It’s not quite time to hang up my towing mirrors for the year. I’ve got two more cars to test this week then a visit to the MIRA test track (home of the Tow Car Awards) next week. But we’re far enough into December for a look back at 2014’s best tow cars. Here’s my personal pick of the year’s top tugs.
1. Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi
There’d be something wrong if I missed the Nissan Qashqai off my list, wouldn’t there? The overall winner at the Tow Car Awards 2014, the Nissan Qashqai really surprised me. Our colleagues on What Car? made it their Car of the Year at the start of 2014, so I knew it was a good car before towing with one. I hadn’t expected the Qashqai to prove quite so capable at towing a caravan.
It’s practical, well made, good looking, stable at speed and economical to run. What’s more, the Qashqai is made in Britain. Any caravanner wondering what tow car to buy and shopping for a new car to tow a small to mid-sized tourer should put the Nissan on their shortlist.
2. Vauxhall Cavalier 2000 GLS
Perhaps describing the Cavalier as one of the best tow cars of 2014 is a touch misleading. After all, it was built in 1980 and by any objective measure it’s a long way from being the best car to tow anything with.
But this is my list, and the Vauxhall Cavalier 2000 GLS is going in at number two. Why? Because I had more fun towing with the Cavalier than any other car this year. It showed me just how far cars and caravanning have come in the past three decades or so, and every mile was a reminder of childhood family holidays. I-spy, Little Chefs, ‘are we nearly there yet?’, wind-down windows and no air-conditioning – the Cavalier was a four-wheeled time machine.
3. Land Rover Range Rover Sport 3.0 SDV6
Sorry, more self-indulgence. Put price aside for a moment (and by heavens the Range Rover Sport is expensive). There is no better car to tow with than a Range Rover Sport. It’s simply amazing. The SDV6 engine is seriously powerful and drags twin-axle caravans up to motorway speeds as if they weighed no more than a cardboard cut-out.
What really astonishes, though, is the Range Rover Sport’s stability at speed. It’s as if car and caravan are pulled onto the road with magnets. Driven at 60mph (or well beyond at the test track) the outfit just drives arrow-straight. It’s a very addictive way to tow on your caravan holidays, if you have the means.
4. Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI 177PS
Alright, now it’s time for something a bit more sensible. Not exactly cheap I grant you (the model we tested at the Tow Car Awards was priced at £29,160), but at least a bit more real-world than my third choice.
The VW Passat isn’t a car you fall in love with, but it’s a very easy car to admire. It does just about everything well. You want space? There’s room for the whole family and their bags. You want performance? The 177PS engine has more than enough punch to tow any suitably matched caravan. You want stability? The Passat laughs in the face of crosswinds.
What should have the opposition worried is that this is a car coming towards the end of its life. The first owners will drive away in the next-generation Passat in January.
5. Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid
I’ve been debating whether to put this car, the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid, on my list. It’s flawed in many ways, with its high price and tiny boot being the obvious black marks. However, as a technological achievement, this diesel-electric hybrid is quite stunning. Towing at 60mph on electric power alone was a real eye-opener, as was the superb acceleration when diesel and electric power combined.
However, the reason the V60 Plug-In Hybrid is one of my favourite tugs of 2014 is its exceptional fuel economy. Tested using What Car?’s True MPG test kit, it achieved 44.9mpg towing a twin-axle caravan weighted to 85% of the Volvo’s kerbweight. Even repeating the test with the battery drained, the V60 achieved 29.6mpg.
If this is the future of green towing, count me in.
I had more fun towing with this car than any other this year