One of the major benefits of towing a smaller, lighter caravan or camper is that you can use a smaller, lighter and, no doubt, cheaper tow vehicle. Not every van requires a 3500kg-capable behemoth.
You might be surprised to learn that you could tow a camper or small van with the very vehicle you’ve got sitting in your garage at the moment!
For this article, we looked at vehicles with a maximum tow capacity of 2000kg and there are plenty of those around. However, many of the wagons and SUVs in this range also have a maximum tow ball load of 100kg, so we’ve excluded those and only considered cars with a tow ball capacity closer to the ‘industry standard’ of 10 per cent. And as roughly 80 per cent of modern vehicle choose automatics over manuals, we’ve knocked any cars that don’t have an auto option.
We’ve also selected the AWD versions, where available (better for towing) and the diesel option, if available.
Our other major consideration was the practicality of the vehicle – can it hold a reasonable amount of gear? Will it work as a city car as well?
1. MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER LS DI-D
It’s one of the older models in the range but the Mitsubishi Outlander LS DI-D is still a great towing package.
The 360Nm peak torque figure isn’t electrifying but is delivered between 1500rpm to 2750rpm, making it an ideal towing tug. The only downside to this free-revving diesel is it’s a bit clattery at idle and lacks the engine braking you’d expect of a compression engine.
It isn’t one of the most dynamic vehicles in its class but ride quality is good, if a bit on the soft side.
The Outlander has the bonus of seven-seat capacity and a class-average cargo area capacity of 488L when the third row seats are folded. A full-size spare wheel is included, a must-have when you’re remote-area touring.
Eng/trans: 2.2L TD/six-speed auto
Towing max braked/Tongue max: 2000kg/200kg
2. MAZDA CX-5 GT AWD
We’ve selected the 129kW/420Nm 2.2L turbodiesel over the AWD-only CX-5 GT 2.5L petrol engine. The TD is smooth and happy to rev but is also pretty noisy. You don’t need to rev the Mazda to get hold of its fantastic 420Nm of torque though, and it’s here where the CX-5 beats all comers as an easy, relaxed caravan hauler.
It’s a quick-changing auto and teams well with the diesel engine. It has a firm ride and has responsive, well-weighted steering.
At 403L, the boot is on the small side and unfortunately there’s only a space-saver spare tyre.
The CX-5’s nimble dimensions make it easy to park in the city and its short overhang and long wheelbase are good pointers to a stable towing platform.
Eng/trans: 2.2L turbodiesel/six-speed auto
Towing max braked/Tongue max: 1800kg/150kg
3. RENAULT KOLEOS INTENS
The Koleos was fresh on the market last year after the first-gen’s long, eight-year stint.
While based on the Nissan X-Trail platform, the Renault offers something the X-Trail doesn’t – a 2000kg/200kg towing capacity in auto form. The downside is that the Koleos comes in petrol only. It’s a bit harsh when revved and the CVT tends to accentuate this. While peak torque arrives at 4400rpm, the 2.5L is punching out good torque from around 2500-3000rpm, which makes for a good towing proposition.
Steering is the relatively numb SUV style but is responsive and the Koleos handles well.
While the lanky 2705mm wheelbase is promising for good towing stability, the Koleos’ 1038mm rear overhang is a bit long for perfect stability when towing.
Eng/trans: 2L petrol/CVT
Towing max braked/Tongue max: 2000kg/200kg
4. SUZUKI GRAND VITARA SPORT
The Grand Vitara is a bit of a vintage car these days but it still has plenty going for it as a compact tow vehicle.
The Grand Vitara’s 2.4L is smooth and responsive and not only spins freely to its 6000rpm redline but also gives a good spread of torque in the mid-range. The four-speed auto doesn’t lack for smoothness but does lack ratios; its competitors all have six-speed units.
Ride quality is fussy but offroad is where the Suzuki shines. Its good ground clearance and dual-range transmission pushes it a lot further offroad than other SUVs here.
The cabin is spacious but lacks some features – the steering is only tilt adjustment (no reach), and that passenger space doesn’t extend to the cargo area – it’s a quite tight 398L.
Eng/trans: 2.4L petrol/six-speed auto
Towing max braked/Tongue max: 1700kg/150kg
5. HYUNDAI TUCSON ELITE
The Tucson arrived last year as an all-new model and it’s a quantum leap forward for the Korean mid-size SUV.
The engine is smooth and revs freely, with next to no turbo lag – and the impressive 400Nm of torque arrives seamlessly.
The Aussie-tuned suspension delivers a fine mix of handling and ride comfort – which is no easy task. Steering is light but direct.
Its 488L cargo space is up there with the better in the class and the Tucson is one of the few here with a full-size spare.
It’s just a shame that this latest Hyundai mid-sizer wasn’t rated to tow more.
Eng/trans: 2L TD/six-speed auto
Towing max braked/Tongue max: 1600kg/140kg.
An honourable mention that didn’t quite make the list – the Subaru Forester turbodiesel has everything going for it as a strong towing performer and is well in the ballpark with its 180kg/1800kg towing capacity but Subaru restricts towing speed to just 80km/h. The Nissan X-Trail misses out as the petrol auto has just 1500kg/150kg towing capacity while the 2000kg/200kg diesel is only available as a manual.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Phil is a long-term vehicle tow-tester and also the former owner of a 1979 Viscount Grand Tourer, which he restored before selling it to make room for his next project: a mid-1980s Windsor Windcheater.
Phil has been a motoring writer for more than 20 years. He has tackled most automotive and technical subjects throughout his media career, which has seen him contribute to such illustrious journals as Caravan World, Camper Trailer Australia, Wheels, 4X4 Australia and Motor.