From Tokyo to Turin: Meet the Fiat Fullback

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If you think that Fiat’s new Fullback is familiar, you’re not wrong. Essentially speaking, it’s an Mitsubishi L200 with a bit of a nose job, a case of what’s known as badge engineering. It’s the first entry from Fiat in the mid-size pickup segment, going head to head with the likes of the Toyota Hilux or the Nissan Navara, as well as the aforementioned L200. I test drove the L200 last year and was really impressed with it, from its handling on the road to its comfort, so I expected great things from the hulking black Fiat that served as my test model for the week. It didn’t disappoint.

Two things in particular impressed me about the Fullback, not counting its muscular and flowing physique, which I found a little more appealing than the L200. Firstly the acres of space, both inside and out. It’s a big machine, with a wheelbase of 3 metres and an overall length of 5.3m. Inside there’s comfortable seating for four adults and a skinny teenager, though it could do with a few more cubbyholes for storage, while the glovebox is a little cramped. Headroom is in abundance – you’d need to be pushing 7 feet to feel claustrophobic. Secondly, the fuel economy. Combined driving (with a less than light foot) resulted in an impressive 41mpg (6.9L/100km), which is by no means terrible for a beast with a kerb weight of 1,860kg and propelled along by a 2.4L diesel engine producing 180hp. If you tend to drive fast and without regard to your fuel spend, expect somewhere in the region of 34.7mpg (9.1L/100km).

98149fiap-jIt’s also quite pleasant and refined out on the road, with a comfortable driving position, ergonomic seats and a soundproofed cabin. Measuring 1.8m high you’ve got a nice view of the road, though you’ll experience the usual bouncing on rougher roads and over speed bumps (which softens when carrying a hefty load in the back). The steering wheel is surprisingly responsive and the Fullback doesn’t feel too big even on narrow city streets and car parks, aided by a best in class turning circle of 11.8m – the Skoda Octavia is marginally better at 10.4m. The 2.4L diesel engine is quite lively from the off and when overtaking, though it seems to plateau at certain levels and you may find yourself dropping back a gear for a little extra oomph.

Technology-wise, the Fullback is relatively well equipped, with the test version featuring a rain and dusk sensor, heated front seats (fantastic on cold mornings) and bi-xenon headlights. The media centre is relatively easy to use, though I found the radio to be a bit fiddly, and includes DAB radio, video playback and USB, HDMI and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a somewhat basic but simple to operate navigation system. You’ll find the usual controls for the media centre located on the steering wheel, though the instrument panel is only home to information like distance travelled and mileage. Driver’s aids include a rearview camera, cruise control, speed limiter, lane departure warning and active stability control.

Tough terrain f_9870

Given the L200 lurking beneath, the Fullback is fully capable off-road and on the job. Alongside a very capable four wheel drive system accessed via an electronic selector in the cab, the Fullback boasts ground clearance of 205mm and wading depth of 700mm. It’s also quite the workhorse, with over 4,000kg of total loading capacity and 3,100kg towing capacity. The Fullback is capable of carrying a load of up to 1,000kg in the bed, which measures 1.52m long and just under 0.5m deep, and is easily capable of carting around a standard Euro pallet. My test model featured a hard top with side pop up windows over the rear bed, which did restrict rear visibility somewhat. You can also opt for the usual full box, a covered rear with sports bar, or a simple soft cover for the bed.

Available only in the doublecab version, the Fullback will be arriving in Irish dealerships in 2017 (as specific as we could get). The entry level SX model, with a 2.4L 150hp manual transmission, will be available at €30,670 (versus the entry level L200 which costs €29,950), and is relatively well equipped as standard, featuring keyless entry, a reduced four wheel drive system, side step and cruise control among others. However, I’d recommend opting for the LX trim level with the manual gearbox, which begins from €35,600 but adds features including keyless start, a much needed rearview camera, the rain and dusk sensor, touchscreen media centre, leather seats and more. An automatic version of the LX will also be available, but expect a bigger price tag and fuel bill.

Given the fact that the Fullback is Fiat’s first foray into this lucrative market, you may be a little hesitant in forking out for one for fear of teething issues. That shouldn’t be an problem however – offering the best of the L200 in terms of the skeleton, space and off-road capabilities, and improving on its brother in terms of styling, the Fullback is by no means a hard choice.

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Fiat Fullback LX Doublecab

ENGINE: 2.4 DIESEL

POWER: 180BHP

0-100KM/H: 10.4 SECONDS

98149fiap-iMAX SPEED: 178KM/H

TORQUE: 430NM AT 2,500RPM

LOAD CAPACITY: 1,000KG

TOWING CAPACITY: 3,100KG

FUEL ECONOMY: 41MPG (AS TESTED)

PRICE: €35,600

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