being more attractive. We tested both at last year's Tow Car Awards and found them nervous tow cars.
Despite the 4x4 styling cues, only some versions of the 500X send power to all four wheels. The range starts with a two-wheel-drive 108bhp petrol, costing £14,595. This has a legal towing limit of 800kg.
The 138bhp 500X Cross Plus AWD looks like a better bet for towing duties, although this model pushes the price up to £23,845. It weighs 1570kg (including 75kg for the driver) and has a towing limit of 1200kg. With 258lb ft of torque, this model packs a lot of punch for such a small car. That should be enough to tow a 1200kg tourer quite comfortably.
I'll be intrigued to find out.