The time has finally come to reveal the winners of the 2019 Tow Car Awards. 

This is the 13th annual Tow Car Awards, with experts from Practical Caravan, What Car? and The Camping and Caravanning Club putting 40 cars to the test towing a fleet of Swift caravans.

With an over-all winner as well as 5 class winners, these Awards will certainly give you pause for thought if you’re considering a new tow car this year. Plus, we reveal the best ultralight tow car, the best budget 4×4, the winner of the fuel economy award and the best plug-in hybrid.

There should be something for all budgets and requirements, but if you’re still struggling to find the ideal tow car for you, or want to look at older models, our Tow Car Awards website has over 500 tests from our previous years’ Tow Car Awards. 

What we’re looking for

Our annual Tow Car Awards put the newest tow cars under the spotlight, but what are we looking for from a top tow car? The best tugs should be great all-rounders, and take firm control of the caravan. When testing, our panel of experts look at the car’s performance when towing, in everyday driving, for practicality and in terms of the value of your investment when buying and owning the car.

With tough manoeuvres like the lane change test and a hill start on a 1-in-6 slope, careful measurements of the braking and acceleration from GPS test gear, and careful loading to ensure each Swift caravan is weighted to 85% of the car’s kerbweight (or the legal max – whichever is lower), our testing is painstakingly thorough. With the What Car? team also contributing to the assessment of each car’s everyday driving and the vehicle’s safety, reliability, running costs and value for money, we really get a rounded view of what buyers are looking for. 

The Winners

The first of our class winners topped the up to 1400kg class, and has long been a feature of our Tow Car Awards, with consistently good results. Having said that, it’s perhaps not the engine that you might expect for a class winner: the Škoda Octavia 1.5 TSI is the first petrol tow car to have won its weight class in the 13-year history of the Tow Car Awards. This just goes to show how strong, stable and practical this car is. 

In the 1400kg – 1549kg class, the Seat Ateca tugs into first place with a controlled performance that impressed our testers, while it also turned out to be the quickest tow car in this class at accelerating.

The next class, 1550kg – 1699kg, had some hot competition, but the resounding winner was the Volkswagen Arteon. It’s stable, practical, roomy and “completely mastered the lane-change test”. 

Contenders in the 1700 – 1899kg class included estate cars and 4x4s, but last year’s overall champ held them off to win the group. The BMW 520d has once again proven itself. Even amongst competition like the Volvo V60 Cross Country, the BMW is exceptionally stable and really doesn’t have any significant weaknesses as a tow car. 

The heavyweights of the 1900kg+ category just couldn’t match the performance of the Land Rover Discovery. We’re beginning to wonder if anything can top it, as it has won this class for 12 years of the 13 that we’ve been running the awards. It did have to work hard this year, though, beating off competition such as the Volkswagen Touareg and the BMW X5.

Top gong goes to…

This year’s overall winner is the Volkswagen Arteon. It’s not just for the car’s good looks; it’s an exceptionally stable tow car – even in emergency manoeuvres where we pushed it really hard, the car stayed firmly in control. It’s very well-equipped, keenly priced, surprisingly roomy – you’ll have plenty of space for your kit in the enormous boot – and the familiar engine does a predictably good job. In short, it’s a very worthy overall champion. 

The winners by category

Up to 1400kg: Škoda Octavia Hatch 1.5 TSI 150PS SEL DSG

1400kg – 1549kg: Seat Ateca 2.0 TSI 190PS FR DSG

1550kg – 1699kg: VW Arteon 2.0 TDI 150PS Elegance DSG

1700kg – 1899kg: BMW 520d Touring xDrive M Sport

1900kg+: Land Rover Discovery 3.0 SDV6 HSE

We’ve also picked out winners in several special categories:

Best Ultra-Light Tow Car: Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 115 FR

Best Budget 4×4: Dacia Duster Blue dCi 115 Comfort 4×4

Best for Fuel Economy: Ford Focus Estate 1.5 EcoBlue 120PS Titanium X

Best Plug-in Hybrid: Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400e HSE Dynamic

See our current issue for a full run-down of every car that we tested!