Think of a tow car, and most of us will picture a big 4×4. But the truth is, you don’t necessarily need a big and heavy car to tow with, with the best small tow cars more than capable of towing, provided your caravan is light enough.

Combining a lightweight car and caravan (or trailer tent) can make a great deal of sense, especially with the rising cost of living. Light cars and tourers are generally cheaper to buy and to fuel than heavier models.

Choose wisely, and you won’t be missing much. The best small tow cars can tow well, and lightweight tourers can be comfortable. New or used, these are lighter cars we’d be happy to tow with.

If you’re looking for a pre-owned vehicle instead, be sure to take a look at our best used car for towing a caravan round-up too. Alternatively, our best small hatchback for towing guide is an ideal place to start if you’re looking for one of these unassuming all-rounders.

The best small cars for towing: our top picks

The Seat Leon 1.0 eTSI SE Dynamic towing a caravan
The Seat Leon 1.0 eTSI SE Dynamic

Seat Leon 1.0 eTSI SE Dynamic

  • Price: £26,625
  • Kerbweight: 1338kg
  • 85% match: 1137kg
  • Towing limit: 1300kg

The Leon is a cracking car to drive, with or without a van, and it’s easy to see how it made its way onto our best tow car round-up.

When it’s not towing a tourer, it’s surprisingly fun to drive for a car with just 110hp. What it lacks in pace, the engine makes up for in free-revving character. Show the Leon a twisty road and it will feel right at home, with precise steering and tautly controlled suspension.

Towing a caravan, the Leon is impressively stable, pulling straight and true at 60mph, even if it takes a while to get there. It’s worth putting the DSG auto into sport mode, to encourage it to change down quickly and make the most of the engine’s modest power.

There’s plenty of space inside. Even if you’re tall, you should have no trouble getting comfortable behind the wheel, and adults can sit in the back without feeling hemmed in.

Boot space is competitive with the Leon’s rivals, at 380 litres for your holiday bags.

SE Dynamic specification is just one up from the base level, but you really don’t need to spend any more for a good list of kit. Sat nav, a digital cockpit display, three-zone climate control and 17-inch alloys are included as standard.

If you’re shopping around for a used model, prices start from about £19,000.

Full review: Seat Leon 1.0 ETSI SE Dynamic

The Hyundai Kona 1.6 GDi Hybrid SE Connect
The Hyundai Kona 1.6 GDi Hybrid SE Connect

Hyundai Kona 1.6 GDi Hybrid SE Connect

  • Price: £24,315
  • Kerbweight: 1376kg
  • 85% match: 1170kg
  • Towing limit: 1300kg

The Hyundai Kona is a very capable tow car and one of our favourite small hybrids.

Some small cars struggle with hill starts, but the Kona tackles them with ease. The instant pulling power of the electric motor offers fuss-free getaways.

Fuel economy is a higher priority than performance with a small hybrid (it returns 57.6mpg, according to the official figures), but the Kona has enough power to handle a sensibly matched caravan.

However, the engine does sound very noisy if you work it hard. It quietens down once you’re cruising along, and the Hyundai is stable at speed.

The rear seats are better suited to children than adults, and the boot is relatively small. However, the driver and front-seat passenger have plenty of space to get comfortable.

Hyundai is generous with standard kit, so we’d stick with the entry-level SE Connect, with alloy wheels, air-con and smartphone mirroring.

There aren’t all that many Kona Hybrids for sale on the used market, but we did see one promising example, with 25,000 miles on the clock, priced at £22,000. That’s not
a huge saving on the new price, but would avoid the wait for a factory order.

The Škoda Scala 1.0 TSI SE
The Škoda Scala 1.0 TSI SE

Škoda Scala 1.0 TSI SE

  • Price: £20,705
  • Kerbweight: 1239kg
  • 85% match: 1053kg
  • Towing limit: 1200kg

The Scala is a very light tow car indeed, weighing just 1239kg, so you’ll need to match it to a very light caravan, or a trailer tent.

However, if you own a light enough tourer to make a match, this is an excellent tow car.

Despite its size, the Škoda packs in a surprising amount of space. There’s lots of room in the front, as well as a very comfortable driving position, and enough space in the back for adults. It’s roomier than the Hyundai Kona, for example.

It also has a very big boot, with a capacity of 467 litres. That’s a lot more than you’d expect and puts the Scala on a par with much larger cars.

As a tow car, the Scala is very stable. Accelerating up to speed takes some patience if you go for the 1.0-litre TSI engine, but we’d happily live with leisurely acceleration in a car as secure as the Scala. Just be aware that hill starts take a careful balance of clutch and throttle.

There’s an excellent choice of Scalas on the used market. For example, we spotted a 26,000-mile model, on a 69-plate, for sale at £14,689.

Full review: see what we made of the Škoda Scala when we reviewed it in 2020

The Renault Captur 1.3 TCe 140 Techno
The Renault Captur 1.3 TCe 140 Techno

Renault Captur 1.3 TCe 140 Techno

  • Price: £25,295
  • Kerbweight: 1309kg
  • 85% match: 1113kg
  • Towing limit: 1200kg

The Captur is another vehicle to make it onto our best small tow car guide that really punches above its weight.

One of the Renault’s biggest strengths is the engine. The 1.3-litre petrol is positively lively, with considerably more get-up-and-go than the 1.0-litre engines in the Seat Leon and the Škoda Scala.

You should have no trouble reaching 60mph by the end of any motorway sliproad.

This is also a very stable tow car, towing securely at 60mph. Strong brakes mean the Renault stops well, too.

As a day-to-day drive, the Captur rides better at speed that it does around town. It fidgets somewhat at lower speeds. If you want a lighter tow car with a smooth and comfortable ride, you might prefer the Scala.

On the other hand, the Captur looks good, inside and out, and the cabin is practical. The sliding rear bench means you can trade legroom for more boot space, and the car has an excellent safety rating from the experts at Euro NCAP.

Shop for a Captur on the secondhand market, and you could make a big saving over the new price. For example, we’ve seen an 8500-mile 69-plate 1.3 TCe 140 S Edition going for £15,598.

The Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDi GT-Line
The Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDi GT-Line

Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDi GT-Line

  • Price £21,810
  • Kerbweight: 1225kg
  • 85% match: Not legal
  • Towing limit: 900kg

With a legal towing limit of just 900kg, the Kia Stonic is definitely a tow car for the trailer tent crowd, or someone with an ultra-light tourer such as the Mink Camper. So long
as you fall into that category, there’s a lot to like here.

Turbocharging makes the Kia’s 1.0-litre engine more willing than you might think, providing 118bhp. A 48-volt mild-hybrid system helps the car to achieve 51.4mpg on the combined cycle.

Of course, you won’t get anywhere near that figure when you’re towing, but we did see 27.2mpg when we last towed a trailer with the Stonic.

For such a small, light car, the Stonic is stable while towing. Strong crosswinds and the bow wave of a big HGV cause some movements, but nothing to result in nervous moments.

You will need to travel fairly light, because the Stonic has a small boot. There’s not a lot of headroom in the back, either, although it’s churlish to expect too much from a car that takes up so little space on the road.

The Kia makes a sensible buy, with a reassuring seven-year warranty, a big plus if you choose to buy a used Stonic. We’ve seen a 68-plate example with around 33,000 miles on the clock for £11,450.

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