What is it? Fiat’s first pick-up truck on the Euro market.
Key features: Badge-engineered Mitsubishi L200 with all Japanese model’s qualities.
Our View: Fiat is putting heavy investment into its light commercial range right now. Under the umbrella of the Fiat Professional name the range is gaining greater prominence.
Type of review: First drive
Part of this involves expanding into new markets and the big missing element of the Fiat Professional range is a pick-up. This is not something to ignore – in what is known as the EMEA region, comprising Europe, the Middle East and Africa, pick-ups account for 22% of the entire LCV market, some 650,000 vehicles a year.
In the UK, more than 40,000 were registered in 2015, 20% up on the year before, and as this is written the 2016 figures are a further 12%.
So Fiat clearly wants a slice of this pie, and has set about it in the most effective way – the Fullback, newly arrived in showrooms, is effectively a restyled version of the Mitsubishi L200 – one of the most long-lived and highly respected pick-ups on the market. And in fact it’s not even greatly restyled, the most notable difference being the badges.
It is clear how much of the market Fiat is targeting in the fact that the Fullback comes in extended and double-cab models with four doors, and for UK buyers only in the latter. There’s also a basic chassis on which to add a variety of specialist versions, some of which Fiat had on show at the coffee stop during the launch in Turin. But one cannot buy the Fiat as the basic two-door workhorse variant that Mitsubishi also offers.
The Italian manufacturer, does, however, recognise the market it is targeting, that buyers will want a vehicle that looks good but will still be able to cope with daily trips through building sites or out in the countryside. So the Fullback offers easy-on-the-eye visuals without being too ‘blingy’ like some of its rivals. It has the muscular front end typical of the SUVs that Fiat doesn’t make, with flowing lines from the front end back to the pick-up bed. But the silver and chrome trim is applied in agreeably restrained amounts.
As in the Mitsubishi, this bed offers 1,850mm of load length in extended cab models, 1,520mm in double cabs, along with a width of 1,815mm so big enough to accommodate a Euro pallet. The Fullback also has a payload capacity of one tonne and a maximum towing weight of more than three tonnes. So it is a capable machine.
Inside the surroundings are practical, if a little excessive in the dark grey finish of the trim. You won’t find much in the way of soft-touch upmarket plastics, but it’s hard wearing, there is plenty of space and it’s easy to get comfortable with lots of adjustability in the driver’s seat and steering wheel. Even the equipment appears shared with the L200, so overall, it’s perfectly fine without being noteworthy.
Mechanically the Fullback comes fitted with a 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine in 150 or 180hp outputs, with a six-speed manual or five-speed auto transmission and in rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive forms, so long as you are in Europe. If you are in the UK you will only be able to buy the AWD variant.
Not that this is a great problem, however, as the all-wheel-drive is switchable, and the format depends on the trim level. If you choose the entry-level SX model, then a cab-operated selector offers high-ratio two-wheel-drive, and 4WD in high or low ratio for when the going gets harder.
The more upmarket LX, however, gets an electronic system that sorts the drive according to the road conditions. The Mitsubishi-developed unit makes use of a Torsen electronic differential and three clutches.
As well as the 2H and 4H modes it offers a ‘4HLc’ position using the central differential lock, distributing torque equally between the front and rear wheels for muddy, sandy or snowy conditions, plus ‘4LLc’, combining diff lock and low gears for serious off-roading.
Most buyers won’t be doing a great deal of that of course, and will spend most time on tarmac. In terms of chassis the Fullback combines double-wishbone front suspension with a leaf-spring rear end, for load capacity reasons.
So on the road it rides quite comfortably, in fact in quite car-like fashion, though one has to be careful with the rear end – with all but the heaviest load it can get tail happy in corners. The engine is a bit agricultural and coarse on start up, but soon settles down and general progess is reasonably refined.
The launch route included some miles off-road, not that taxing but also as challenging as most Fullbacks are likely to meet in their working lives, and our test vehicle tackled the green lanes and rocky routes through forests without drama.
One plus point of the Fullback will be its standard specification. Equipment on SX versions includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB digital radio, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob, steering-wheel mounted remote audio controls, air conditioning (including rear vents), Start & Stop, front fog lamps and a tubular side step.
The safety package meanwhile includes seven airbags, Electronic Stability Program with anti-slip, Trailer Stability Assist, LED daytime running lights, hill start assist and cruise control with a speed limiter.
LX versions also gain Lane Departure Warning and a reversing camera, and a host of extra equipment including keyless go, leather upholstery, electrically-adjusted and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlamps with washers, extra body styling, privacy glass and a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system adding satellite navigation to the DAB and Bluetooth. And choose the LX with an auto gearbox and the infotainment screen grows to seven inches and gear-shift paddles appear on the steering wheel.
So does the Fullback have a place in the pick-up market? Yes, it does – it is a competent alternative to the Mitsubishi, but with all the qualities that make the Japanese model so popular, and it comes at a highly competitive price.
Fiat Fullback – key specifications
Models Tested: Fiat Fullback 2.4
On Sale: September 2016
Range price:£20,995-£24,395 plus VAT
Engines:Diesel 2.4 x 2.
Torque (Nm): 380/430.
Top speed (mph): 110.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 44.2/42.8 (auto 39.2).
CO2 emissions (g/km): 169/173 (auto 189).
Key rivals: Mitsubishi L200, Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara.
Test Date: June 2016