RAC Cars News


Octavia's Towing Triumph

By raccars Published

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The Skoda Octavia has continued its assault on the UK's best car lists, being named the overall winner in 2013's Tow Car Awards. The Octavia saw off stiff competition in the form of category winners, the Land Rover Discovery, VW Passat Estate and the Jaguar XF Sportbrake.

The awards are held annually and organised by Britain's Camping and Caravanning Club, Practical Caravan and What Car? Magazines, as a joint venture. 2013 marked the seventh year of testing and covered 46 different cars. A group of towing experts put the entrants through their paces at Bedfordshire's Millbrook proving ground and points are awarded based on four different categories.

Before the testing process begins, each caravan is weight balanced to provide a standard test at 85% of the relevant car's kerb weight, within legal towing limits. The vehicles then take their caravans through a number of testing manoeuvres, including lane changing, to assess emerging swerving behaviour, satellite tracked acceleration and braking, a low speed slalom course to measure steering and braking responsiveness, plus grip and handling response through a constant radius curve. Performance is measured based upon the expert driver's opinion and information gathered from an Al-Ko ATC Trailer Control System.

Vehicles then undergo a hill start challenge, to prove the clutch and handbrake can handle a 1 in 6 incline, in both forward and reverse gears. Finally, there is a motorway test to assess high speed ability, going beyond the 60mph legal limit if appropriate.

Further marks are awarded for the car's on-road behaviour when not towing, taking into account most vehicles' everyday use properties. Practical details are also noted, such as the difficulty of fitting extension mirrors, how comprehensive the electrical power system is, boot size for containing family luggage and whether there's a suitable provision for puncture repair while towing.

The awards also consider value for money, equipment levels, safety features, reliability, residual values and running costs.

The Skoda Octavia's overall winner status is particularly impressive, as its competition included the new Volkswagen Golf, four time winner in the lightweight class. However, the Octavia won out this year, thanks to its spacious interior and attractive purchase price. The Octavia was the winner in the up to 1424kg individual class, followed by the VW Passat Estate in the 1425-1579kg class, the BMW 3 Series Touring at 1580-1724kg, Jaguar XF Sportbrake for the 1725-1899kg class and the Land Rover Discovery 4 in the 1900kg+ class.

The Jaguar XF, VW Passat Estate and Land Rover Discovery 4 have all been overall winners in previous years.

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