There I was, at silly-o'clock one recent Sunday morning, staring out of my back door into a space the estate agent optimistically referred to as an 'outdoor room', armed with a war chest of borrowed cutters, trimmers, digging tools, machetes and other horticultural weaponry, wondering how on earth I was going to transpose what was likely to be an entire one fifth of coastal Hampshire to my local skip – and in those silly little green bags, too.
With the wisdom of foresight, I had arranged a pick-up to facilitate such a Herculean task. Not just any pick-up, mind, but the new Fiat Fullback, Fiat's first foray into the UK's busy pick-up market.
It took a couple of days, several haphazardly-balanced loads and at least two gallons of tea, but the Fiat performed its role perfectly; to shift stuff – loads and loads of stuff – calmly and efficiently, with ne'er so much as a cough. Me? I was pooped but hey, thanks for asking.
For the uninitiated, the new Fiat Fullback is based on the evergreen Mitsubishi L200 which is no bad thing at all because let's face it, if you're going to include a pick-up to your range of commercial vehicles, the tough, rugged and proven L200 is a rather good place to start.
Style and Design
The Fiat Fullback's stand-out feature has got to be the way it looks. Definitely not shy of a curve or two, the Fullback is littered with them and Fiat is to be commended in stamping their own design language to what was already a handsome pick-up. The front end is neutered with rounded edges for grille and headlamps, while oval recesses are reserved for the fog lights.
The rear edge of the cabin arcs down and around the vehicle's lower edge while the fluid lines of the tailgate and windows are a world away from those on more boxy rivals.
Space & Practicality
Double cabs can be fairly touch and go when it comes to practical space for occupants. However, the Fullback has good room for four grow-ups and a nipper in the middle of row two. For times when it isn't doing business duties lugging chunky stuff around, the Fiat Fullback can readily become a useful and practical family vehicle.
You climb up and into the Fullback's cabin and first impressions are good. The driving seat is comfortable and critical touch zones wear low-rent utilitarian plastics expected in a vehicle of this nature. Overall, it is spacious and practical with cubby holes, a generous glove compartment and lots of oddment storage.
The real practicality can be found in the load bay which can have additional strap-eyes or any number of utility options added, depending on daily usage. The load bay has over a tonne of payload capacity in the ample rear load area, which accommodates a full-size Euro-pallet. The four-wheel drive transmission makes it a versatile vehicle with lots of towing and off-road potential.
There are three models in the Fiat Fullback launch line-up; The SX, LX manual and LX auto. Standard kit on the Fullback LX manual as tested includes Select 4WD, 17-inch alloy wheels, lane-departure warning system, reversing camera, a fiddly 6-inch Kenwood integrated satellite navigation system and multi-display radio / CD player with touch-screen operation, luxury leather seats, Bluetooth hands-free kit, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, and even illuminated door entry guards.
Fiat didn't have a suitable engine in their current line-up, so sensibly opted to retain Mitsubishi's own intercooled 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine available in two states of tune: 150ps and 180ps (as tested). Euro6 compliant, the 180ps unit works and pulls exceptionally well but is characteristically chatty, especially when cold. Once warmed up, the full 430Nm of sweet, exploitable torque is available from just 2,500rpm which quickly arrives from the revvy oil-burner.
Venture off-road and four-wheel drive can be engaged with a twist of the Super Select 4x4 control offering 2H, 4H plus 4HLc and 4LLc with a locking central differential for improved traction, allowing the Fullback to explore where many other pick-ups simply can't reach. Stick to the tarmac and you'll discover direct, albeit numb, steering and a composed ride.
Ride and Handling
No matter what the marketing paraphernalia will tell you, the Fiat Fullback doesn't drive like a car. Sure, it feels as though it will withstand any amount of abuse off-road – but at the expense of the handling on the open road. The Fullback has a pliant ride and handles cracked urban streets with ease. However, it struggles to cope with undulations in the road surface even at moderate speeds, with excessive bounce and yaw.
Slow steering coupled with more body roll than you would normally feel comfortable with, undermines the Fiat's on-road credentials. That said the Fiat's turning-circle is excellent.
On the move the Fullback has an impressive turn of speed thanks to the new and powerful diesel engine and if you're not mindful, it's easy to unintentionally break the law once the turbocharger wakes up.
Around town, the Fiat Fullback is not at its best. You are constantly reminded of its generous dimensions and parking is made more challenging by poor front and rear visibility and, with that in mind, the absence of all-round parking sensors is odd, but a rear-view camera helps.
The Fiat Fullback has a large 75-litre (19.8 gallon) fuel tank. In six-speed manual guise as tested, it has a claimed mpg of 40.9 (official combined, unladen). After a very busy week I wasn't far off that with 37.6mpg attained over 462 mixed on- and off-road driving. While economy can best be described as adequate, it's in the more critical area of carbon-dumping that keeps the flag flying at 186g/km CO2, which is not too shabby, to be honest.
Far from perfect, but bursting with everyday practicality, there is an underlying feel of naïve, youthful honesty in the Fiat Fullback. Already afforded a healthy head start by the rugged and really-rather-good Mitsubishi L200 upon which it is based, the Fiat Fullback is a worthy alternative for UK pick-up customers.
- Wayne Gorrett
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