Chilly, isn’t it? With the leaves on the ground starting to outnumber those on the trees, plenty of caravanners have put their tourer away until spring. But there’s a hardy minority who see touring as a four-season activity. If you count yourself a member of that tribe, good on you!
There are many rewards for caravanning all-year round – quiet campsites, crisp and clear mornings, and the satisfaction of knowing that the great British winter hasn’t stopped you from touring. But what tow car will see you through?
If an autumn storm blows up, or this winter turns out to be a harsh one, you’ll need to be prepared. Head for a remote location in the winter months and it really pays to have the right tow car. On wet or snowy roads a 4×4 (especially one that’s been fitted with winter tyres) will come into its own.
Here are five affordable 4x4s which we think make great winter tow cars. And which you’ll still be happy to tow with once fair-weather caravanners emerge from hibernation.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 7st (2011)
- Price then: £23,640
- Price now (approx): £10,450
- Kerbweight: 1961kg
- 85% match figure: 1667kg
- Legal towing limit: 2500kg
We’ve recommended this generation of Hyundai Santa Fe in the past, and no doubt we’ll do so again. It started out as a very keenly priced new car, and it’s even more of a bargain as a used buy.
According to our colleagues on What Car?, a 50,000-mile example will set you back £10,450 from a dealer, or under £10,000 for a private sale. You’ll be buying a big, powerful seven-seat 4×4 for the price of a new supermini.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine is easily up to the job of pulling a big caravan, and the Santa Fe is stable at speed. You should be able to find both manual and automatic examples (our price is for a manual), but it’s worth noting that the auto’s towing limit is 500kg lower than the manual’s.
Watch out for problems with the air-con and poor stereo reception. Otherwise the Santa Fe should prove reliable, if well cared for.
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi Titan (2008)
- Price then: £19,195
- Price now (approx): £3525
- Kerbweight: 1842kg
- 85% match figure: 1566kg
- Legal towing limit: 1800kg
The Kia Sportage lives in the shadow of the larger Sorento, certainly as far as tow car drivers are concerned. But the Sportage makes a very capable tow car in its own right – and a very affordable one.
According to What Car?, an 80,000-mile example from 2008 will now cost around £3500. That buys a compact but surprisingly heavy 4×4 that really deserves wider recognition among caravanners.
When we tested the car in 2008 we found it wasn’t especially quick, but it was stable and practical, with lots of space for rear-seat passengers and plenty of room for bags.
Some owners have experienced trouble with the engine, according to Warranty Direct’s reliability data. But find a well-cared-for car at this price and you’ll have found a tow car bargain.
Land Rover Discovery 4 3.0 TDV6 XS (2009)
- Price then: £41,740
- Price now (approx): £19,300
- Kerbweight: 2583kg
- 85% match figure: 2196kg
- Legal towing limit: 3500kg
Earlier this year, along with our colleagues at What Car? and The Camping and Caravanning Club, we named the Land Rover Discovery 4 our favourite tow car from the first decade of the Tow Car Awards.
The Discovery really is an exceptional car to tow with, combining cast-iron stability with exceptional comfort. It’s one of the most practical cars you can buy, too, with a rugged and flexible interior with space for seven. What’s more, if winter does its worst, the Discovery should shrug off whatever extreme weather the season brings.
If mechanical problems do strike, though, they can be expensive to fix. Go for a car with a folder full of receipts detailing any work that’s been carried out, and consider taking out a warranty to guard against any unexpected big bills.
Go for a 2009 car with around 70,000 miles on the clock and you should pay less than £20,000 – that’s well under half what the car cost new.
Mazda CX-7 2.2D Sport Tech (2011)
- Price then: £27,580
- Price now (approx): £10,100
- Kerbweight: 1865kg
- 85% match figure: 1585kg
- Legal towing limit: 1800kg
You won’t be tripping over Mazda CX-7s at your local dealer forecourt, or at a campsite come to that. These are rare cars.
Hamstrung initially by a petrol-only model range in a market dominated by diesel power, the CX-7 was reinvigorated by the arrival of the 2.2-litre diesel. But still, it sold in modest numbers and you’ll need to look hard to find one.
It’s worth the effort. Especially when What Car? estimates a 50,000-mile car will cost just over £10k from a dealer, or less in a private sale.
Your money buys a heavy and stable tow car, that’s fast and rewarding as a solo drive. Running costs could be lower, even with diesel power, but set that against the keen price, and plentiful equipment.
Just watch out for suspension trouble, which Warranty Direct warns is the biggest cause of claims from Mazda CX-7 owners.
Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D XT-R (2011)
- Price then: £25,255
- Price now (approx): £10,550
- Kerbweight: 1725kg
- 85% match figure: 1466kg
- Legal towing limit: 2000kg
If you want a mid-sized 4×4 that won’t let you down, the Toyota RAV4 is the car for you.
It makes a capable tow car, too. When we tested it in 2011 it proved stable in a straight line, and comfortably towed a caravan weighing 85% of the Toyota’s kerbweight.
There’s reasonable space inside, although the side-hinged tailgate can be an irritation in a tight parking spot. Unhitch the caravan and the RAV4 drives well, with neat handling. The ride is on the firm side, however.
A 50,000-mile car should cost a little over £10,000. Running costs should prove affordable, and XT-R cars like the one we drove five years ago are well equipped. It’s not the most glamorous or exciting car on this list, but it is a very worthy and sensible buy.
You'll be buying a big, powerful seven-seat 4x4 for the price of a new supermini!