Ask the experts: Towing power


Question: I’ve just come back from holiday and I’m needing a new towing vehicle for my caravan. I want something between five and eight years old, a diesel of course. What models would you suggest?

Our experts reply: Perhaps a good place to turn for this is the Tow Car Awards, organised and judged by experts from the Practical Caravan magazines, What Car? and The Camping and Caravanning Club. We’ve dipped into their past winners, and taking the base models, here are three to test out. The 2017 winner was the Land Rover Discovery 3.0 Td6 HSE. Perhaps something to think about in a few years’ time.

Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI CR 150PS Elegance

We’ll start with the 2013 winner, the Skoda Octavia. Estate versions that came after November 2010 saw the introduction of a four-wheel drive 2.0 TDI CR 140bhp engine with automatic DSG transmission.

The 2.0-litre TDI 140 diesel model continued to use the old direct injection diesel that sold in its hundreds of thousands beneath the bonnet of VW Golfs, a very strong engine. So much so, that at the time, the Skoda Octavia scored very well in the Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.

The interior revisions had, if anything, an even greater impact. Enhancements to the switchgear, entertainment systems and trim work well. There's a smarter steering wheel and classier instrument panel graphics. The Skoda Octavia is a great used buy. In fact, it's hard to do much better, especially if you opt for your MK2 model in post-2009 facelift form.

  • Available from Telford Skoda in Carlisle, Border Cars Skoda in Lillyhall and remember to check your local used specialists,

Volvo XC60 D5 SE Geartronic

The Volvo XC60 won the award in 2009. An understated, handsome and reliable model, it makes a very good used buy and the diesel engines mop up miles very well. The first UK cars made landfall in autumn 2008 and the range consisted of 2.4-litre diesel of either 163bhp or 185bhp D5 variety. In the Spring of 2009, the 163bhp diesel engine in the range was upgraded to 175bhp with a front-wheel drive variant.

The rear passenger compartment is roomy and a couple of six footers would be comfortable here over a long trip. The load opening at the back is also the widest amongst the XC60's direct competition. Under the boot floor, there's a secure storage area that can't be opened without the tailgate being lifted, making it a great place to keep valuable items safe when the car's parked.

  • Available from Lloyds Volvo in Carlisle, PV Dobson in Levens, near Kendal, and check your local used specialists

Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Titanium Auto

Finally, the 2008 winner, the Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Titanium Auto. The Mondeo is a superb vehicle in its fourth-generation guise, a consummate all-rounder with very few weak points. The 2.2-litre diesel is a nice compromise between performance and economy with 173bhp and tonnes of torque, and economy being very close to 45mpg. The smaller engines are the ones that you’re most likely to come across and both the 1.8 and 2.0-litre TDCi diesels make a sound choice.

Take a seat inside the car and you'll notice high-quality surfaces, materials and finishes. As with the outside, dynamic lines and styling curves are evident, plus the low-profile instrument panel provides very generous cabin space for front-seat occupants. The dashboard is clear and the major controls for the electronics systems largely intuitive. With this car, it's hard to award it anything but a resounding thumbs-up.

  • Available from Arnold Clark in Carlisle and Workington, Stan Palmer Ford in Wigton, P & H M Ferguson in Brampton, East Road Garage in Egremont, Alan Myerscough Ford in Ulverston, Pye Motors in Barrow and Kendal, and W Milligan & Sons in Millom.

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