Car Buyers' Guide: Diesel options best for NZ caravan road trip
John and Malene have recently sold their large home and downsized to a small unit in preparation for a planned long-term road trip around New Zealand.
They want to know if they should buy a motorhome or a caravan as their new home-away-from-home. They are swaying more toward the caravan because it will provide the opportunity to park-up at times for a few days and still have the use of the tow vehicle to venture off for day trips as the mood takes them.
"We were prepared to spend around $110,000 on a motorhome and are using the same budget to purchase the caravan/tow vehicle combination," says John.
"Our preferred caravan design and layout is probably going to cost around $50,000 which leaves a little more to purchase the tow vehicle."
The caravan of choice weighs around 1500kg and the tow vehicle must have a high seating position, towing capabilities, four-wheel drive, fuel economy and a vehicle which is either new or still within manufacturer's warranty.
The budget: $60,000
John, I'm sure many readers will be very envious of you both as there is certainly a lot to see and enjoy. Diesel power for the tow vehicle is a given in this situation due to its ability to handle such loads without using up excessive amounts of fuel by keeping engine revs as low as possible.
Towing isn't just about power. There is also the constant loads that are placed on a vehicle's chassis, tyres, brakes and tow bar especially when towing a caravan on a regular basis.
Braked towing weight recommendation from car manufacturers should be strictly adhered to, plus their dealer network should offer an approved tow bar while the vehicle-to-caravan wiring harness needs to link correctly with the on-board electronics.
Another critical point about the vehicle-to-caravan marriage is the tow bar height in relation to the caravan coupling. If the differences are extreme it can negatively affect the way the caravan tows and dramatically reduce the ground clearance of the caravan jockey wheel if the tow-ball is too low.
The CX-5 2.2-litre diesel AWD Limited (from $56,495) is very well equipped: TomTom built-in system, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, electronic stability control, reverse camera, proximity sensors, power/heated seats and Bluetooth phone connectivity. On the technical side the 2.2 litre engine produces 129kW (4500 rpm), 420Nm (2000rpm), 5.7l/100km claimed combined fuel consumption and the vehicle has a braked towing capacity of 1800kg.
Hyundai Santa Fe
The Santa Fe 2.2 diesel auto (from $63,990) comes with a very impressive all-round comfort and safety package but does miss out on some features in comparison, such as in-dash navigation on this model. Electronic stability control has been fitted across their complete range for some time with reversing cameras now also added as a welcome standard feature. The 2.2 litre R-series engine is well proven and produces a healthy 145kW (3800 rpm) and 436Nm (1800-2500rpm). Towing is where it does stand out from the crowd with a 2000kg braked towing capacity. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 7.3l/100km.
Double cab utes
The beauty of using a double cab ute fitted with a canopy for your travels is that you can place bulky tools and gear, such as the caravan awning and levelling blocks, in the back and it helps keep the caravan and vehicle better organised. Front runners in your price range are Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger (pictured) but also check Mitsubishi, Nissan, Isuzu and Holden.
Make sure you take the tape measure along when you check out caravans and suitable vehicles. That towbar/caravan coupling height difference may be the most important box to tick to ensure you get off to a good start.