You don’t have to stop caravanning just because it’s winter. Make sure your gas bottle is full, pack a hot water bottle and some woolly socks, and off you go!
It helps if you have one of the best tow cars for caravans, too. While any well-matched car and caravan combination should be fine if the weather is mild, if we’re in for a hard winter, you need a car that’s capable in wintry conditions.
Even with a 4×4 towing car, it clearly pays to be a little cautious if severe weather is forecast. But if you’re towing a caravan in winter with a rugged and dependable four-wheel drive, you’re less likely to find yourself struggling with damp ground or a few flakes of snow.
Choosing a 4×4 doesn’t necessarily mean you must have an SUV-style vehicle. There are a number of estate tow cars with four-wheel-drive variants. On the other hand, if the snow is lying deep, you’ll be glad of the ground clearance of a true go-anywhere machine. Here, you can see our pick of the best cars for winter towing.
Nissan X-Trail e-Power e-4orce213 4WD Tekna Auto
- Price: £45,310
- Kerbweight: 1880kg
- 85% match 1598kg
- Towing limit 1800kg
The Nissan X-Trail e-Power is an unusual kind of hybrid. The wheels are driven by electricity, but a petrol engine is used to generate that electricity.
There’s no plugging in, but equally, there’s no getting away from the fact that petrol is still being burned.
Unusual, then, but effective as a hybrid tow car. Choose the e-4orce version and power is sent to all four wheels, giving the Nissan impressive credentials as an all-weather vehicle. Hill starts are easy and there’s plenty of punch for brisk overtaking.
The complex petrol-electric drivetrain adds weight, which is less than ideal for fuel efficiency. But from a towing perspective, it’s a big plus to have such a hefty car. It makes for favourable matching ratios.
At speed, the X-Trail is stable. All that weight helps, and the tow car suspension is well judged.
It’s not the most sporty of sports utility vehicles, but it is competent. There’s a choice of five- and seven-seat versions. The third row is cramped, so best kept for occasional use.
We’ve seen a 23-plate model with 8000 miles priced at just under £38,000.
See our review of the Nissan X-Trail e-40rce Tekna.
- Price: £42,245
- Kerbweight: 1715kg
- 85% match: 1458kg
- Towing limit: 1650kg
Look around any campsite, summer or winter, and there’s a very good chance you’ll spot a Kia Sportage or two.
There are good reasons why the Kia is so popular. Unlike some other family SUVs, it is available as a proper 4×4, as well as a two-wheel drive.
We’re recommending the 4×4 model here for its extra ability in poor conditions.
The combination of hybrid power and four-wheel drive makes for a relatively hefty kerbweight of 1715kg.
That means a broad choice of caravans can be suitable matches while still following the 85% matching guideline.
As a rule, the Sportage is very secure while towing a caravan. On a windy day, you might feel the van pulling at the back of the car slightly, but not enough to get the palms sweating.
Inside, the cabin is roomy and GT-Line S cars are fully loaded with plenty of toys and high-tech driver aids.
It’s a pity four-wheel drive is only available on this high-spec model, as cars lower down the range have plenty of kit and cost less. If an asking price of over £42,000 is too stiff, we’ve seen a 72-plate car with 18,000 miles for just under £34,000.
Full review: Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi AWD GT-Line S Auto
Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited
- Price: £36,990
- Kerbweight: 1716kg*
- 85% match: 1459kg
- Towing limit: 2000kg
Subaru has carved out a niche building reliable, go-anywhere cars that don’t follow the cookie-cutter SUV norm.
Every Outback you can buy is four-wheel drive, but this is an estate with a high ride height, rather than a proper off-roader. Even so, it’s more than able to venture beyond Tarmac.
It’s a shame there isn’t a punchier engine option than the 2.5-litre petrol, because it’s down on pulling power compared with a good hybrid or turbodiesel. Otherwise, the Outback is a solid tow car. Hill starts are straightforward, and aside from some movement in crosswinds, it is stable.
For everyday driving, the Subaru is very easy to drive, and its light controls make manoeuvring simple, too, although the ride comfort could be a bit better.
Inside, you’ll find the Outback is practical for people and their luggage, with plenty of storage dotted around the cabin.
The safety standards are excellent, with a very strong rating from the experts at Euro NCAP and lots of driver aids.
Would you prefer to buy a used tow car? We found a 2020 car with 33,000 miles priced at a little under £24,000.
Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-D 184PS AWD Takumi
- Price: £40,735
- Kerbweight: 1823kg
- 85% match: 1550kg
- Towing limit: 2000kg
Diesel may be on its way out, but a good turbodiesel is still an excellent engine for towing.
The Mazda CX-5 has a very good diesel tow car indeed, offering a barrel-chested 328lb ft of torque. That sort of muscle makes towing any sensibly matched caravan easy. And being a true 4×4, the CX-5 AWD will happily tow your van in all sorts of weather.
The CX-5 is a heavy car for its size, with a kerbweight of 1823kg. That means a broad choice of family tourers can be matched to the Mazda, while still staying the right side of the 85% matching guideline.
The firm, well-controlled suspension makes for settled and secure towing. The Mazda feels stable, whether you are on the motorway or navigating twisting country roads.
Without a caravan, the CX-5 is great fun to drive, with rapid acceleration and crisp handling. It’s a cut above most SUVs as a driver’s car, without being uncomfortable for passengers. There’s plenty of room inside.
If those qualities appeal, but not the price tag, a pre-facelift, mechanically similar 2020 model with just under 30,000 miles costs around £22,495. That’s a bargain for such a capable car.
BMW X5 50e M Sport
- Price: £79,265
- Kerbweight: 2420kg
- 85% match: 2057kg
- Towing limit: 2700kg
The last thing that the X5 45e needed was more power, but the big BMW got it anyway. Now badged the 50e, BMW’s plug-in hybrid SUV has 490hp, a 96hp increase over the old model. Given that the previous vehicle was already a very rapid tow car, the 50e’s performance is overkill for towing.
More importantly, the 50e also goes further running on electricity alone, with an official EV range of up to 68 miles, and the convenience of petrol refuelling on longer journeys.
The weight of those batteries, engines and motors adds up, with a rather porky kerbweight of 2420kg. That contributes to the X5’s superb stability at high speeds, but it’s not just about weight. The expertly judged suspension also plays its part in keeping car and caravan heading in the same direction, even in windy weather.
Inside, the X5 is beautifully made and packed with tech. Five seats are standard, but a third row is optional if you need space for seven.
This is the most expensive of our favourite winter tow cars. High-mileage examples of the less powerful 45e will be within the reach of more customers. We’ve seen a 20-reg car with 80,000 miles offered for £37,500.
*Includes 75kg for the driver not included in Subaru’s published kerbweight
Please note vehicles pictured may not be the exact model or year.
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