At its best, a humble small hatchback is not so humble. These unassuming all-rounders can take on just about any day-to-day driving task, including towing.

The best small hatchbacks, such as the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf, make practical family cars and are heavy enough to be sensible matches for a lightweight caravan. While they won’t be suitable for many types of caravans, if you have a more compact two- or four-berth, they’ll be up to the challenge of towing these small caravans.

In some cases, a light car can be the best car to tow a caravan, as it makes for lower fuel bills, both in regular driving, and while towing if the van is light as well. They’re also cheaper to buy than a larger family hatchback tow car or SUV, and sometimes better to drive.

Although SUVs have edged out hatchbacks as the most popular style of car, there’s still a wide choice of the latter to choose from. Diesels are less common, but are still around in reasonable numbers. Hybrid hatchbacks of various kinds offer an alternative to straightforward internal combustion engine machines. In this guide, we’re sharing our top small hatchback picks.*

If you’re looking for an aid to help you with your towing too, be sure to check out our best caravan sat nav guide, where we share our top picks on the market.

The best small hatchback tow cars:

Škoda Scala 1.5 TSI 150PS SE
The Škoda Scala 1.5 TSI 150PS SE

Škoda Scala 1.5 TSI 150PS SE

  • Price: £23,075
  • Kerbweight: 1265-1357kg
  • 85% match: From 1075kg
  • Towing limit: 1250kg

Only very light caravans will make suitable matches for the featherweight Škoda Scala. But if you own a small, light tourer, the Scala will tow it very well.

There’s a choice of 1.0- or 1.5-litre petrol engines. While the 1.0-litre punches above its weight and will be adequate for folding-camper owners, the 1.5’s muscle makes all the difference when towing a full-sized van. It will comfortably pull a small tourer like a Swift Basecamp 2, so long as you aren’t afraid to rev the engine.

Stability is very impressive for such a small tow car. At a steady 60mph, it tows with the composure of a larger, heavier car. Space is generous, with a comfortable driving position, enough room for adults in the back, and a sizeable boot.

The Scala has three spec levels; we’re recommending the basic SE. It offers 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, rear parking sensors and an eight-inch touchscreen.

With a new price of £23,075, the Scala is good value as a new car. If you’d rather buy a used car for towing a caravan, we’ve seen a 69-plate, 30,000-mile car for £14,300, but do make sure that the car has a towbar fitted, or towing preparation in place, because otherwise it can’t be fitted with towing gear.

Ford Focus 1.0 mHEV 155 Titanium Powershift
The Ford Focus 1.0 mHEV 155 Titanium Powershift

Ford Focus 1.0 mHEV 155 Titanium Powershift

  • Price: £30,340
  • Kerbweight: 1349kg
  • 85% match: Above max tow
  • Towing limit: 1100kg

It’s a sign of the times that you can no longer buy a new Ford Focus with a diesel engine – most versions are now mild-hybrid petrols.

We’ve gone for the 155hp engine, the more powerful of the two mild hybrid tow cars. If you are used to diesel power, you’ll have to adapt, as the petrol engine needs a lot more revs to build speed while towing. Even pulling a lightweight tourer, the Ford’s acceleration is quite pedestrian.

However, what the Focus lacks in speed, it certainly makes up for in stability, towing straight and true at the motorway speed limit.

Leave the caravan on its pitch and the Ford really comes alive. It’s great fun on a twisty road, but still comfortable and quiet in town or on a long drive.

Inside, there’s plenty of room in both front and rear; it’s just a shame the cabin doesn’t have a more upmarket finish.

In addition, keep in mind that the maximum towing figure is low, at just 1100kg.

Buying used brings diesel cars into the equation, which have far more pulling power than petrols you can buy new. We’ve seen a 118,000-mile 1.5 diesel on sale for just under £8500.

Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI 150PS Style DSG
The Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI 150PS Style DSG

Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI 150PS Style DSG

  • Price £32,885
  • Kerbweight 1449kg
  • 85% match 1232kg
  • Towing limit 1600kg

Unlike the Ford Focus and the Škoda Scala, the Volkswagen Golf is still available with diesel power. For towing duties, we would go for the 150hp version of the 2.0 TDI. It’s well suited to towing, with a beefy 266lb ft of torque – plenty to handle any sensibly matched caravan.

As well as providing more pulling power, diesels generally weigh a little more than petrols, which helps with matching ratios. This Golf weighs 1449kg, which makes it a good match for a wider choice of tourers than some of our other favourite small hatchbacks.

The Golf is one of the most stable small cars we’ve towed with. It feels like a bigger car from behind the wheel, keeping the van firmly under control on country roads or motorways.

In everyday driving, the Golf is a fine all-rounder, with tidy handling and a comfortable ride. Some rivals are roomier, though, in particular when it comes to boot capacity.

The fuel-efficient engine makes for low running costs, although the Golf is relatively pricey to buy.

If that puts you off, there’s always the used market. We’ve seen a 2020 car with 18,000 miles on the clock for £21,000.

Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo (130PS) GS Auto
The Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo (130PS) GS Auto

Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo (130PS) GS Auto

  • Price: £31,355
  • Kerbweight: 1371kg
  • 85% match: 1165kg
  • Towing limit: 1400kg

Vauxhall has dropped diesels from the Astra range, so there’s a choice of petrol engines. Even the more powerful 130hp model majors on fuel economy rather than performance, so this is a steady performer in towing.

You will need to be patient while the Astra builds speed, but once it settles down to a steady cruise, the car is stable.

Go for the automatic we’re recommending here and hill starts are straightforward, too.

Leave the caravan behind and you’ll wonder if the Astra has had an engine transplant, as the 1.2-litre turbo feels much livelier. It rides and handles well – but can’t match the Ford Focus for driver appeal.

Inside, the Astra is solidly built, although rear-seat space could be more generous. On the other hand, there’s more boot space than you’ll find in the Volkswagen Golf.

We’d recommend the mid-spec GS for its balance of price and specification. It comes with a 360-degree parking camera, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian protection.

Like it, but not the £31,000+ price tag? We’ve seen delivery mileage, pre-registered examples reduced to under £26,000, which is a bargain.

Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 150PS FR
The Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 150PS FR

Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 150PS FR

  • Price: £30,505
  • Kerbweight: 1424kg
  • 85% match: 1210kg
  • Towing limit: 1600kg

Seat makes the VW Golf look expensive with the pricing of the Leon. Mechanically, the two are very similar, but the Seat is better value.

The sporty Leon has quite a firm ride, but that helps make this a stable tow car. It’s more than happy to pull a lightweight caravan, and copes well even when the wind picks up.

Leon buyers have a choice of mild-hybrid petrol, regular petrol and diesel engines.

We’ve picked the 150hp diesel. It’s the same engine we recommended in the Golf and it does an equally good job in the Seat, combining punchy acceleration with excellent economy. The official combined figure suggests 58.9-62.8mpg should be achievable.

In day-to-day driving, the Leon rivals the Ford Focus as one of the most fun family hatchbacks from the driver’s seat.

The downside is that it’s not as comfortable as the Škoda Scala or the VW Golf over poor surfaces and at low speeds.

It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, however, and there’s plenty of space in the back. Boot space could be better.

We’ve seen a 69-plate car with 31,000 miles on sale for just under £15,000.

*Vehicles pictured may not be exact model or year

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