Driven - December 2016

Fiat Fullback: Can it cut it with today’s bakkie market?

Fiat Fullback Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

That awkward moment when people ask you if you’re driving a Toyota Hilux, but your response is “no, it’s a Fiat”. This seemed to happen often whilst we had the Fiat Fullback on test, and the truth is that you can understand why people kept making this assumption. The side profile of the new Fiat Fullback does bear a resemblance to the iconic Hilux. People’s reaction to the realisation that this is a Fiat bakkie differed significantly though. Some were disappointed while others were intrigued, we, on the other hand, were more nervous than anything else.

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Knife to a gun fight?

The reason for this nervousness was because this car is in the ring with some fantastic heavyweights and naturally you want the underdog to win. With Toyota, Ford, Isuzu and Volkswagen dominating the market, can the same people that make the Fiat 500 produce something that can please the local Bakkie market? The thing about all the newer Bakkies is that they work well off-road, but it’s their on-road “car-like” personas that make them so popular. The traditional bakkie has been turned into a lifestyle vehicle, and we wanted to see how good the Fullback will do as an everyday car.

The Fiat Fullback is not an entirely new car though; it is very closely related to the Mitsubishi Triton. Although not SA’s favourite bakkie, it has proved itself as tough and reliable over the years. Styling wise the Italian influence works for the car as it looks modern and somewhat good looking. The interior is still more in tune with a pick up rather than a passenger car. The infotainment is pretty average, but so are most of the competitor’s systems too. As long as we can pair a phone and plug in a USB, we’re happy, and thankfully both were possible in the test unit we received.  The Fullback’s interior is large and roomy, and one would be able to fit some adults in the front and rear with ease. The ride of the car is also very good for on-road use, even with the rear unloaded, often you tend to bounce around in an unloaded bakkie, but the ride quality was quite supple in the Fiat and on par with the some of the big guns.

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The double cab gives you two options, a 4×2 with 100kW/324Nm and a 4×4 producing 131kW/400Nm. Both use a 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine; we had the latter at our disposal. The 4×4 has plenty torque and will no doubt not disappoint those looking for a powerful bakkie. The cars shortfall is the manual gearbox which is reminiscent of an old school truck. The gear changes really need some muscle to engage and when missed, the grinding noise makes you feel like you’ve failed at life. After a few days of understanding the way the car drives, it became easier to operate and more enjoyable as a result.

For those looking to get dirty, the Fullback is capable of climbing up and down rocky passes, as it has a 30-degree approach angle and a 22-degree departure angle. It can also travel laterally up to 45 degrees, so you can rest assured that the average city dweller who likes to go on excursions will be able to do so. The biggest question then with this car is why? Why buy this car over the competition? People buy the Hilux because of its reputation and the fact that you can generally get parts even in the most remote places. Others buy a Ford Ranger because it is the coolest bakkie hands down and it can still perform. The Amarok, on the contrary, is probably the best car-like bakkie you can get and even though it doesn’t sell as well as the others, it still has its place. An Isuzu buyer has probably grown up with KB’s in the house from an early age, so again we ask what makes the Fullback so special? Yes it looks good, and it’s comfortable, but unfortunately,  it’s not better than its competitors. In a segment where brand loyalty is probably at its highest, all we can do is wish Fiat the best with this car.  It’s not a bad product, but they will have to do much more to take on the best.

Prices:

Single Cab Petrol

:R 232,900

Double Cab 4×2

:R 402,900

Double Cab 4×4

:R 468,900