David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
If money were no object, it would be nice to have a huge SUV or a luxury estate car to tow our caravans with.
The trouble is, money is an object for most of us, and value is important.
So what's the best real-world tow car?
I hesitate to use the description 'real world'. I dislike the way it implies that anyone who's better off than me lives in some kind of parallel dimension.
But I think you know what I'm getting at.
And in the 'real world', the one in which paying the mortgage each month is a bit of a squeeze and the family summer holiday is something you save for, I'd suggest the best tow car is the Škoda Superb.
I've been thinking about this for the past few days, as I've been testing a couple of estate cars – the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer and the BMW 5 Series Touring. Reviews of both will be in the November 2017 issue of Practical Caravan, incidentally.
The photographer who shoots our tow car tests, Phil, owns a Škoda Superb Estate. He's very happy with it.
In fact, Phil has started to turn up his nose at any other estate car we test.
Making the case for the Superb
When he photographed the boots of the Vauxhall and BMW, he muttered and shook his head. "Hmm. There's not a lot of luggage space, is there?"
Well, with capacities of 560 litres and 570 litres respectively, the Insignia and the 5 Series are hardly short of space for bags.
But compared with his Škoda, he's right. His car has a 650-litre capacity. It's not a little difference – it really is much bigger.
And you don't have to choose the estate. The hatchback has 625-litre boot, comfortably more than most estate cars.
As we continued to measure and photograph the Vauxhall and BMW, Phil kept chipping in with his criticisms. "Oh, look. There's not a lot of room in the back, is there?"
Again, I'd say both the cars we've been testing have plenty of space for adults to get comfortable. But, if you're used to the rear-seat space in the Superb, Phil is right. Neither car has as much legroom. The Superb really is enormous inside.
Getting better with age
Over three generations, the Škoda Superb always been a big car, but the current model is much better finished than before.
The Superb tows very well, too, with the kind of stability that makes long journeys stress-free. If it didn't, it wouldn't have won the overall title at the Tow Car Awards 2016.
The range is pretty broad, going from a 125PS (123bhp) 1.4 TSI petrol up to a 280PS (276bhp) 2.0 TSI petrol with plenty of sensible and fuel efficient petrols and diesels in between.
The least powerful petrol will probably whinge and wheeze a bit while towing, but every other engine in the range is capable of pulling a caravan at a respectable pace. The 2.0-litre diesels, with 150PS (148bhp) or 190PS (187bhp) would be my picks for regular towing.
Most Superbs are front-wheel drive, but both 2.0-litre diesels and the bonkers 280PS petrol are available with four-wheel drive, for added traction and higher kerbweights to benefit outfit matching ratios.
Superb by name and nature
Importantly for any 'real world' tow car, the Superb is very good value for money. The range starts from £20,050.
The 150PS 2.0 TDI makes a brilliant tug and is priced from £23,520. The equivalent VW Passat is almost a £1000 more. A quick search of the classified ads shows used examples of the current-shape Superb start from around £13,500.
Most new cars are bought on finance, and at the moment Škoda is doing a deal which chips in £3000 towards your deposit and monthly payments as low as £285 over four years, depending on how much the customer pays up front themselves. That's for a 2.0 TDI 150PS Sportline Estate, so you'd be getting a lot of car for your money.
It's affordable to run, too. When we tested the 2.0 TDI 150PS 4x4 Estate it achieved 27.9mpg around our economy route.
According to the official figures, the most economical version is the 1.6 TDI hatchback which achieves 72.4mpg on the combined cycle. I doubt many owners will match that out on the road, but it's an impressive figure nonetheless.
Does the Škoda Superb tick all your boxes?
If there's a criticism of the Škoda's towing credentials, it's that the Superb is rather light – good for fuel economy and low emissions, not so good for matching ratios.
Even the heaviest model, the 2.0 TDI 190PS DSG Estate, has a kerbweight of 1680kg including 75kg for the driver. So it's not the best choice if you own a big, heavy twin-axle tourer.
But provided your caravan makes a sensible match, the Škoda Superb is a very hard car to argue against.
It's a stable tow car, exceptionally roomy, good value for money, and affordable to run. In the real world, what more do you want?