With more than half a million touring caravans in use in the UK and Britons spending around £2million a year on holidays in them, picking the right car to tow one is vitally important to many motorists.
Fortunately, there’s an expert testing panel who can tell you which vehicles – large and small – are best for pulling light and heavy loads.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club, which has in excess of a million members, has tried all the latest models and determined which are the best in each weight category.
On the pull: These cars have been named the best for towing a caravan or trailer in 2020. Read on for a full rundown of the overall winner and top choices in each of the remaining categories
To put all the contenders for the title of Towcar of the Year 2020 through their paces, the test team took 35 models to Millbrook Proving Grounds in Bedfordshire for a number of assessments.
This includes the vehicle’s ability to haul a caravan up a steep incline, measure acceleration and braking with a trailer hitched and performance during high-speed runs on the testing ground’s oval.
These are the models the Caravan and Motorhome Club recommends in each of the different categories – and the overall winner for 2020.
The Volvo XC40 won the best tower in the 1,400 to 1,500kg caravan class – the second time in as many years it was picked as the winner in this category
On top of being named the best in its class, the Caravan and Motorhome Club decided the compact Volvo was the best trailer lugger of all for 2020
Towcar of the Year and 1,400 – 1,500kg caravan category winner
While you might think it would be a big bruising 4×4 that would be crowned the overall winner, it was actually a relatively dinky SUV that was named Towcar of the Year.
The accolade for 2020 went to Volvo’s XC40, having been picked as the top choice in the class of 1,400 to 1,400kg caravan pullers for the second year on the trot.
The model tested was the £38,635 diesel D4 AWD in R-Design Pro spec, which has a relatively low 187bhp but 295 lb/ft (pound-foot) of torque, meaning heaps of pulling power from low down in the revs.
The judges described it as ‘a willing and eager sporty SUV’ and added: ‘There’s one word that can sum up towing with this car and that’s effortless.
‘We score on so many different criteria and you might get a car that scores highly on some and not others. But this one is, across the board, great.’
It was also praised for how controllable it is at low speed, especially reversing, stability at high speeds and for having a strong safety record.
Previous Towcar of the Year winners
2019: Volvo XC60 (D5 PowerPulse AWD R-Design)
2018: Skoda Kodiaq (SE L 2.0 TDI 4×4 DSG 190PS)
2017: Volkswagen Passat Estate Alltrack (2.0TDI 4MOTION 150PS)
2016: Land Rover Discovery (HSE LUX)
2015: Seat Leon ST (FR 2.0 TDI)
2014: Skoda Superb (Elegance Estate 2.0 TDI)
The Jaguar I-Pace won two separate classes – the best alternative fuel towcar and the best for pulling a caravan under 1,150kg in weight
With a claimed range of almost 300 miles on a full charge, the Caravan and Motorhome Club said the I-Pace 400PS Electric HSE can cover up to 115 miles when hitched
Under 1,150kg caravan and Best alternatively fuelled vehicle category winner
Being a fully electric model, the I-Pace is limited in terms of what it can tow – an allowance of a maximum trailer weight of 750kg, in fact.
That said, it was still awarded the best tower in the under 1,150kg caravan category, as well as the zero-emissions hauler of 2020.
With a claimed range of almost 300 miles on a full charge, the Caravan and Motorhome Club said the I-Pace 400PS Electric HSE – which costs a whopping £74,995 – can cover up to 115 miles when hitched before it needed to be plugged into a power supply.
Plenty of boot space and ease of use when it came to hooking up towing mirrors and electrics for a caravan.
Skoda’s Octavia Estate was named best at towing a caravan with a weight of between 1,150 and 1,300kg
Testers also praised the Octavia Estate for the ease of fitting towing mirrors and the required detachable electric to pull a caravan
Skoda Octavia Estate
1,150 – 1,300kg caravan category winner
The judges described the Octavia as a ‘lively and entertaining little estate’ – though it’s worth arguing that the Octavia is far from small.
So much so that its large boot impressed the testing panel, who also made a point of how helpful information about towing in the owner’s manual was.
Towing mirrors are said to be easy to fit and the detachable electrics were conveniently located, just under the bumper.
The noseweight and roof load limits of 75kg were deemed reasonable for the £28,480 Sportline 2.0 TDI automatic version tested.
The Ford Focus Vignale Estate put through the test team’s intensive assessments was the 2.0 EcoBlue automatic, a model that costs £31,195
The Vignale version is the posh-trimmed Focus with a big boot, offering more luxuries than the standard versions
Ford Focus Vignale Estate
1,300kg – 1,400kg caravan category winner
Despite being smaller than the Skoda Octavia, the Ford Focus Estate was deemed the best for towing a heavier caravan.
The variant put through the test team’s intensive assessments was the 2.0 EcoBlue automatic, a model that costs £31,195.
As well as its adequate pulling performance, the Focus was recommended for having a generous 541-litre boot – ideal for storing towing kit.
The only let down was the lack of a spare wheel, with models coming with tyre sealant as standard, which isn’t suitable to repair a puncture when you have a caravan hitched.
The second Volvo to pick up a Towcar of the Year award was the Volvo XC60 Cross Country – an estate model with a slightly higher ride for soft offroading
The model tested was the diesel D4 AWD Cross Country Plus, costing £40,785
Volvo V60 Cross Country
1,500kg – 1,700kg caravan category winner
Revered as being a ‘faultless’ towcar that’s ‘very good in every way’, the V60 Cross Country was the second Volvo to collect an award from the Caravan and Motorhome Club for this year.
The model tested was the diesel D4 AWD Cross Country Plus, costing £40,785, which was deemed a good compromise between performance and fuel economy, offering 295lb/ft of torque from the 186bhp engine and returning an average of 50mpg.
The testgers liked the electrically-retractable towbar – a £1,075 optional extra – and the addition of a spare wheel, which buyers have to fork out another £150 to have.
With 282bhp and a massive 443lb/ft of torque, hauling heavy loads is no issue in a 3.0-litre diesel VW Touareg
If your caravan is on over 1,700kg in weight, this is the motor for you
Over 1,700kg caravan category winner
If your caravan is on the large size – and by large we mean over 1,700kg in weight – then the vehicle for you is the Volkswagen Touareg SUV.
It took the prize in this category, with the 3.0-litre V6 diesel 4 Motion automatic in R-Line Tech spec impressing the judges.
With 282bhp and a massive 443lb/ft of torque, hauling heavy loads is no issue.
But the panel also liked the comfortable ride, progressive steering and handling as well as lots of stability at high speeds, even when pulling a twin-axle caravan.
It’s not cheap, though. This specific example is a pricey £58,295.
The Skoda Kodiaq vRS was given the award as the best family option – a vehicle you used sometimes for towing but mainly as a daily runaround
The range-topping vRS version of the Kodiaq produces 236bhp, which is ample for towing a large caravan
Best large family towcar
If hitching a caravan is something you do relatively infrequently and want a car that’s equally as good for the school run as it is camping trips, Skoda’s seven-seat Kodiaq is the choice for 2020.
The version recommended – like most here – is the top of the range. In this case, that means the hot vRS 2.0-litre 4×4 diesel with the DSG automatic gearbox.
This motor produces 236bhp, which is ample for towing a large caravan. But the test team said the £44,065 vRS is refined, smooth and offers plenty of practical space, even when all seven of the seats are being used.
A 230-litre boot is also handy for shopping trips as well as towing equipment.
This is the second year running the Amarok has taken the pick-up category award in the Towcar gongs
With 368lb/ft of torque, it has plenty of pulling power to lug a caravan of almost any size up to 1,972kg in weight
Best pick-up towcar
This is the second year running the Amarok has taken this category award, proving its credentials as the best choice of pick-up for towing – and in general, according to other test reports.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club tested the 201bhp Trendline 3.0-litre V6 4MOTION diesel with an automatic transmission, which retails for £29,555.
With 368lb/ft of torque, it has plenty of pulling power to lug a caravan of almost any size up to 1,972kg in weight.
Judges also praised how refined and composed it felt during laden driving, especially by the standards of pick-up trucks, which tend to feel relatively agricultural.
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.