Towing in Britain sure is different … and somehow not dangerous?

In the United States, we maybe go a little overkill when it comes to towing. It is, after all, one of the key selling points of trucks and traditional SUVs. There’s even quite the arms race between the American truck makers with the current towing champ being the Ford F-Series Super Duty and its maximum towing capacity of 37,000 pounds. If we consider how many people actually use all that capacity, it’s a bit ridiculous. But, while we in America may go overboard, those in Europe and the U.K. might go too far in the other direction. 

What led us down this rabbit hole was seeing that the new Kia Sorento, which is a fine crossover, won the overall Tow Car Award from the U.K.’s What Car?. And this is a competition where trucks such as the Ford Ranger are tested, too. Granted, the award isn’t purely about towing ability, so that explains some of the award, but it’s still surprising. Why? Depending on specification, the Sorento is only rated for 2,000 to 3,500 pounds of towing in the United States. In other words, not much. So we looked further, and we were shocked to see that the diesel model that won the What Car? award has a maximum tow rating (with a braked trailer) of about 5,500 pounds. For reference, that’s 500 pounds more than the U.S. rating for the bigger, V6-powered Telluride that has a traditional automatic.

Maybe a Sorento is built robust enough that it can handle pulling that amount of weight, and since that’s a rating with a braked trailer, braking might be fine, too. But based on the other specifications of this European Sorento diesel, it seems like it could be a pretty miserable experience. Without a load, the Sorento diesel takes 9.1 seconds to get to 60 mph. Adding more than its curb weight will not help that. And we would have concerns about how the powertrain might hold up to it, particularly engine and transmission temperatures and possibly the wear on the clutches on the diesel’s dual-clutch automatic transmission. Then again, these are numbers that Kia has given, so it probably will be fine, just extremely slow. Drivers in Britain also don’t have to contend with the extreme demands of North America’s mountain ranges and high temperatures. 

We also want to bring up the fact that there are individual towing classes that got awards, and there was even a class for vehicles with a maximum towing capacity of about 3,000 pounds. The winner? The VW Golf-based Seat Leon. It has a maximum towing capacity of just under 2,900 pounds, or more than our aforementioned base Kia Sorento in the United States. And this Leon has just a 1.0-liter gas engine that gets it to 62 mph in 10.8 seconds without a load. In case you’re curious, VW doesn’t even rate the Golf for towing in the U.S. at all.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well, we’re mostly just surprised and fascinated and wanted to share what we learned. It’s a very different idea about what can and should be towing trailers. This also explains why Top Gear’s former hosts would constantly gripe about people with campers (aka caravans) clogging up the roads. And this is as good a time as any to tell you that you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for towing capacity found in your owner’s manual, and as most of our readership is from the U.S., we would advise sticking to the U.S. rating.