Britain's Best Tow-Cars

Britain's Best Tow Cars
Credits: John Colley
1 Oct, 2010 4:58pm

Which new model is king for caravan owners? We hitch up the market’s top buys to name a winner...

Stay-at-home holidays have made a huge comeback over the last few years – and that has seen caravan sales rocket skyward. In the past 12 months, the UK market has grown by a massive 16 per cent. 

Of course, a caravan is no use without a car big enough to tow it. Size isn’t everything, though, and when you’re looking to buy, you need to consider economy, flexibility and running costs, as well as towing ability.

So which is Britain’s best tow car? The only way to find out is to put the leading contenders to the test – and that is exactly what Auto Express has done. We joined the experts at The Caravan Club to help judge their prestigious Tow Car of the Year awards for 2011. 

A total of 35 models fought it out for victory in five price ranges. Two four-wheel-drive prizes were also up for grabs in the fiercely contested competition. Each car was put through a series of rigorous tests to rate stability, hill starts and general towing ability at the Millbrook Proving Ground, Beds.

So whether you’re a first-timer searching for a small tow car or a more experienced caravanner wanting to upgrade, look no further as we reveal this year’s winner.

How we did it: 

Each car was tested with a laden caravan in tow. First up was a two-mile drive on Millbrook’s high-speed bowl, followed by emergency stops from 40mph and 30mph in the braking area. Then it was on to the Alpine Hill route, which features a twisty road with gradients of up to 17 per cent. Running costs, CO2 emissions and economy were also taken into account when coming to a final decision.

All caravans were supplied loaded to 85 per cent of the relevant car’s kerbweight. Noseweights were set at the auto manufacturer’s recommended limit, five to seven per cent of the van’s running weight or the maximum stipulated weight for the coupling head – whichever was lowest. Thanks to Bailey Caravans of Bristol, which supplied our test units and the staff to hitch and unhitch each combination.

Special thanks to:

Established in 1907, the Caravan Club is Europe’s largest touring organisation – and this is the third year in a row in which we have helped judge its Tow Car of the Year. Visit their website at

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You could cruise the world for the price of a caravan. I just don't get the appeal of sitting in a tin box in a damp field and paying through the nose for it.

We don't see the appeal of waiting in a terminal for hours, being treated worse than cattle, sitting in an aluminium tube with hundreds of other people who might have unruly children, smelly bottoms or flu.Being served rubbish food.
Nor sitting in a deckchair on a big boat looking at a million square miles of salt water surrounded by people with bad dress sense. You can choose where to go, what to eat and who you travel with and you can get a good price back for the caravan after 10 years of cheap accomodation. Try that with any other form of holiday.

Sat behind you on bank holiday weekend, clogging the roads cos you're too frightened to try something new you have to take your 'home from home' with you. round 'em up put them in a field and bomb the b*&stards

SisterFrottage - bomb the b*&stards??? Lorries jam up our roads year-round - why don't they command similar irrational, intolerant ire from you? Ah, probably because they're carrying your next pair of cheap, child-labour-made jeans, battery eggs, strawberries that have come halfway around the world because you can't be *rsed to eat them at the right time of the year, or fuel so you can continue to hooliganise other b-road users and up the roadkill count.

hedgehopper's got a point about cruises. I don't see the point of paying the price of a caravan to sit on a floating hotel for a few weeks. You don't go caravanning to spend all your time in the caravan. That'd be like going to the other side of the world and sitting by the hotel pool all day, how stupid is that? And there's little point comparing caravanning with international holidays - I don't own a caravan but if I did I wouldn't take it with me if I wanted to visit Tokyo. Compared to overpriced UK B&Bs and hotels (with their obligatory English breakfasts - how can they all think that's something to boast about?), caravanning is flexible, comfortable, reliable and heaps better for families.

Pike transport
Sat behind you on bank holiday weekend, clogging the roads cos you're too frightened to try something new you have to take your 'home from home' with you. round 'em up put them in a field and bomb the b*&stards

By SisterFrottage on 7 October, 2010, 12:00pm

Grow up you immature idiot


Iron Chicken, Sister Frottage,

Calm down, calm down and don't knock it until you've tried it :-) We've had many a great holiday in the van (still go to a villa in the summer and skiing in the winter) but nothing beats the van for chilling at a nice tranquil site for a tenner a night, as many times a year as you like. Oh and we've still got ten grand of asset to show for it :-)

How about stopping all the irrelevant stuff about the rights and wrongs of caravans, and concentrate on the article which is about Tow Cars?
If its good at towing a caravan, then it should be good at towing other things, like your race car trailer etc.

Stick to the point of the feature please!!

I notice the trolls are out again. I use my caravan and I also fly around the world on holiday. I wasn't aware it was either / or.

My caravan suits the purpose when we want to go walking in the dales or Yorkshire moors and we enjoyed a walking holiday in Scotland with it recently. It doesn't hold traffic up, in fact very few do these days what wi more powerful tow cars and better van designs. My jaguar sees a drop from 35 mpg to 29 mpg which says it all really. Oh and I doubt I have ever held anybody up as I get to the legal limit faster than most cars, bettered only by the jag without the caravan on the back.

Of course, if pretending you have to like everything Clarkson says because he does your thinking for you, then whatever floats your boat but don't forget. 1. He tows a horse box, you know those things that hold traffic up. 2. Hammond tows a camping trailer and his kids love camping, so being a good dad that's what they do. 3. Old stig and Jason Plato have both judged tow car of the year and remind us all of the prevalence and suitability of caravans in the racing world as somewhere to sleep...