When you’re looking for a tow car, you will want a reliable model that promises stability when towing your caravan. The Practical Caravan Awards 2022 are on hand to help you pick the right towing vehicle for you – this time, we’re picking out the best caravan tow car under 1600kg, as well as revealing our other recommendations.
The winner of the best caravan tow car under 1600kg is…
Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI
- Price from £26,250
- Kerbweight 1436kg
- Towing limit 1600kg
It’s a close call between the Skoda Octavia and the Volkswagen Golf as our favourite lightweight tow car. Both are stable at speed, although the VW is that little bit more secure. However, what makes us plump for the Octavia is its extra space and superior practicality.
Sit in the back of the Skoda, or load up the enormous 640-litre boot, and you may wonder why people spend more. It’s every bit as roomy inside as many bigger and far more expensive cars.
There a broad choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains to choose from. For regular towing duties, we’d pick the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel. Diesel may be out of fashion but this engine makes a lot of sense for pulling a caravan, with its strong mid-range and excellent fuel economy.
The Octavia isn’t a very heavy car, but if it’s weighty enough to make a sensible match for your caravan you’d be hard-pressed to do better.
The other caravan tow cars under 1600kg that we recommend are…
Renault Captur 1.3 TCe 140
- Price from £22,300
- Kerbweight 1309kg
- Towing limit 1200kg
We’ve been really impressed by the Captur, and not just because it looks so good.
The turbocharged petrol engine punches above its weight, with an effervescent character and plenty of punch so long as you’re not afraid to rev it.
Tow a caravan up to 60mph and you’ll find the Captur is stable and secure. Only when the wind picks up do you notice some gentle movement from the caravan.
The Captur’s towing limit of 1200kg may be a little restrictive, but it’s more than the 85% match figure of 1113kg and is high enough for lightweight tourers like the Swift Basecamp to make suitable matches.
Climb inside the Renault and there’s space to travel in comfort in the front. The rear seats are a bit more of a squeeze, but adequate unless your passengers are really tall.
Safety is usually a Renault strength, and sure enough the Captur earned a five-star rating from the crash test experts at Euro NCAP in 2019.
Seat Leon 1.0 eTSI 110PS DSG
- Price from £23,885
- Kerbweight 1330kg
- Towing limit 1300kg
Think of the Leon as a livelier, better value alternative to a Volkswagen Golf and you won’t be far wrong.
In this model, the 1.0-litre engine has mild-hybrid assistance, but don’t expect any fireworks from under the bonnet. Performance is modest with the weight of a caravan to pull, but even so we’d happily tow long distances with the Seat.
The benefit of living with gentle acceleration is very good fuel economy. We saw better than 50mpg in solo driving and 27.7mpg while towing a lightweight caravan.
Stability is the most important reason why we’re happy to recommend the Leon. Relatively firm suspension may be a little unforgiving for some tastes, but it helps the Seat keep any sensibly matched caravan towing straight and true.
Inside, the Leon has plenty of space whether you’re travelling in the front or the back of the car, and with a long list of standard equipment the Seat is great value.
Suzuki Vitara Hybrid Allgrip
- Price from £25,049
- Kerbweight 1275kg
- Towing limit 1200kg
The Suzuki Vitara has been around for a few years now, but updates to the cabin and drivetrain have kept this small crossover fresh and competitive with newer models.
Mild-hybrid tech helps keep running costs sensible, while the Allgrip four-wheel-drive system should keep the Suzuki moving on muddy ground long after two-wheel-drive rivals have become stuck.
Inside, the cabin and infotainment system look a little dated. But the driving position should keep you ache-free on long journey, and adults can travel comfortably in the back of the car. Just keep in mind that high-spec models with a panoramic sunroof lose a lot of headroom.
With a caravan in tow the Vitara is stable, only moving very gently when caught by the bow wave of a lorry.
As an everyday drive, we’d choose the Captur over the Vitara. But for four-season caravanners with a sense of adventure, the Vitara is hard to beat.
Volkswagen Golf 8 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG
- Price from £29,835
- Kerbweight 1465kg
- Towing limit 1600kg
Judged purely on stability, the Golf sets the standard among lightweight tow cars. However, it’s not as practical as the Skoda Octavia, which tips the balance in the Czech car’s favour – but it’s a very close run thing.
We’ve lost count of the number of cars we’ve driven with VW’s 150hp 2.0-litre diesel, and it remains a dependable choice for towing. There’s plenty of pulling power to cope with any sensibly matched caravan, and no need to rev the engine hard to get up to speed. It’s a very frugal engine, too.
Whether you are towing at 60mph on the motorway, or on a twisty country road, the Golf just gets on with the job. There’s no fuss, just stable, reassuring towing.
It’s a shame that VW’s decision to use touch-sensitive pads rather than physical buttons means ease of use has taken a step backwards. In all other respects the Golf is a superb tow car.
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