Last year’s overall winner, the Skoda Octavia, remains our favourite small tow car. Despite some strong new contenders, the result never seemed in serious doubt.
Most importantly, the Octavia tows brilliantly. The 2.0-litre diesel engine has punch to spare when pulling a caravan weighted to 85% of the Skoda’s modest kerbweight, accelerating from 30-60mph in just 11.6 seconds.
A good turn of speed is desirable, but stability is essential for any good tow car. The Skoda has this base covered, towing with the security of a much bigger car in most conditions, although one or two of our judges found themselves making steering corrections in strong crosswinds.
Smaller cars often struggle with the demands of the lane-change test, but the Octavia took this emergency manoeuvre in its stride. Even on faster runs, with the caravan flailing around behind it, the Octavia stuck to its task and pulled the tourer straight again.
The hill-start test posed little challenge to the Octavia, with the handbrake comfortably holding car and van still on the 1-in-6 slope. With plenty of pulling power, there was no need for wheel-spin or excessive clutch slip to persuade the Skoda to the top of the hill.
So, it scores highly as a tow car. What cements the Octavia’s position at the top is just how practical it is, both for towing duties and as a family workhorse. It’s huge inside, with plenty of room for adults to get comfortable in the back seats. With 590 litres of luggage space, there’s more room for bags than in many of the estate cars on test.
Given that the Octavia is also good to drive without a caravan, comprehensively equipped and good value, it’s hard to find any obvious weakness.
2.0 JTD-m2 150bhp Exclusive
1.6 e-HDi 115 Airdream Exclusive+
1.5 dCi 90 Lauréate
1.6 eHDi 115 Feline
1.5 dCi 90 Dynamique MediaNav
1.4 TSI 140PS FR
1.6 TDI 105PS SE
2.0 TDI CR 150PS Elegance
1.4 TSI SE DSG
1.6 DDiS SZ5 Allgrip