A good towcar needs to be on the heavy side, so that it is big enough to tow today’s larger caravans. And it needs to have good torque too. But that doesn’t mean you need to bust the bank finding one. Here’s our choice of top-rated caravan towcars under £30,000

Buyer’s Guide – best towcars under £30,000

Skoda Octavia Estate 2017

STAR RATING 5 OUT OF 5

  • Price £24,565 (Used price now around £11,000)
  • Engine: 1968cc
  • Kerbweight: 1354kg
  • Power: 148bhp
  • Torque: 350Nm

The kerbweight might be a limiting factor here, as the 85% rule means that, unless you feel really confident towing, you should really only use this as a towcar for caravans weighing less than 1151kg – and there aren’t too many of those.

That said, the 2.0-litre engine featured here is used in some of the VW Group’s much bigger cars.

With a caravan that fell just within the 85% limit, we found that the car handled the road very well. We had to wait for a strong crosswind before there was any sign of movement. With the manual version we tested, the car accelerated well whether from a starting position or at higher speeds, and braking was no problem at all.

We were particularly impressed with the boot space, which is more generous than many much larger cars we have seen, and with room in the back seat. This could easily accommodate a 6ft tall passenger, even with an equally tall driver.

PROs
Handles well
Great boot space

CONs
Kerbweight is a bit limiting

Read more in our Skoda Octavia Estate review

 

Ford Focus Estate 2019

STAR RATING 4 OUT OF 5

  • Price £26,750 (used price now around £20,000)
  • Engine 1497cc
  • Kerbweight 1408kg
  • Power 180bhp
  • Torque 240Nm

We have always found the Focus an enjoyable car to drive. What surprised us about the fourth-generation petrol model we tested was that it proved just as good a towcar as diesel variants we have tried before.

While its relatively meagre torque – especially when compared with diesel versions – meant we had to change gears more often on hills, this was no real burden with a precisely calibrated gearbox like this.

The car could handle towing at a constant 60mph pretty impressively on the flats, and fuel economy was generally good too.

Our test model, and ST Line X model, had sportier suspension than the standard Focus. This resulted in a very firm ride, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and could be tiring over a long distance.

Room in the back was perfectly adequate, although while the panoramic sunroof makes the cabin much brighter, it does restrict headroom.

We were a little disappointed at the finish of the interior too, with cheap looking plastic on the doors and lower vents.

PROs
Fuel economy
Great petrol version

CONs
Firm ride
Cheap interior

Read more in our Ford Focus review

Skoda Karoq 2018

STAR RATING 4 OUT OF 5

  • Price £28,445 (used price now around £20,000)
  • Engine 1968cc
  • Kerbweight 1561kg
  • Power 148bhp
  • Torque 340Nm

The Karoq was a sort-of replacement for the Yeti (in advance of the Kamiq launched late last year). It’s bigger than the Yeti, designed to take on the likes of the Nissan Qashqai. The full range includes petrol and diesel versions, as well as two-wheel and four-wheel drive models. We tried out the 2.0-litre 4×4 diesel version, in mid-spec SE L trim.

We’ve been used to this engine on other cars before, and although it didn’t feel quite as punchy in the heavier Karoq, it still made for a smooth ride, with gear changes only required on steeper hills or when overtaking. We weren’t bothered by the movement of the caravan either, as any sways soon died down.

We also like the way the electrics for towing fit onto the towbar neck, and so are clear of the bumper. That made hitching up much easier.

The suspension has been turned more towards comfort than sportiness, which makes life easier on a long tow, although the car on its own felt a bit floaty on some corners.

The rear seats can be removed to make already generous luggage space even bigger – which is possibly a good thing because in position they do not lie down flush to the boot floor.

PROs
Smooth ride
Handy towbar electrics

CONs
Floaty feel on corners

Read more in our Skoda Karoq review

Seat Ateca 2017

STAR RATING 4 OUT OF 5

  • Private £29,990 (used price now around £12,000)
  • Engine 1968cc
  • Kerbweight 1589kg
  • Power 187bhp
  • Torque 400 Nm

The Ateca is Seat’s first SUV. It is closely related to Volkswagen’s Tiguan, but shorter and considerably cheaper.

We tested the 187bhp version, although we think caravanners would also be interested in the 148bhp model. At launch, both only came with four-wheel drive.

The extra weight that entails gives this car an impressive 85% ratio of 1351kg, although if you are prepared to go above that its maximum towing limit is 2100kg, huge for a car this size.

The car managed to get from 30mph to 60mph in 7.2 seconds, and confidently passed all the challenges on our test track. Our only issue came when we were on the motorway, when we occasionally felt a little side-to-side movement after overtaking a high vehicle.

On its own the Ateca feels more like a hot hatch than an SUV, although the ride may be a bit firm for some.

While the interior doesn’t match the Tiguan, the Ateca’s boot is 80 litres larger than its main rival, the Nissan Qashqai. Both 2.0-litre engines are a lot more powerful than the Qashqai’s, although the top of the range model is slightly dearer than the Nissan equivalent.

PROs
Powerful drive
Huge boot

CONs
Firm ride

Read our Seat Ateca review

Volkswagen T-Cross 2019

STAR RATING 3.5 OUT OF 5

  • Price £21,055 (used price now around £20,000)
  • Engine 999cc
  • Kerbweight 1270kg
  • Power 113bhp
  • Torque 200Nm

With a 1.0-litre petrol engine, and a kerbweight of only 1270kg, the T-Cross, the smallest car in Volkswagen’s SUV range, is really only suitable for smaller caravans. We matched it with Swift’s Basecamp.

We found it pulled away smartly, with the DSG automatic gearbox changing gear promptly. The car’s well-controlled suspension helps with stability on country roads, although you need a fair bit of space to overtake.

It took a fair while to get up to speed on a motorway slipway, but the car felt stable enough at the legal limit, although crosswinds were a bit of an issue. On a solo drive the car performed with verve.

Even if it is just 4.2m long, the rear seats still slide forward to give you aboot space that can be 455 litres – the same as the Renault Captur.

But the interior finish is a bit disappointing, with too much hard plastic.

Read more in our Volkswagen T-Cross review

PROs
Good suspension
Flexible boot

CONs
Underpowered acceleration

Kia Sportage 2017

STAR RATING 3.5 OUT OF 5

  • Price £27,250 (used price now around £17,000)
  • Engine 1995cc
  • Kerbweight 1662kg
  • Power 134bhp
  • Torque 373Nm

Kia’s Sportage, now in its fourth generation, is possibly less well known than the 4×4 Sorrento, but it actually outsells the larger car.

We picked the middle of two 2.0-litre diesel engines available, as there’s a mightier 182bhp model also available.

Even still it coped well at motorway speeds, and managed our sudden lane change test with little grumbling. It did take 17.2 seconds to go from 30mph to 60mph, but it felt stronger than that figure suggests. The manual brake also coped reasonably well with a hill start.

Driving solo, the car felt capable, rather than actually fun. The ride at low speeds was a little stiff, perhaps thanks to our model having 19-inch alloy wheels, although these help when towing.

The interior is well finished, with plenty of helpful electrics points, while the 491-litre boot, which expands to 1480 litres when you fold the rear seats down, is perfectly adequate in this class.

PROs
Stable drive
Quality interior

CONs
Stop-start not standard

Read more in our Kia Sportage review

 

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