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Best tow cars to buy 2024 - page two

Page two of our round-up of the best tow cars to buy in 2023

Nissan Ariya 87kWh Evolve e-4ORCE

Class winner: Electric Vehicle

  • Kerbweight: 2,297kg
  • Noseweight: 75kg
  • Caravan weight (as tested): 1,500kg
  • Max towing capacity (braked): 1,500kg
  • Price (as tested): £61,540

While the caravan weight classes are judged objectively against a series of scores awarded in the full range of disciplines, the ‘best electric towcar’ category is one where the judging panel’s subjective experience is allowed a bit more free rein – and here the range-topping four-wheel-drive Nissan Ariya SUV clearly manages to win itself a lot of fans. 

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That won’t come as a surprise to Auto Express readers familiar with our own review, which describes the Ariya as superbly capable, with a range of attributes that put the model head and shoulders above anything else in the Japanese brand’s line-up. That includes the more traditional X-Trail SUV, which is a similar size but can’t tow as much in hybrid trim and is nothing like as smooth and sophisticated to drive, whether hitched up to a caravan or not. Talking of which, the Ariya can pull up to 1,700kg, which puts it in the same weight category as the two-wheel-drive Polestar 2, but its 310-mile range is less impressive, which accounts for the Polestar’s weight category win. Still, the Club judges feel the Nissan’s figure is decent enough to ensure a useful range even when towing, which it does very well. 

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In fact, the electric Nissan’s combination of stability, smoothness and easy manners, with loads of power and a compliant ride, makes it very relaxing to drive with a caravan attached. Visibility is great too, even when reversing.

Factor in the high-quality interior and range-topping Evolve trim’s lavish spec, and it’s easy to see how the judges were seduced. Practicality is great, too, with generous space for all. 

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What the judges said: The Ariya has superb driving manners. One judge remarked: “Great acceleration and handling, with the finesse required for towing longer distances.” It also performs strongly in its weight category, keeping its caravan in check through a variety of manoeuvres, and all the time pampering its passengers with a comfortable, well made interior. Extra marks were given for its fantastic rear visibility and its boot’s luggage-swallowing abilities.

Volkswagen Multivan 2.0 TSI 204PS 7spd DSG Style Long

Class winner: Large Family

  • Kerbweight: 2,146kg
  • Noseweight: 80kg
  • Caravan weight (as tested): 1,824kg
  • Max towing capacity (braked): 2,000kg
  • Price (as tested): £63,635

The Multivan is an excellent option for large families with challenging transport needs. In spite of its van-like dimensions. It offers a driving experience that’s as refined and comfortable as many cars, and quality that imparts a premium feel. 

This long version’s vital statistics mean there’s acres of space inside, making the Multivan feel more like a living room for up to seven, although the four passengers in the front two rows enjoy separate captain’s chairs, while the three in the back have a bench. Large electric sliding doors make getting in and out easy, even in parking spaces that the VW’s dimensions would otherwise make tight, and an electric tailgate opens on a truly cavernous boot.  

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While not as obviously style-focused as the ID. Buzz, the Multivan still looks more like a ‘VW bus’ than just any old van, which certainly adds to its appeal for many. For caravanners, the sheer practicality is one major draw, but getting behind the wheel of the Multivan when attached to a caravan reveals its excellence as a tow vehicle. 

With a 2.0-litre petrol TSI engine and seven-speed DSG auto, it can’t match some of its electric rivals for outright grunt, but it’s refined and relaxing to drive nonetheless. And somewhat counter-intuitively, the vehicle’s long wheelbase and excellent visibility make it exceptionally easy to reverse when hitched up – a fact which may surprise anyone who finds the Multivan’s overall dimensions worrying. If you’re covering long distances, there’s a more frugal diesel option, too.

What the judges said: This Long version of the VW Multivan adds an extra 200mm of space in the boot area, bringing the total length to 5.12m and giving caravanners extra room to store items. The Multivan sailed through the practicality tests, while the clearly displayed towing and weights data were noted favourably. On the road it’s smooth, quiet and well mannered. If you need to take a lot of people and stuff on holiday, you really can’t beat a Multivan.

Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase

Class winner: Luxury

  • Kerbweight: 2,514kg
  • Noseweight: 140kg
  • Caravan weight (as tested): 2,137kg
  • Max towing capacity (braked): 3,500kg
  • Price (as tested): £220,120
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Look inside a typical caravan, and it will soon become clear that caravanners don’t like to rough it. Still, those pushing the boat out with the priciest vans need a tow car that’s above and beyond the norm – enter the Bentayga.  

The Extended Wheelbase version isn’t short on creature comforts, as you would expect, and the big Bentley SUV is also a fantastic vehicle to drive, whether hitched up or solo. One tester described the experience as ‘imperious’, and all enjoyed the heady mix of power and torque provided by the muscular V8 engine. Its 542bhp and 770Nm give you 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, or the grunt to effortlessly shift a 3,500kg tow if required, while ensconced in the softest leathery luxury – and all for the princely sum of, well, if you have to ask...

Of course, few people buy their tow car ‘just’ for towing, and compared with some alternatives for similar money, the Bentley provides pretty good value in terms of its versatility. So if your caravan holiday involves Michelin-starred restaurants and/or tickets to the opera, you’re good to go.

Getting where you’re going in the first place will hardly be a chore with a Bentayga at the head of your outfit, either. The engine’s seamlessly smooth power delivery and slurred automatic gearchanges are a recipe for relaxed progress – although you may have to think twice about access to certain destinations; you wouldn’t want to steer that lustrous paintwork too close to a prickly hedge while passing a farm tractor on a narrow country lane, for example. 

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What the judges said: It’s the first time Bentley has entered this competition and the iconic marque wins in a new category designed to celebrate tow cars that cosset passengers on their way to campsites. The Bentayga blew the judges away for its sheer pomp, and is hugely impressive when towing. It gains marks for superb visibility, clear towing data, its agility, its 4.0-litre V8 engine’s lovely combination of power and smoothness, and its sumptuous interior.

Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155PS ST-Line 

Judges' Award winner

  • Kerbweight: 1,280kg
  • Noseweight: 75kg
  • Caravan weight (as tested): 1,088kg
  • Max towing capacity (braked): 1,100kg
  • Price (as tested): £27,360

In a contest that’s traditionally used to celebrating large cars with big engines – or more recently big SUVs with large batteries and powerful motors – the Ford Puma proves to be something of a mythbuster.

It shows that good things really do come in small packages, putting in a sterling towing performance from its tiny 1.0-litre engine that came as a genuine surprise to the judging panel. In fact, it was so impressive that a new category was created this year in the Puma’s honour – the Judges’ Award, which will celebrate a special feature or features of an entrant, as and when it’s deemed appropriate.

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In the case of the Puma, it wasn’t just the impressive performance of a relatively tiny engine, but the gleam in the eye of the judges when they returned with the Puma from their runs out on the test routes. We already know the little Fiesta supermini-based SUV is one of the most engaging vehicles of its type to drive, but the car was a revelation when hitched up with a small caravan. 

The Puma demonstrates excellent front-wheel-drive traction on all but the most extreme hill starts, its ST-Line spec sport suspension offers impressive stability for the outfit on the twisting hill route and high-speed sections, and a slick six-speed manual gearbox makes gearchanging a breeze on even the most challenging sections of the hill route, where the game 1.0-litre 153bhp 48V hybrid-assisted engine is really pushed to the limit of its capability. 

A surprising performance from this year’s smallest and lightest competition entrant for sure, but also one of the most engaging, because the Puma is a pleasure at all times. All the judges agreed the Puma is the perfect choice for a young family starting their caravan adventures, or a downsizing couple.

What the judges said: Large cars with equally large engines have often been considered a must-have for towing, but this year’s winner debunks the theory. A 1.0-litre engine doesn’t seem an obvious choice on paper, but the power and torque make light work of both hill and high-speed routes. It keeps the caravan stable while still being entertaining and engaging to drive. A comfortable interior, a surprisingly large boot and great technology sealed the Puma’s win.

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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