New tow car? - ib33

Hi,

I am looking for a car to tow our small caravan (1000kgs) and also fancy an automatic and probably diesel for the extra torque.

Shortlist so far is Astra 1.6 diesel, Toyota Avensis diesel, Skoda Octavia.

Looking to buy used from a car supermarket with a budget of upto £12K.

Any advice, owners experiences and further makes to consider would be very welcome.

Thanks

New tow car? - RT

At that weight of caravan, almost anything!

Typically towing mileage is a small % of your annual mileage so choose a car that suits the majority of your use

New tow car? - SLO76
What sort of usage and annual mileage will it see? Will it be enough to fit in with a modern DPF equipped diesel?

As for the three you've shortlisted...

The Astra 1.6 diesel (despite what Vauxhall tells us) is based on the 1.6 Fiat diesel and was the final product of their Diesel engine collaboration. Previous examples of this deal have a nasty reputation for problems as they age 1.3, 1.9 and 2.0 units as used in many Vauxhall models and although I've not heard of many troubles as yet I don't hold much faith on it being any better. The older 1.7 Isuzu diesel is however very robust and plenty gutsy enough to pull anything you'd like. Good value now too with the latest model hammering older Astra J prices.

The later facelifted Toyota Avensis uses 1.6 and 2.0 BMW Diesel engines and with BM's poor reputation for diesel reliability longterm, particularly relating to timing chain problems I'd be wary. The last of the pre-facelift cars used the hardy but less efficient 2.0 D4-D Toyota unit that will run to 250k and beyond with good maintenance. This is where my money would go if you wanted one. But there's no diesel auto option if I remember right.

The Octavia is a robust thing if you avoid any that were involved in the emissions scandal recall. Post "fix" cars (particularly the 1.6's) are known to be prone to EGR issues but saying that my Polo 1.2 TDi (which is the same engine minus a cylinder) hasn't suffered to date but I do notice an increase in the number of DPF regens it's doing post update so it's likely to have a detrimental effect in the longterm.
Post 2015 cars are not involved and should bypass any issues. The 2.0 is less likely to have problems too. There's always steady demand for these used from the taxi trade who will lap up all examples happily, except DSG autos which are trouble prone.

It's hard to mix an auto with diesel at the size you're looking for and it's best to avoid any automated manual boxes such as VAG's DSG or Fords Powershift. Both are hugely costly to fix and are almost notoriously troublesome. I'd try to go manual if you can.

One suggestion that would cover all bases though would be a Volvo v60 D5 Geartronic. Few fears of reliability problems, high levels of comfort, loads of power and an easy sell when you want out of it.

Auto Trader:

www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/20170809818...7

Edited by SLO76 on 10/09/2017 at 00:35

New tow car? - ib33

Many thanks for your replies.

My mileage is not that high 10k/year but I do a run on a motorway commute to work most days to help with DPF regen?

Think I will stay away from the autos as HJ also could not recommend towing with one.

Yes, I thought the new Vauxhall engine was their own design but think it has a timing chain so that's one less cost should I choose to keep it.

Petrol alternatives?

Cheers!

New tow car? - RT

Many thanks for your replies.

My mileage is not that high 10k/year but I do a run on a motorway commute to work most days to help with DPF regen?

Think I will stay away from the autos as HJ also could not recommend towing with one.

Yes, I thought the new Vauxhall engine was their own design but think it has a timing chain so that's one less cost should I choose to keep it.

Petrol alternatives?

Cheers!

The HJ is WRONG, sorry to say here - automatics are much better towing than manuals, especially for low speed manoeuvring - the torque-converter doubles the available torque, just what you need for towing - the old fuel-consumption penalty is much reduced.

The newer Vauxhall diesels still trace their roots back to Fiat - when the GM-Fiat Engine Alliance was dissolved, both sides retained the rights to use all the engines - since then Opel/Vauxhall have been developing them independently

Edited by RT on 10/09/2017 at 09:33

New tow car? - SLO76
If you're happy with petrol I'd take a look at the Mazda 6 2.0 Skyactiv 2.0 SE. It lacks the midrange torque of a turbocharged motor but its smooth, robust, great to drive and will happily tow your caravan even if it takes a little longer to get where you're going than with the diesel. There's no vices to worry about with a DPF or turbo.

The 2.0 Sport has an extra 20bhp but has firmer suspension and little extra torque so for your use it'll make no real difference. The Estate is a well liked big family wagon and will hold its money better. The auto is ok too but will sap some of the power. It's the automated manuals and CVT's I'd be wary of using for towing, Mazda use a torque converter box which should be fine. It's a car I regularly recommend and would happily buy myself having owned a previous gen and several other Mazda's without trouble.

Auto Trader:

www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/20170812827...5

Edited by SLO76 on 10/09/2017 at 09:55

New tow car? - NARU
...

Think I will stay away from the autos as HJ also could not recommend towing with one.

...

I could understand avoiding a DSG, but an auto makes a much easier tow than a manual. I'd never go back to a manual towcar again. My current car has a toque convertor auto gearbox and it makes towing so much easier. Especially when reversing onto a pitch.

New tow car? - concrete

Many thanks for your replies.

My mileage is not that high 10k/year but I do a run on a motorway commute to work most days to help with DPF regen?

Think I will stay away from the autos as HJ also could not recommend towing with one.

Yes, I thought the new Vauxhall engine was their own design but think it has a timing chain so that's one less cost should I choose to keep it.

Petrol alternatives?

Cheers!

HJ has his opinions, but all the caravan clubs recommend several autos for towing. An auto actually won the tow car of the year this year. Just ensure it is a torque converter auto as opposed to other types. Diesel is undoubtedly the best option for towing having lots of torque at lower revs. The weight you propose to tow is fairly light and should not rouble any medium sized car, petrol or diesel.

I got a new tow car this year and opted for diesel auto. It is brilliant. the gear changes are seamless, the fuel economy good and driving is made easier. I think I would not now return to a manual gear change. I do about the same mileage as you but I do intend to change it after 3 years just incase of DPF problems. Cheers Concrete

New tow car? - The Hindmost

I have towed a small van (Elddis 302) with a Skoda Fabia 1.6 105HP diesel estate very successfully, in fact we have toured around Europe over each of the past 7 years. The tow bar limit at 50kg is lower than that recommended, but I have had no problems with stability. The combo returned between 28 and 38 mpg depending upon wind strength and direction, as well as speed etc. Typical would be 32-33 mpg.

Sadly, after the emissions fix, it's not the same car, despite Mr VW doing all manner of expensive things, e.g. new EGR, new fuel pipes, and new injectors, fortunately at his expense. The engine pinked since the fix and none of the subsequent work has cured the problem. On the plus side the fuel consumption is better, but my feeling is that the ignition timing is far too far advanced. Weirdly, when it is raining the pinking does not occur, maybe the moisture in the air subdues the tendency towards detonation.

We decided to change the car. So, a 1.6TDI Fabia estate is fine for towing a small van, provided it has not had the fix!

New tow car? - Manatee

If you are or know a Caravan Club member, the towcar of the year summary write up was enclosed with the latest mag that landed the other day. Amazingly, the winner in Class 1 (under £24,000) was the Ssangyong Korando.

I'd take what the CC says with a shovelful of salt though. Last year Class 1 was 'under £20,000' and the car they named the winner was the Citroen C4 Cactus. This is so ridiculous that I actually wrote to the Club suggesting that they point out the limitations of this wonderful towcar.

For the curious, and to save me looking it up again, this is what I sent them -

"The Club tested the car with a 825Kg caravan and gave it the win. I am astonished that this car has won and that there is no mention under “Caravanability” of the fact that towing the caravan used for testing was at the expense of a large chunk of the car’s own payload allowance. The nearest the comments come is to say that “loadspace for a family is restricted”. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to carry the family at all.

The Club quotes a kerb weight of 1143Kg, presumably after weighing it. From the Citroen brochure, the maximum laden weight (MLW) of the car alone is 1610Kg. The maximum gross train weight is 2210Kg. The maximum towing weight (MTW) is 825Kg.

Perhaps you have already seen the problem. If the car is loaded to its maximum of 1610Kg, including the 55Kg maximum noseweight which must come out of the MLW, the heaviest caravan that can be towed without exceeding the MGTW is 655Kg.

Put another way, if one were to tow a 825Kg caravan, then the available payload in the car would be 2210-1143-825=242Kg.

That 242Kg has to include the driver and passengers, any luggage or possessions, and the 55Kg noseweight. My wife and I together weigh 146Kg (we are not especially heavy people) so we would only have 41Kg to play with for other contents. A further passenger would have to be well under 7 stones not to break the MGTW limit, with no other items in the car at all.

I think a mistake has been made. Perhaps someone from the Club would like to comment?"

The Club did not accept my criticism, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to find a caravan that the Cactus can tow with anything except a driver and passenger in the car or caravan. Although they tested this 'class winner' with a Bailey caravan, Bailey don't now actually make a caravan that comes under (or even within 100kg of) the Cactus's towing allowance so presumably they used a stripped out shell weighted up to the allowance.

The Club replied "The Citroen Cactus was the best towing vehicle in its category, despite its GTW limitations. Please note that the Peugeot 2008 was also restricted on its towing weight based on the GTW."

I admit I am venting a bit here, but the important point for you is to check not just the towing capacity of your potential tow car, but also the maximum train weight, and do the sums.

Most cars can accommodate the towing allowance plus a full car within the max train weight. The main offenders are French!

FYI I tow a 1200Kg caravan with a Mitsubishi Outlander diesel.

You might find towcar.info/GB/index.php useful. I'd say you still need to check your own numbers though.

The CC suggests that the loaded caravan should ideally weigh no more than 85% of the car's kerbweight. That's not law, but worth heeding IMO. Lots of cars have towing limits higher than their kerbweight. OK by some, but not for me.

That's before you run it by SLO76 of course:)

Good luck with your quest.

New tow car? - RT

The CC suggests that the loaded caravan should ideally weigh no more than 85% of the car's kerbweight. That's not law, but worth heeding IMO. Lots of cars have towing limits higher than their kerbweight. OK by some, but not for me.

That's before you run it by SLO76 of course:)

Good luck with your quest.

The Caravan Club, know officially the Caravan & Motorhome Club, happily lets people mis-quote their guidance on weights.

The National Caravan Council (NCC) define the Towing Ratio as the maximum laden weight of the trailer/caravan as a % of the kerbweight of the towing vehicle - 85% is recommended for BEGINNERS (my capitals) but up to 100% is acceptable for more experienced tuggers - the towing vehicle's towing limit mustn't be exceeded though.

Towing limits apply to all types of trailers not just caravans - like many big SUVs my limit is 3,500 kg and I'd have no issue towing an agricultural trailer of that weight at 20mph - but not a caravan.

New tow car? - concrete

Agreed about towing capacity. You must be sensible. Summer this year in France and Spain we witnessed the likes of Peugeot 308 towing a caravan which I conservatively estimated to be 1200Kg being of similar dimensions to mine. Some other silly examples too of small cars with large caravans. At least my car weights 2400 Kg unladen and my caravan 1245Kg unladen, so there are no problems on that score. But auto for towing is fine, as long as it is a tried and tested TC box.

Cheers Concrete

New tow car? - Manatee

RT I agree completely - hence the word "ideally". I'd already written as essay, so left it at that.

I could do another essay on tyre pressures and loading. (Don't worry, I won't).

Caravans are different to other trailers, in use and in towing characteristics. I wouldn't tow a 2,000Kg caravan with my Outlander (kerbweight 1,600Kg) at 60mph, although it would be perfectly legal.

New tow car? - Nomag

Some very good advice here. We tow a caravan with MTPLM 1325kg. We have had it many years and gone from an Octavia estate 2.0 diesel to a 2.2 diesel Smax to now a 2.2 Sorento. Each car with its increased weight has felt progressively more stable towing. The Sorento is a TC auto and makes a wonderfully relaxed towcar. The Octavia was an 86% match and always felt on the edge of stability and was much more sensitive to changes in nose weight and caravan balance. It taught me a lot about good loading though. All the cars were plenty powerful enough. I would look for something with a generous weight ratio. And we will always go auto for towing now.

New tow car? - Bromptonaut

"The Club tested the car with a 825Kg caravan and gave it the win.

Caravans with a laden weight as low as 825kg are a niche market:

freedomcaravans.com/new-caravans/

Neither the Elddis 302 mentioned above nor my similar 304, either of which look like a pea on a drum on average site pitch, hit that weight unladen. And that's before the GTW trap Manatee highlights.

A friend of mine looked at a Cactus and I thought nice car but lost all interest when towing weight was mentioned.

Edited by Bromptonaut on 08/10/2017 at 22:02

New tow car? - SteveLee

Car giant have a nice outlander phev for 12k. Towing capacity isn't up there with diesels but will be fine for a 1000kg caravan. Quiet, comfortable, reliable and no worries about legislation changes (against diesels)

New tow car? - Metropolis.
Suzuki Grand Vitara Auto would be suitable, XL-7 (lwb version) was a good car especially in v6 auto form, later models had a toyota derived 5 speed t/c auto. It might be a bit old for some people's liking. Personally i'd never tow more than half a ton with a unibody vehicle if i planned on keeping it long term!!

Edited by PCharlton on 04/10/2017 at 23:50

New tow car? - RT
Suzuki Grand Vitara Auto would be suitable, XL-7 (lwb version) was a good car especially in v6 auto form, later models had a toyota derived 5 speed t/c auto. It might be a bit old for some people's liking. Personally i'd never tow more than half a ton with a unibody vehicle if i planned on keeping it long term!!

There's plenty of "unibody" vehicles out there to tow 3.5 tonnes, some of them spectacularly well.

Personally, I'd never have a "body-on-frame" truck.

Apart from the G-Wagen, Landcruiser and Suzuki I don't think there are any body-on-frame car/SUVs sold in the UK now.

New tow car? - ib33

Thanks for all your posts.

Had a look at Motorpoint and was impressed with how they just let you look round with no pestering from sales staff. Thought the stock was well presented and good value for money.

So, favourite car we looked at was Skoda Octavia Estate diesel, think it will be the larger engine 2.0.

Going to wait till March next year if my old Rover makes it through the MOT.

Also want to have a look at the Toyota Avensis diesel again probably the 2.0 engine, they didn't have any in when we went to Motorpoint.

Any opinions?

New tow car? - SLO76
"Also want to have a look at the Toyota Avensis diesel again probably the 2.0 engine, they didn't have any in when we went to Motorpoint."

Just remember this model uses a BMW motor which has a rather nasty reputation for timing chain issues among other things, maintaining a full main dealer service history is vital so don't buy it if you're not willing to spend the money maintaining it properly. To be honest same goes for all modern turbo diesels but this one in particular doesn't take kindly to neglect or use of the wrong grade of oil which is commonplace at non-franchise garages.

Edited by SLO76 on 08/10/2017 at 10:53

New tow car? - RT
"Also want to have a look at the Toyota Avensis diesel again probably the 2.0 engine, they didn't have any in when we went to Motorpoint." Just remember this model uses a BMW motor which has a rather nasty reputation for timing chain issues among other things, maintaining a full main dealer service history is vital so don't buy it if you're not willing to spend the money maintaining it properly. To be honest same goes for all modern turbo diesels but this one in particular doesn't take kindly to neglect or use of the wrong grade of oil which is commonplace at non-franchise garages.

No BMW engine takes kindly to anything less than "by the book" - remember the BMW diesel fitted in the Vauxhall Omega - unreliable when badly maintained as many Vauxhalls were.

New tow car? - SteveLee

There's plenty of "unibody" vehicles out there to tow 3.5 tonnes, some of them spectacularly well.

Personally, I'd never have a "body-on-frame" truck.

Apart from the G-Wagen, Landcruiser and Suzuki I don't think there are any body-on-frame car/SUVs sold in the UK now.

+ Toyota Land Cruiser ans Ssangyong Rexton - both ladder frame SUVs still sold in the UK.

New tow car? - RT

There's plenty of "unibody" vehicles out there to tow 3.5 tonnes, some of them spectacularly well.

Personally, I'd never have a "body-on-frame" truck.

Apart from the G-Wagen, Landcruiser and Suzuki I don't think there are any body-on-frame car/SUVs sold in the UK now.

+ Toyota Land Cruiser ans Ssangyong Rexton - both ladder frame SUVs still sold in the UK.

I mentioned the Landcruiser - yes, I omitted the Rexton.

BOF has had it's day, time to move on.

New tow car? - Metropolis.
I can understand why someone wouldn't want a chassis for normal commuting, but for towing without a chassis it's the damage underneath that would concern me! Those subframes are going to suffer under hard breaking, swaying, flexing, stresses and strains they were NOT designed for! Do an axle twister in unibody, stop and try to open any door, chances are you can't! I've seen similar with someone towing with a mercedes S class, as soon as the trailer was loaded they couldn't unlatch the boot. I have also seen moon roofs shatter under the strain. Sure, a unibody will perform well, might even handle better whilst towing (although this is dubious due to c of g being better on cars with a real chassis), and if it's got a good engine it will tow well, but i'm talking about longer term, they are no where near as durable! If you think having a separate chassis is out of date you're deluding yourself, only reason they're less common now is because of eco nuts wanting us all in identikit unibody hatchbacks, or hatchbacks on stilts.
New tow car? - dan86

For towing heavy loads and commercial vehicles body on frame makes sense as it's really durable design. That's why the police in America loved the ford crown Victoria as it was body on frame in a collision they just had to replace the panels and the car was back on the road. But for everyday driving theirs nothing wrong with a monocock.

New tow car? - RT
I can understand why someone wouldn't want a chassis for normal commuting, but for towing without a chassis it's the damage underneath that would concern me! Those subframes are going to suffer under hard breaking, swaying, flexing, stresses and strains they were NOT designed for! Do an axle twister in unibody, stop and try to open any door, chances are you can't! I've seen similar with someone towing with a mercedes S class, as soon as the trailer was loaded they couldn't unlatch the boot. I have also seen moon roofs shatter under the strain. Sure, a unibody will perform well, might even handle better whilst towing (although this is dubious due to c of g being better on cars with a real chassis), and if it's got a good engine it will tow well, but i'm talking about longer term, they are no where near as durable! If you think having a separate chassis is out of date you're deluding yourself, only reason they're less common now is because of eco nuts wanting us all in identikit unibody hatchbacks, or hatchbacks on stilts.

I think you under-estimate the ability of "finite element analysis".

I've towed with unibody cars for over 3 decades - none suffered for their towing duties - both the Aussies and Americans tow 3,500kg / 7,700 lb caravans / travel trailers off-road with Touaregs so I doubt that towing 1,500 kg on UK tarmac will cause any issues.

I find it difficult to believe you're dissing LR Discovery as a tow-car - even LR have abandoned BOF and the past.

OP is enquiring about towing a 1,000 kg caravan so let's keep the advice practical.

Edited by RT on 09/10/2017 at 21:42

New tow car? - Bromptonaut
I can understand why someone wouldn't want a chassis for normal commuting, but for towing without a chassis it's the damage underneath that would concern me! Those subframes are going to suffer under hard breaking, swaying, flexing, stresses and strains they were NOT designed for!

At what point does towing with X,Y or Z monocoque design really risk damage if manufacturer's limitations are followed?

We tow an Elddis Xplore 304 with a Citroen Berlingo. The 'van has a plate upgrade from standard MTPLM of 1090kg to 1350. Car's towing limit is 1300kg but GTW limit means van weight over 1000kg reduces car payload. We've very carefully weighed 'van contents to keep it to 1150kg so no problem with 3 adults and 'stuff' in car.

Short of an accident situation why might this strain my car beyond limits?

New tow car? - Manatee

Have you had the car and caravan on a weighbridge Bromp? MIROs are not reliable:)

I wouldn't worry about the monocoque business, Towbars are type approved for the vehicle they are fitted to.

 

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