It’s a bright sunny day in Milan as the Italians go about their business basking in late September sunshine. We are here this weekend to test the new Fiat Fullback, which will see the Italian giant enter into a new commercial sector with the dual-purpose pick-up. We are now living in a world where cars have to perform more than one use. More often than not the pick-up is worked daily and then used as a family or recreational vehicle on weekends especially in this dual cab format. Fans of vehicles in this sector will no doubt see the resemblance to Mitsubishi’s L200 and indeed you would be right. Rather than go down the route of starting from scratch, Fiat opted to partner with a company who has a proven track record and a proven tough pick up which simply needed a little Italian flair. Mitsubishi are making rugged crew cabs for decades so the synergy was pretty straightforward for Fiat and once they added their own look and feel, it certainly stood out from the crowd. Right now the options available to Ireland are a little vague but we are told that mid January will see the first arrival of Fullbacks into the country.
For European markets there will be three models, all powered by 2.4-litre turbocharged diesel engines. The entry-level SX has 148bhp at 3500rpm, 280lb ft torque at a low 1500rpm, a six-speed manual gearbox, a 1045kg payload, a 2700kg maximum towing limit and a 1765kg kerbweight. The LX is the model we had on test in Italy and it has a 3100kg towing capacity and 1875kg kerbweights, meaning that you could sensibly tow a trailer weighing up to 1593kg. This Fullback produced 178bhp at 3500rpm and 317lb ft torque at 2500rpm. You can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a five speed automatic. After receiving the keys of our test vehicle we set off on a two-hour trek towards the picturesque Maggiora. Initial impressions were good because the familiar driving position of the L200 made the Fullback feel like home straight away. Pulling off from the traffic lights leaving Milan I found the first couple of gears very low before the torque and higher ratio of third gear allowed us to gather momentum and embark onto a motorway feeding in fourth, fifth and sixth. Its no different to any other pickup really because if you are pulling weight the gearbox needs to be spaced that way.
At motorway speeds the engine is smooth and noise intrusion into the cabin is minimal allowing you to enjoy the infotainment system through the 6.1-inch screen. The seats are all leather and the rear bench seat has ample legroom for adults or ISOFIX for small ones. Clever use of black piano trim works to offset the cabin’s plastic elements along with gloss black trim fitted around the gearstick which helps remove that utilitarian feel. When we came off the motorway there was some nice twisty mountain passes to navigate before our destination. Through the bends the Fullback suffered from only a small amount of bodyroll, which is to be expected considering its 1.780m-tall, 5.285m-long and 1.815m-wide. As always pick-ups tend to handle better with a little weight in the back. Either way the ride is far from uncompromising and our LX model was running the larger 17-inch wheels. When we reached our destination I looked down at the fuel gauge to see that it had barely moved. The official combined figures, the SX, LX and LX Auto return 44.2mpg, 42.8mpg and 39.2mpg respectively, with CO2 emissions of 169g/km, 173g/km and 189g/km. These are impressive figures for a vehicle of this size.
So who are Fiat aiming the Fullback at and what is their long-term goal? Well we got a chance to hear from the charismatic Fiat Professional CEO Dominico Gostoli in our hotel and he highlighted some key figures. First off Fiat have had an extremely successful market share in commercials thanks to the Ducato over the last 35 years. Believe it or not, Fiat have sold 3 million Ducatos during this time but the most recent LCV sales indicate that 62% of vehicles sold were indeed pick-ups. With that said Fiat are aggressively targeting this sector with the Fullback but it’s their marketing strategy and partnership programs that are getting them the most attention. Dominico decided that one of the routes the company would take was to sponsor the FIM World Motocross Championship or MXGP until 2018. This partnership places the Fullback in key locations at each of the eighteen round championship around the world which is broadcasted to millions with live TV coverage. Going one step further Fiat have also chosen 8-time world motocross champion Antonio Cairoli as their brand ambassador. This hard working Sicilian is the perfect role model for Fullback and he will personally drive the pick-up no doubt with his factory Red Bull KTM in tow. Fiat has also plans to partner with their agricultural arm CNH to offer unique deals into the agri sector. The future of the Fullback certainly looks bright.
Ending off our trip to Italy we were indeed treated to a visit to the Motocross Of Nations, which is the jewel in the crown of the world motocross calendar. This unique event pitches country against country as each nation sends their three best riders to do battle. On arrival the atmosphere was quiet simply amazing as 85,000 passionate and boisterous supporters got into the spirit of the event. The non-stop flag waving, chain saw revving, air horn blowing, chanting, singing, and cheering made this a hair-raising, memorable and emotionally charged experience to say the least. Fiat had cleverly positioned the Fullback in various key sections of the track making it impossible to ignore. It was a trip we will remember for a long time and we look forward to spending a week with the new Fullback in 2017 to give you a more detailed review. For now let us wish Fiat all the best with probably the best-looking pick-up on the market.
Engine Size – 2.4TD
Fuel Type – Diesel
Power – 178hp
Torque – 4317lb ft
Acceleration (0-100km/h) – 10.4 seconds
Top Speed – 179 km/h
Consumption (Combined) – 7.7L/100km
CO2 Emissions – 173 g/km
Road Tax – €333 Commercial
Base Price – TBC
Price as Tested – NA