Tough and undeterred: Fiat out to deliver a few knocks with new Fullback

BY GRAEME LUND - OCTOBER 3, 2016

South Africa, like the United States, Australia and Asia, is a bakkie mad country with at least half of the top ten best sellers each month coming with an open loadbay and offering seating for two (single cab) or four (double cab).

Once viewed as nothing but a pure work tool to cart equipment from A-B, the modern-day bakkie also serves a dual purpose role by doubling up as a recreational vehicle matching the lifestyle of its owner, and being equipped with the same bells and whistles as a conventional similarly priced family sedan.

With this segment getting ever more crowded as more and more manufactures try to take a slice of the action, some interesting collaborations have started emerging, the latest being the vehicle you are about to read about.

Although its resume includes a number of bakkies since its founding 117 years ago, namely 128, Fiorino and more recently Strada, the arrival of the highly awaited Fullback sees the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Fiat) enter the popular one-ton segment for the first time to rival the likes of Toyota, Ford, Isuzu, Nissan, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi.

First shown at the Dubai International Motor Show in November last year, the Fullback, as its name suggests, is also tasked with defending Fiat’s reputation on local soil as not only being a maker of small fashionable offerings such as the 500, but a marque often overlooked due to concerns over reliability and likely resale value.

To this end, the Fullback shares the majority of its underpinnings with the yet-to-launch Mitsubishi Triton, with the only difference being a revised front clip and addition of Fiat badges on the grille and tailgate.

That said, the Fullback, tested in here in flagship SX double cab 4x4 spec, is without a doubt a very handsome yet muscular looking thing with its oversized upsweeping headlights, flared wheel arches, wide lower air intake and seemingly vast loadbox, which measures 1 520 mm on the double cab.

Touted as a “working class hero”, the interior of the Fullback proves this in no uncertain terms with hard yet rugged and solid feeling plastics, topped by piano key black inserts around the gear lever and infotainment display.

Lending a somewhat old-school touch, engaging four-wheel drive, and ultimately low range, is done via a second transfer gear lever instead of the fashionable rotary dial, although pressing a button activates the rear diff-lock for when the going gets military.

While neither of these were called upon during my time with the Fullback, it did surprise with a comfortable ride setup when I pointed its nose off the black stuff and into the country. As well as being spacious inside with good levels of head and leg room, the seats were especially comfortable with road and wind noise well dented.

In terms of standard items, the Fullback does not play second fiddle to its more established rivals, and boasts climate control, cruise control, electric windows front and rear, bi-xenon headlights with daytime-running LED’s, reverse camera, keyless entry, touchscreen audio with Bluetooth and USB, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual front airbags, Hill Start Assist and ABS with EBD.

Nested up front, the Fullback makes same of the same 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine as the outgoing Triton, which in SX guise develops 131 kW and 400 N.m of torque. A meaty five-speed manual gearbox drives the rear wheels in everyday life with 4WD able to be selected on the go at speeds below 100 km/h.

As strange as it might seem to have a big bakkie wearing the red Fiat emblem on the front, my short stint behind the wheel of the new Fullback had been something of a surprise. Regardless of its makers portraying it as an unashamed work tool, the Fullback also does not hold back when slipping into its leisure gear.

To book a test drive, visit Ronnies Motors in Bonza Bay Road East London, or contact them on 043 711 8145.

 

CAR TESTED: Fiat Fullback 2.5 TD Double Cab SX 4x4
Engine Specs  DOHC 16v Inline 4   //   Displacement   2,477 cc  //   Power / Torque  131 kW / 400 N.m  //   0-100km/h  n/a   //   Top Speed 167 km/h  //   Claimed fuel consumption   7.7 L/100 km   //   CO2 206 g / km