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First Drive: Fiat Fullback Cross. Image by Fiat.

First Drive: Fiat Fullback Cross
Nothing to be angry about here as Fiat launches the excellent Fullback Cross.

 



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Fiat Fullback Cross

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Fiat ramps up the lifestyle factor on its Fullback pick-up truck with the new range-topping Cross version, a model with extra equipment, added off-road capability and lots of black. Using the superb Mitsubishi L200 as its basis leads to a fine 4x4 that should fit right into your action-packed life, if - for example - you're a 40-something wine producer from Italy who happens to be a surfing fanatic as well...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Fiat Fullback Cross automatic
Pricing: Fullback Cross from 26,495 (excl. VAT); automatic from 27,895 (excl. VAT), 33,474 incl. VAT
Engine: 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, five-speed automatic
Body style: four-door pick-up
CO2 emissions: 196g/km (240 flat rate VED annually)
Combined economy: 47mpg
Top speed: 111mph
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Power: 180hp at 3,500rpm
Torque: 430Nm at 2,500rpm

What's this?

It's the Fiat Fullback Cross, and it's one of those barmy automotive notions that, on the face of it, looks to make no sense. Taking a rugged, tough, off-road pick-up truck in the form of the Fiat Fullback, the Italian company has tried to make it even more rugged, tough and, er, off-roadery, attaching its brand-wide 4x4 epithet of Cross to the mix. Of course, Fiat isn't alone in this sort of caper - come on, admit it; who all looked confused when Skoda announced the seemingly superfluous Skoda Kodiaq Scout SUV , for instance? - but you might be wondering just how much more Cross a Fiat Fullback can get in the first place.

Ah, well, it's more logical when you understand buying demographics and the boom that's taking place in one-tonne pick-up sales. You see, while we all know these things began life as commercial vehicles (CVs), with primitive rear suspension and hose-down interiors designed to withstand the brutal life of a machine which spends all its time on claggy building sites, a tax loophole is starting to make these trucks far more appealing to private buyers, who can register them as CVs but then use them as impromptu family SUVs when they're not operating during working hours. To that end, most pick-ups now sold in Britain, regardless of make, are top-spec, all-singing-all-dancing things that lead pampered, 'civilian' lives. Plus, they're also sort of cool and almost needlessly macho.

The Fullback Cross, then, is the lifestyle pick-up truck, not the working one. It aims to appeal primarily to the sorts of people who will lob the paraphernalia of outdoors pursuits into the load bay on a frequent basis, rather than those who have a customer account at Jewson. So it wears lots of matt black styling touches on its exterior, such as for its radiator grille, door mirror caps, wheel arch extensions, rear-mounted 'sports bar' (which can take up to 30kg of vertical load) and 17-inch alloys, wrapped as they are in mud-and-snow tyres. It also comes with a load bed liner as standard and is the only Fullback fitted with a rear locking differential as well, to go with its centre Torsen diff and low-ratio-equipped selectable four-wheel drive.

Inside, the Fullback Cross enjoys dual-zone climate control, cruise control, a leather steering wheel and upholstery (with heated seats in the front and electric adjustment for the driver's chair), satnav on a seven-inch touchscreen, DAB and Bluetooth. More standard equipment on the outside includes bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lamps, rear parking sensors and soft tailgate opening. Items such as seven airbags, ESC, Trailer Stability Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Hill Start Assist should make it safe enough by the standards of this class, while it can take up to 1,100kg in the load bed and haul 3,100kg of braked trailer out behind it. That's more than enough capability to tow your speedboat down to the Costa del Dorset and Poole Harbour, then, looking cool while you're doing so.

To be honest, though, the next model down the tree - the LX - has much of the equipment listed above, just without the black exterior sculpting, and that's more like 24,000 excluding VAT, a good two-and-a-half grand less. Admittedly, an attractive business contract hire package for the Cross based on two years and 10,000 miles per annum is offered by Fiat Professional UK, meaning with initial rentals of 1,734 and 1,794, you could have either the six-speed manual or the five-speed auto respectively for as little as 269 or 289 per month. But is the Cross worth the premium?

How does it drive?

If you like the appearance of the Fiat Fullback Cross, and we do, and you're after a pick-up that's more 'play hard' than 'work hard', then there's really no reason not to buy this truck. The L200 it uses as its basis is one of the leading lights in this sector, and Fiat hasn't ruined it by turning it into a Fullback, while the Cross is differentiated from its brethren simply by the addition of the all-terrain tyres and the rear-locking diff; other than that, it's the same 2.4-litre, 180hp/430Nm turbodiesel used here as elsewhere in the range.

And the resulting car is extremely pleasant to travel in, by market standards. Like all pick-ups, eventually its ladder-frame chassis will betray its working-class origins and the L200/Fullback platform is one of the trucks that still runs 'horse-and-cart-spec' leaf springs at the back. However, Mitsubishi lengthened these in the genesis of the current L200 and the Fullback Cross capitalises on that, having a ride that's up there with the Nissan Navara /Mercedes X-Class leaders, two machines which have more advanced multilink rear suspension, and probably just as good as that found on a Volkswagen Amarok .

This makes it a perfectly acceptable conveyance in town and on faster extra-urban routes, where the ride never degenerates into appallingly crash behaviour. There's elevated tyre roar from those mud-and-snow boots, while simultaneously they give less grip on dry roads than you'd get from a regular Fullback. But neither of these facets of the Cross' character make it unbearable. The 2.4 is also a strong and reasonably quiet engine, hauling the 1,860kg truck with real verve. Bear in mind that, although 70 per cent of people are expected to pick the largely excellent automatic gearbox as tested here, it does make a big difference for acceleration - the manual Cross can do 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, fully 1.4 seconds quicker than the auto.

Despite this, the transmission is fine and, even running in rear-wheel drive for most of the time on the road, there's plenty of grip from the Fullback Cross, while it limits body roll to an admirable degree and boasts accurate, if slow steering. You can basically chuck an unladen version of the Fiat about quite easily and, while you might not be having actual fun behind the wheel, neither will you be thinking an enormous crash is imminent, mainly because the Fiat has a capable chassis.

Where it'll really score highly is off-road. We took the Cross around a moderately difficult muddy, steep and potholed track in the sodden north Italian countryside, and not once did we have to resort to low-range. Knowing that you've got that four-wheel drive safety net to back you up is impressive, as is the fact that - beyond that - it also has a locking rear diff for the toughest of traction situations, meaning that you shouldn't really get stuck in the Fiat Fullback Cross. Handy to know if you're having a very middle-class beach picnic and game of cricket on some remote shore, only for the tide to start coming in rather quickly...

Verdict

The Fiat Fullback Cross is more money than the likes of the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara and, indeed, the perfectly capable regular Fullback models lower down the range, so it looks a bit like an overpriced oddity. However, it's considerably cheaper than lifestyle-oriented or premium competitors, such as the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Volkswagen Amarok and Mercedes X-Class. And as it drives in a sweet fashion for one of these trucks, as well as looking pretty damned cool in its black-on-grey warpaint, we happen to think the Fullback Cross is a worthy new addition to the ranks of UK pick-ups on sale right now.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 13 Nov 2017









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2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.

2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.2018 Fiat Fullback Cross drive. Image by Fiat.








 

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