2015 Tow Car Awards winners include 8 categories of car and an overall champion. Each excelled in a series of challenging tests such as the: high speed stability, emergency stop, lane changing and hill-start – all while coupled to a caravan or weighted trailer. Running costs, practicality and solo performance played a role too. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges from Practical Caravan, the Camping and Caravanning Club and What Car?
Up To 1,400kg: ŠKODA Octavia Hatchback (£20,675 as tested)
The ŠKODA Octavia Hatchback claimed the Up to 1,400kg title (2.0 TDI CR 150PS SE Business trim). Judges said – in relation to the lane change test - that “on the third and fastest run the caravan was sliding dramatically, but the ŠKODA pulled it straight again without being dragged off its line.” The Octavia also won praise for its engine that enabled it to proceed at a “decent pace”. It also took the hill-start test “in its stride” and was “immensely roomy”. Experts said it was “hard to find any significant weakness”.
1,400 to 1,549kg: Volkswagen Passat Estate (£28,265 as tested)
The Volkswagen Passat Estate won the 1,400 to 1,549kg title (2.0 TDI BMT 150PS SE Business DSG). It took the overall crown too. Judges said it punched “above its weight with a caravan in tow” and felt “rock solid” at 60mph. As for changing lane, it made the “most aggressive test seem easy cornering hard and bullying the caravan into following”, the judges added. The Passat Estate was also praised for its “very roomy” cabin, “huge” cargo capacity and electric parking brake that made “short work” of its hill-start test.
1550 to 1699kg: Mazda CX-5 (£29,395 as tested)
The Mazda CX-5 took top spot in the 1,550 to 1,699kg category (2.2D 175PS AWD Sport Nav). Judges said its mid-life update “rounded off a couple of rough edges and made the CX-5 into a really superb tow car.” It was applauded for feeling “completely settled at 60mph” and being “very nearly as comfortable at 70mph”. The large boot and reversing camera found favour too. The latter was “a great help when hitching up”, experts added. Finally, even when “thrown around” it took the “punishment and felt like it could cope with more”.
1700 to 1899kg: Volkswagen Passat Estate (£36,175 as tested)
The VW Passat Estate won the 1,700 to 1,899kg category too (albeit in 2.0 BiTDI SCR BMT 240PS 4Motion GT DSG form). Strengths included its diesel engine that delivered “the punch of a heavyweight boxer”. It had 237bhp and 369lb ft of torque. This complemented a 4-wheel-drive system and electronic handbrake that ensured “effortless hill starts”, judges said. Furthermore, when slowing from speed there was “no instability from the caravan”. It was “just as competent swerving hard as driving a straight road at” at 60mph.
1,900kg+: Land Rover Discovery (£47,500 as tested)
The Land Rover Discovery took the 1,900kg+ title (3.0 SDV6 SE Tech). Experts said it felt “absolutely superb” thanks – in part – to its “thoroughly sorted suspension”. Straight-line stability was “excellent” and “you’ll need to be going well beyond the legal limit or driving in a strong crosswind before you need to make any steering corrections”. The lane change was “so easy”. The engine and brakes were “top-notch” too, as was the hill start. It also scored well for practicality thanks to its 7 seats, vast boot and the wide range of towing aids.
Green Award: Volvo V40 Cross Country (£30,420 as tested)
The Volvo V40 won the Green Award title (Cross Country D4 Lux Nav Geartronic). Judges said it was “very impressive” that a car of this size, weight and performance averages 65.7mpg and meets Euro 6 emission standards. The V40 also found favour for its hill-start and engine that ensured it felt quick and decisive”. There was “no instability when slowing from high speeds”, and “it made the lane-change test seem easy”. Judges said “even when the caravan began to move around the Cross Country remained firmly in control”.
Best Petrol Tow Car: Ford Mondeo (£22,545 as tested)
The Ford Mondeo 1.5T EcoBoost claimed the Best Petrol Tow Car title. Judges said the engine was “a star” and – even though it lacked pulling power compared to the diesel equivalent - its “177lb ft torque made it “noticeably stronger in the middle of the rev range than most petrols”. The Mondeo excelled in other areas too. “The lane-change test held no fear”, it pulled the caravan straight when it wandered at speed, and the big boot made packing easy. Judges were pleased to note the presence of a trailer stability system.
Best Ultralight Tow Car: Citroën C4 Cactus (£16,690 as tested)
The Citroen C4 Cactus claimed the 2015 Best Ultralight Tow Car title. The judges explained that it is particularly suitable for towing a trailer tent and for those that do not want, or need, a large vehicle. Naturally, stability is a prime consideration for towing and the Citroen “pressed home its advantage” over its competitors. During the lane change test it “felt secure” and whereas the trailer” slid around on the third and fastest run”, it “knuckled down and dragged it straight” The C4 “stopped well too”.