For many who believe you have to buy a crossover or SUV in order to tow anything, Britain’s Tow Car Awards wants people to know which cars are best for towing in different weight classes
For anybody who doesn’t already know, any car can tow something and even the smallest compacts can take a personal watercraft for a weekend getaway, but the annual awards get together a variety of vehicles (41 for 2016) and takes them out for a day of dynamic tests, further evaluating the test subjects on practicality, driving costs of ownership, and driving dynamics.
The Tow Car Awards are Britain’s largest and widely regarded as its best, with all testing performed at the renowned MIRA proving ground. Adjudicated by experts from The Camping and Caravanning Club, What Car?, and Practical Car, this marked the tenth year for the Tow Car Awards, so the judges also sat down to choose the first Tow Car of the Decade.
The cars are evaluated in five weight classes (ranging from 1,400 kg to 1.900 kg) and further divided into four categories – Green, Ultralight, Petrol (Gasoline), and MPV. Fitted with basic hitches (replacing stabilizer hitches in order to show off the car’s true behaviour under towing), the cars tow trailers provided by the Swift Group, with towing weight kept to 85% of the car’s curb weight or to its tow rating (if lower than that 85%). Stability control is also disabled during testing.
The cars are tested on acceleration, braking, hill start (on a 1-in-6 slope), high-speed stability (beyond the legal limit), slalom and emergency lane changes. They are further evaluated on being loaded up with a vacation load and what they’re like to drive in everyday driving (when they aren’t towing anything).
This year’s winners came from Honda, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Seat, Skoda ad Suzuki. Not all cars are available on this side of the ocean, but we’ll endeavor to provide like vehicles for easy comparison.
The winner of the overall award was the Skoda Superb Hatch, fitted with Volkswagen’s 148-hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel “four.” It’s equivalent is the latest Passat, which comes in sedan and wagon. The Superb comes in wagon and liftback sedan.
The Ford Mondeo Vignale (a luxury version of what we know as the Fusion, though maybe it would be closer to a Lincoln MKZ), equipped with the 237-hp Ecoboost 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine, was named Best Petrol Tow Car.
The Suzuki Vitara was judged Best Ultralight Tow Car. The Vitara was last sold in North America in 2011 at the end of its third generation. The current vehicle is smaller than that model and here was one of the few gasoline engine vehicles to take awards.
Based on the previous generation of the VW Passat, the Seat Alhambra (also equipped with the 2.0-litre turbodiesel, but making 181 hp) took the Best MPV award, while the Kia Cee’d (Forte5 in North America) took the Green award, thanks to its 134-hp 1.6-litre diesel 4-cylinder engine (which we don’t get here).
In the weight categories, the Honda HR-V (though one equipped with a 1.6-litre diesel) was rated best in the under 1,400 kg category, the Superb Hatch got the 1,400-1,549 kg nod, the Jaguar XF (with a 2.0 diesel “four”) topped the 1,500-1,699 kg class, and Land Rover Discoverys took the 1,700-1,899 kg and over-1,900 kg classes, with the Discovery Sport and Discovery 3.0 diesel V-6 (respectively).
For its overall win, the Skoda went into the Tow Car of the Decade category, competing against the Passat Wagon (last year’s winner, repeating from 2011 and 2007), Nissan Qashqai (Nissan Rogue; 2014), Skoda Octavia (Audi A3; 2013), Jaguar XF (2012), Land Rover Discovery 4 (2010), Volvo XC60 (2009) and Ford Mondeo Estate (Volvo V70; 2008).
The Land Rover Discovery 4 was named Tow Car of the Decade, based on its stellar record of category wins over the past 10 years.
“The winners of the Tow Car Awards 2016 have shown us that they’re particularly good as an overall package,” said David Motton, Tow Car Editor of Practical Caravan magazine. “Many of the other cars entered also performed extremely well, but when it came to choosing our first Tow Car of the Decade, we unanimously chose the Land Rover Discovery 4 as it had won more times than any other.”