For towing, diesel is still the one to beat, providing great fuel economy and pulling power, two of the things that we always look out for when searching for the best tow car. They may be a dying breed, but they have never burned fuel more cleanly or achieved better mpg. In this guide, we’re revealing our best diesel tow car picks, to help you find the option for you.
Last year, diesels made up just 5.1% of the new car market, but you don’t have to go back too far to find their share at much nearer half of all sales.
Come 2030 and the ban on the sale of new cars powered by internal combustion engines, and we’ll be saying goodbye to diesel altogether. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for caravanners to abandon diesel power. There are signs that demand for diesels on the used tow car market is stronger than among new car buyers, so secondhand prices remain firm.
Here, we’re sharing our favourite diesel towing options, including brands such as Kia, BMW and Land Rover.
Our picks for the best diesel tow car:
Kia Sorento 2.2D Edition
- Price: £49,495
- Kerbweight: 1954kg
- 85% match: 1661kg
- Towing limit: 2500kg
For our money, Kia’s Sorento diesel is one of the best SUVs you can buy for under £50,000.
It does only just sneak under the £50k barrier, though, as Kia now offers the car in the one fully loaded specification.
Edition vehicles are packed with goodies, including leather upholstery, air-con for all three rows of seats, a head-up display, surround-view camera system, a 12-speaker stereo set-up and a panoramic sunroof. Those are just the edited highlights – you really want for nothing.
All the toys and gadgets in the world don’t make a good tow car. Fortunately, the Kia possesses the qualities we look for. With a kerbweight just shy of two tonnes, the Sorento diesel has an 85% match figure of 1661kg. That’s the maximum weight of van we’d recommend towing for stable, stress-free journeys, especially if you are new to towing.
We’ve found the Sorento to be reassuringly secure and confidence-inspiring when towing vans of that weight.
The Kia’s diesel engine has 325lb ft of torque from as little as 1750rpm. That’s easily enough to handle a sensibly matched caravan and make short work of hilly roads.
If just under £50,000 is well over what you want to spend, we’ve seen current-generation Sorento diesel vehicles priced at around £30,000 available on the used market.
Škoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 150PS SE L DSG
- Price: £36,165
- Kerbweight: 1606kg
- 85% match: 1365kg
- Towing limit: 2000kg
If you own a mid-sized caravan, the Škoda Superb Estate is very probably all the tow car that you might need.
In fact, it’s very probably all you need and more when it comes to boot space.
With its generous capacity of 660 litres, you’ll struggle to find a car with more room for your bags. There’s certainly no need to travel light.
Passengers are well taken care of, too – as they always have been in the Superb. Someone once described this car as a limousine for misers, and while increases over the years mean the Škoda is no longer bargain-priced, you could spend almost twice as much on estate cars without as much rear legroom.
The Superb is a handy diesel tow car, too. The Volkswagen Group 2.0-litre diesel engine is well suited to towing duties, with plenty of pulling power.
It’s also very economical: the last time we towed with the Superb diesel, it returned 29.5mpg towing a caravan weighing almost 1400kg.
In everyday driving, the Superb is quiet, comfortable and accomplished. It’s not the most exciting drive on twisty roads, but it’s a fine all-rounder and a great advert for diesel.
In the classifieds or online, you should be able to find a 2019 car for around £19,000.
Review: Škoda Superb Estate
BMW 520d xDrive M Sport Touring
- Price: £51,545
- Kerbweight: 1810kg
- 85% match: 1539kg
- Towing limit: 2000kg
If you’re looking for a brilliant diesel-powered towing option, but you’re turned off by SUVs, how about this? We consider the BMW 5 Series Touring to be among the standout tow cars we’ve ever tested.
There are more powerful models in the range, but the 520d is more than able to tow a sensibly matched caravan.
With a healthy 190hp and 295lb ft of torque, it’s strong while towing a van and swift in everyday driving.
The best thing about the 5 Series as a diesel tow car is not the engine – it’s stability. Sudden crosswinds, high-sided vehicles and unexpected manoeuvres don’t faze this vehicle. The BMW really is as secure and reassuring as they come.
Inside, the 5 Series is roomy for people and luggage, although not as spacious as the cheaper Škoda Superb. But you do get top-notch infotainment and high-quality fit and finish.
The BMW is also extremely rewarding to drive when you leave the caravan behind. The 5 Series corners with poise and precision – although the ride might be too firm for some.
We’ve seen 2019 examples on sale for around £26,000. That’s a very keen price for a car with so much performance, space, and the all-weather security of four-wheel drive.
Land Rover Discovery D300 S
- Price: £60,065
- Kerbweight: 2437kg
- 85% match: 2071kg
- Towing limit 3500kg
The Discovery is a very relaxing and comfortable car to drive and travel in, with or without a caravan in tow.
You can buy a petrol-powered Discovery, but it makes most sense as a diesel.
The D250 is all you really need, but we’re recommending the D300 here, which has the performance to make towing a big twin-axle caravan seem effortless. With 479lb ft of torque, there’s more than enough muscle to pull the heaviest of luxury tourers up hill and down dale.
Take your tourer to a remote farmland campsite, and you’re unlikely to get stuck, whatever the weather. The Discovery really is exceptionally able off road, thanks to four-wheel drive and a host of rather sophisticated electronics to help the most ham-fisted of drivers out of trouble.
Inside, today’s Discovery is also better finished than its predecessors, and you’ll find there’s plenty of room for seven. Head- and legroom in the third row of seats are more generous than in most rivals.
However, Land Rover continues to perform poorly in reliability studies, which is the biggest potential downside to Discovery ownership.
You should be able to find a 2018 3.0-litre Discovery for less than £40,000.
Dacia Duster dCi 115 4×4 Journey
- Price: £22,945
- Kerbweight: 1514kg
- 85% match: 1287kg
- Towing limit: 1500kg
We keep on recommending the Dacia Duster, because it offers so much for so little money.
The petrol models are a bit weak for towing duties, but the diesel is well suited to pulling a lightish and small caravan.
With its 115hp and 192lb ft of torque, you won’t be going anywhere in a hurry, but the Duster isn’t underpowered so long as you match car and caravan sensibly.
In terms of stability, you do tend to get the odd fidget on the motorway, but nothing untoward. The diesel engine is very economical – we saw 33.8mpg when we last towed with one – and four-wheel drive will get you out of trouble if the campsite turns muddy. There’s also a two-wheel-drive version, but for its traction and extra weight, we would take the 4×4 every time.
Earlier Duster models were rather rough and ready inside, but today’s vehicle is solidly finished. In addition, the car is well equipped.
Journey models are one down from the top of the range, and come with climate control, sat nav, heated front seats and phone mirroring. It’s certainly a better spec than you would expect at this price.
Dusters start out cheap from new, and are even cheaper secondhand. A 2019 diesel 4×4 will cost from around £13,000.
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