Pulling power: Seat Leon estate tops towcar of the year rankings for 2022
THE idea of heading off in a touring caravan for a weekend break on the north coast distinctly loses its allure around this time of year, writes William Scholes.
Or maybe that's just me. Serious caravanists, of course, will take off at the drop of a hat, untroubled by mere gales, downpours and icicles.
These folk carefully match their caravan to their car, which as everyone knows means taking the weight of the trailer itself into account.
That's why the annual towcar of the year competition run by the Caravan and Motorhome Club - a serious organisation which represents more than one million carvanners, motorhomists and trailer tenters - is organised by weight category.
From the winner of each class, the organisation's testers select a 'towcar of the year'.
This year's contest has just taken place, and the winning vehicle for 2022 was deemed to be the Seat Leon - in estate guise, naturally, and specifically with the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine and FR trim.
"The Seat Leon is a great all-round family estate," enthused the judges, who said they loved the Leon's engine - indeed, even in the Volkswagen Group's galaxy of engines, the sweet and smooth 1.5-litre TSI unit shines brightly - especially when paired with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
"On the faster sections of the route it remained calm and composed, while on hilly, twistier roads it felt agile, the engine coping really well with the inclines," said the judges, adding that the Leon had "plenty of room on offer and the cabin is comfortable".
"The decent-sized boot impressed the caravanability judges, accommodating all our touring equipment," they said.
'Caravanability' is test of how well a car's boot can swallow the heavy and bulky accessories typically regarded as essential on a caravan trip, as well as measuring towball height and assessing the quality of the towing information in the car's handbook.
Driving tests for each contender were conducted at the UTAC Millbrook proving ground, with caravans of appropriate weight hitched and ballasted to 85 per cent of their kerbweight.
Exercises included hill starts on 17 per cent gradients, and a 26 per cent downhill brake test. The ability to join fast traffic from a standstill was also assessed.
The Leon triumphed in the 1,100kg-1,200kg caravan weight category. Other notable category winners included the Skoda Enyaq, which was the electric vehicle winner as well as sub-1,100kg champion.
No self-respecting list of superior towcars is complete without a Volvo, and the Caravan and Motorhome Club features two. The V60 Recharge T6 AWD got the nod as its plug-in hybrid victor, with the electric XC40 triumphing in the 1,500kg-1,700kg caravan category.
Ford scored a double in the family categories, with the Kuga winning 'family towcar' of the year and the S-Max - which feels like it has been around longer than Last of the Summer Wine - named as 'large family towcar'.
Nick Lomas, director general of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, said the rise in popularity of the staycation meant it was "more important than ever that the Club continues to provide qualified and unbiased information for its one million members to help them to find the right towcar for their needs".
"We’ve also been receiving an increasing number of enquiries about the technicalities and practicalities of towing with hybrid and electric vehicles so it’s fantastic news we are seeing a boom in competition entrants and winners in these categories," he said.
Caravan and Motorhome Club Towcar of the Year 2022 Winners
Overall winner: Seat Leon Estate FR 1.5TSI 150PS (1,100kg-1,200kg category winner)
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Lounge (electric vehicle and under 1,100kg winner)
Volkswagen Golf R-Line 2.0 TDI 150PS (1,200kg-1,300kg)
Nissan Qashqai Tekna+ Xtronic (1,300kg-1,400kg)
Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake R-Line 2.0 TDI 200PS (1,400kg-1,500kg)
Volvo XC40 Recharge pure electric AWD (1,500kg-1,700kg)
Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid (over 1,700kg)
Volvo V60 Recharge plug-in hybrid T6 AWD (plug-in hybrid winner)
Ford Kuga ST-Line X Diesel mhev (family towcar)
Ford S-Max FHEV ST-Line (large family towcar)
SsangYong P Musso Rhino Auto (pick-up)
If you are in the market for a towcar, look no further than the Seat Leon estate. It's been named 2022 towcar of the year by esteemed folk at the Caravan and Motorhome Club
No shortlist of proper towcars should be without a Volvo; there are two in the Caravan and Motorhome Club's 2022 hall of fame, including the V60 plug-in hybrid and the fully electric XC40.
Skoda's Enyaq emerged as the overall best electric towcar