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Italian working stallion, the Fiat Fullback


When you think about Italian car maker Fiat one generally thinks of the small Fiat 500 or the 124 Spider sports car. We tend to think of small, sporty cars with that iconic Italian flair, right? Well, as the car market is forever evolving manufacturers need to explore unchartered waters, as I found out last week when a Fiat bakkie arrived at our office. A double cab bakkie, with a Fiat badge, really?

Now I know that Fiat make a range of panel vans but a pick-up is a slightly different kind of product. I mean, I can make a pretty good pasta sauce but I can’t, for the life of me make the actual pasta.

Upon closer inspection I noticed that the Fullback tends to resemble another bakkie that I have seen. Further investigation led to the discovery that the Fullback is based on the tried and tested Mitsubishi Triton. Now it makes sense, you see, Mitsubishi provided the pasta and Fiat added the sauce. So has this combination worked out?

On the outside the Fullback comes across as having sporty proportions with its forward extending cab and a reduced front overhang. The front has a definite touch of Italian style which brings the bakkie in line with the new stylistic mark of the brand. When viewed from the side I noticed the distinct ribs that streamline the body, the rear is also well connected to the cab. The vehicle looks good and draws the attention of those around you. 

The interior of the car also reflects the functionality of a work vehicle as well as the comfort that customers in this segment desire. I will admit though that the interior is not as good as I thought it would be. Why? Well, for starters it feels a bit plastic, sure, the designers have used robust materials but it just felt a bit last generation Hilux. My test model did feature a touch screen infotainment system with navigation as well as Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. It also comes standard with an E-Locker rear axle, leather trim, cruise control, power windows front and rear and manual air conditioning to name a few things. Space inside the Fullback is ample for both front and rear passengers.

What about its ability to work? Well, the Fullback boats a large load capacity and a very high degree of strength, which is mostly due to its ladder frame chassis. In detail, all Fullback versions have a height of 1 780mm, width of up to 1 815mm and a wheelbase of 3 000mm. Total length of the double cab is 5 345mm. Its load capacity is more than one tonne and its towable weight is up to three tonnes according to Fiat.

Under the hood of my test unit was a 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine which develops 100kW/324Nm which is sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. I found the motor to be somewhat economical as it returned an average fuel consumption figure of around 8.0litres/100km. Unfortunately I just felt that the Fullback is a bit behind, especially when you consider the fact that even the Toyota Hilux now features a 6-speed gearbox. This bakkie should have arrived two years ago, if I'm honest.

In defence of the Fullback the model that I tested, the doublecab 4x2 in SX trim has a competitive starting price of R402 900 which is very good. The real challenge for Fiat is not the product because it is impressive, the issue is the mind-set of the public. Will customers walk past the Toyota and Ford dealers to purchase this new comer? I’d say if you are in the market, give the Fullback a test drive.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
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