Can You Tow It Behind a Motorhome? - 2014 Kia Forte EX Long-Term Road Test

2014 Kia Forte EX Long-Term Road Test

2014 Kia Forte: Can You Tow It Behind a Motorhome?

November 8, 2013

2014 Kia Forte

You can tow anything behind a motorhome if you load it on a trailer first. But most RV regulars see this as a huge hassle, and they'd rather not have to resort to a two-wheel tow dolly, either.

The ideal scenario is shown above. A so-called "dinghy" vehicle tags along behind on its own four wheels, ready to be unhooked and driven on side trips while the motorhome sits moored with its awnings unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode. Flat-towing makes it unnecessary to fret about the extra towed weight, loading time and storage problem that a trailer or dolly represents.

That's all well and good, but could I tow our 2014 Kia Forte behind a motorhome?

Sorry, but the answer seems to be "no." The owner's manual in our 2014 Kia Forte does not authorize it for such duty.

This answer isn't spelled out specifically because, quite frankly, the owner's manual creates the impression that Kia doesn't even know what dinghy towing is. There's no acknowledgement that flat-towing exists beyond the need for vehicle recovery after a mechanical breakdown.

2014 Kia Forte

Terms such as "recreational," "RV" and "motorhome" are fully absent in any section that references towing. The only relevant advice comes under a section entitled "What to Do in an Emergency" in which diagrams of tow trucks feature prominently.

And there's a sketch of a car being pulled by a tow strap with the following caution: "If the car is being towed with all four wheels on the ground, it can only be towed from the front. Be sure that the transmission is in neutral. Be sure that the ignition switch is in the ACC position. A driver must be in the vehicle to operate the steering and brakes." It goes on to say that cars equipped with an automatic transmission can be towed this way no faster than 10 mph and no farther than 1.0 mile in order to "avoid serious damage."

This very limited speed and distance limitation doesn't seem to apply to the LX manual transmission version, but nothing here says it's OK to flat tow a manual-equipped Forte behind an RV at freeway speeds for hundreds of miles, either. This scenario isn't even acknowledged as a possibility. It's as if the idea that anyone might want to engage in 4-down flat-towing for purely recreational purposes is completely alien.

It's a pity. The 2014 Kia Forte is the right size and it carries an attractive price.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,012 miles


  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    I didn't think you were supposed to tow ANY vehicle like except in an emergency.

  • dang8_ dang8_ Posts:

    Simple: The vehicle being towed by the pictured RV is a 2008-2012 Chevrolet Malibu, and more specifically, a vehicle in LS trim, as indicated by the wheels.

  • dang8_ dang8_ Posts:

    Correction: The vehicle is only a 2012 model year if it is a "Malibu Classic."

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    I'm curious - what vehicles CAN be towed with 4 wheels on the ground? I can see mfrs prohibiting this so they don't get warranty claims for damaged steering, tire complaints, and transmission damage.

  • socal_eric socal_eric Posts:

    Not a lot but there are a few with most of them being manual transmission vehicles. The slice of RV owners among the general population is pretty small and those that tow an around-town vehicle being their RV even smaller, but as a suggestion, if you're going to do an article and what seems to be a running series (that kind of seems like content filler) why not spend the couple minutes to contact the manufacturer for clarification rather than stating the obvious in that the owner's manual doesn't give enough information if the manual trans cars can be towed this way. That might help the rare visitor to the site searching for this information more than reiterating "the owner's manual does say".

  • socal_eric socal_eric Posts:

    "...doesn't say" ------darn poor comments system, no editing, and no paragraph breaks.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    Dinghy towing is something that most manufacturers directly address in their owner's manuals because the RV towing segment isn't as small as you'd think. Snowbirds descend from the north to warmer climates every winter in great numbers with rigs like this. The town of Quartzsite, Az, population 4,000, temporarily baloons to the third largest city in Arizona (behind Phoenix and Tucson) in January and February as the Snowbirds come rolling in and set up camp for a week or two. Some 1.5 million of them come here during those months, though not all on the same week. A large fraction of those come in motorhomes towing a dinghy vehicle. Other desert areas have temporary population growth, too. I lived in such an area in Arizona for several years and the influx was staggering. I would see dozens of such rigs rolling through town on any given winter day, and I wasn't in a particularly popular spot. It's a retiree thing, mostly, and the number of retirement-age baby boomers is continuing to rise. If anything, we could see MORE cars being towed in this way than we did in the past. An engineer friend at a tow-bar company once told me the original Saturn SL1 could trace a double-digit percentage of total new-car sales to motorhome towing folks because it was heavily advertised in motorhome magazines to be towable when equipped with an automatic, a huge plus for this crowd. He certainly sold a ton of Saturn tow bars. The above Malibu continues that tradition. Imports aren't as common, though (but not unheard of). It tends to be a buy-american crowd, but it's also true that some import manufacturers, particularly those from Asia, don't "get" dinghy towing at all because it's just not done in their home markets. I can't count how many "why would anyone want to do that?" conversations I've had with Japanese and Korean engineers in past jobs.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    @gsslippy: most true manuals, many 4x4s with a transfer case (manual or automatic - put the transfer case in Neutral and the transmission in Park, usually [but check the manual first]), less than a third of true automatics, zero DCT- and CVT-equipped cars

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