Getting hitched: Skoda tops Towcar of the Year 2023 honours
EVERY year, in the name of offering some proper consumer advice, here at Drive we like to bring you the results of the Towcar of the Year competition, writes William Scholes.
The contest is run by the Caravan and Motorhome Club with an attention to detail that is, frankly, obsessive. This is a good thing, as it means you can trust the results and be assured that your car is going to shrug off the demands of towing your caravan (or trailer, or horse box, or maybe even a hipster coffee cart).
This year's overall winner is the Skoda Karoq - specifically the Karoq in Sportline trim with the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive. These details matter, and point to the precision with which the Towcar of the Year people go about their task.
The Karoq, in case you can't picture it, is the middle-sized of Skoda's three internal combustion-engined family SUVs, so it's the one that's the same size as a Nissan Qashqai or Seat Ateca. A heartland family car, then, and exactly the sort of vehicle often called into caravan and trailer-hauling duties.
Awarding the Karoq the top prize for 2023, the judges said the Skoda had no less than "wowed" them.
"When hitched, the Karoq is composed and well-mannered, the engine gives useful mid-range punch to maintain swift progress and the four-wheel-drive system means there’s plenty of traction at all times," they said.
"Arguably just as importantly, with its big boot, quality cabin and roomy rear space, this car makes for an excellent unhitched daily driver."
A feature of the Caravan and Motorhome Club competition is that it divides cars into different classes, so you can quickly identify which vehicle best suits your personal requirements - a way of comparing apples with apples, so to speak.
The classes are defined by 85 per cent of a car's kerbweight or its towing limit, whichever is lower. This sensibly means each car is tested with an appropriately heavy trailer.
In addition, there are also gongs that don’t strictly relate to towing class alone, such as the 'best electric towcar' or 'large family towcar'.
The Skoda Karoq won a weight class (1,400kg-1,500kg) as well as 'best family towcar' on its way to overall honours.
Nick Lomas, director general of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, said this year's Towcar of the Year Competition was notable for the number of electric vehicles competing, and that these had performed well against established petrol and diesel offerings.
"SUVs lined up against estates and pick-ups, and even a traditional MPV was fielded," he said.
"Leisure vehicle holidays are more popular than ever, it’s important that the club continues to provide qualified and unbiased information to help all those who plan to tow to find the right towcar for their needs.”
Manufacturers were invited to enter any vehicle capable of towing a trailer over 750kg which would be on sale on October 1. A total of 24 made it through to the final assessments were conducted over four intensive days at the UTAC Millbrook Proving Ground near Bedford.
Each car's 'caravanability' was measured, this being a bespoke test of how well its boot could cope with the various bulky accessories normally needed on a caravan trip.
Towball height, both solo and hitched up, was checked, as was the quality of the towing information provided in the manufacturer’s handbook - I did say it was a particularly thorough test judging process...
The cars were then hitched up to caravans ballasted to 85 per cent of their kerbweight, or towing limit if lower. Acceleration and braking was measured, and the car-and-caravan rigs were then tested on Millbrook's different test tracks, including the winding and hilly 'Alpine route' and a high-speed bowl.
A 17 per cent hill start and 26 per cent downhill brake test are among the more gruelling technical tests, as well as how the vehicles handle reversing with a caravan hitched.
Grenville Chamberlain, chairman of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, congratulated the winners, adding: "The Club is delighted to be able to share the wealth of data and information about towing vehicles to help both our members and all those who tow."
You can find the Caravan and Motorhome Club's towcar advice at camc.com/towcar
CLASS ACTS WITH REAL PULLING POWER
AS we've seen, the Skoda Karoq - in Sportline 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG 4x4 SCR guise - won the overall Towcar of the Year title as well as the family towcar prize and the 1,400kg-1,500kg caravan weight category.
Here are the other class winners, and what the judges had to say about them. Interestingly, the winning cars all come from just two automotive groups - Volkswagen (Volkswagen, Skoda, Porsche) and Geely (Volvo and Polestar).
"The brand-new ID5, the coupe version of Volkswagen’s ID4 SUV, impressed with its super-smooth power delivery, effortless torque, composed road manners and good stability on slow and fast roads."
Caravan weight 1,200kg-1,300kg: Skoda Enyaq iV 80X Sportline
"The Enyaq iV offers a masterclass in current EV technology, exhibiting a smooth and ultra-refined character when towing. An additional electric motor on the front axle makes the 80x four-wheel drive, and the extra traction while hitched helped both on twistier roads and the hill start."
"The vehicle impressed with its practical boot, great rear visibility and competent driving manners. The 2.0 TDI is a great engine for towing with bundles of torque and the DSG automatic box shifts smoothly."
Caravan weight 1,500kg-1,700kg: Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin
"The XC40 immediately scores well for being an EV with a high towing weight capability. Sparkling acceleration, tidy driving dynamics, a roomy and well-laid out interior and a spacious boot, this is a worthy class winner."
"The Porsche Cayenne scored high marks in virtually every area - including interior comfort, technology, practicality and boot space. In the driving department, the E-Hybrid uses a 335bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 mated to a 100kW (134bhp) electric motor to give stunning performance."
"Polestar impressed during its first ever appearance at this competition. Its interior is a delight to sit in, while the Google-based information system is simple to use. The Polestar 2 is astonishingly quick even when hitched, it’s composed, quiet and razor sharp to drive."
Plug-in hybrid vehicles: Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6
"A supremely comfortable towcar and primed for long journeys. Performance is impressive and the interior is a masterpiece in style, comfort and intuition."
Large family towcar: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Multivan Style 2.0-litre TSI 204PS 7spd DSG
"On the road and hitched-up, the front-wheel drive Multivan was impressively well-mannered. It offers van-like space with a car-like driving experience."