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Driven: Fiat Fullback LX. Image by Fiat.

Driven: Fiat Fullback LX
Fiat borrows the Mitsubishi L200 pick-up and creates its Fullback truck.

 



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Fiat Fullback LX

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: good looks, decent cabin, refined engine for the class, impressive ride and handling.

Not so good: Fiat's not done much to the Mitsubishi L200 in the transition...

Key Facts

Model tested: Fiat Fullback LX
Pricing including VAT: starts from 26,683; LX from 28,653
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: four-door, one-tonne pick-up
CO2 emissions: 186g/km (240 VED flat rate for commercial vehicles)
Combined economy: 40.9mpg
Top speed: 111mph
0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Power: 180hp at 3,500rpm
Torque: 430Nm at 2,500rpm

Our view:

Now, the latest Mitsubishi L200 is a fine one-tonne pick-up truck. It looks good, it has a lusty diesel engine, it has above average ride quality and driving manners for the class and it's reasonably inexpensive (either with or without VAT, depending on whether you register it as a commercial vehicle or not), while also possessing a decent amount of kit.

Therefore, if you're going to use something as a base platform from which to make a leap into a market sector you're not familiar with at all, then the L200 is not a bad place to start. And borrowing the Mitsu's underpinnings is exactly what Fiat has done to get itself into the lucrative pick-up class, having no antecedent of its own to fall back upon. In actual fact, Fiat has done a lot more than merely borrow the L200's underpinnings; in truth, it has gone and borrowed practically the whole bleedin' lot, only changing the headlights, grille, steering wheel and a few sundry other items to create this, the Fullback. About the only chief difference we could spot between our test Fullback and the last L200 we drove was the fact the Fiat came with an optional full lid on its load bay.

So, if you like the L200, you should really like the Fullback too. Save for the Italian company making its truck randomly stab you in the face every 20 miles, it's difficult to conceive of a way it could have messed up the L200's appealing formula by simply switching the pick-up's headlight clusters. And so it proves, but before we get onto the driving impressions, we need to talk about marketing. Where Fiat has been clever is in offering the Fullback almost exclusively as a lifestyle truck, rather than a genuine workhorse. It is sold through the same Professional arm of the company business as Fiat's obvious CVs Commercial Vehicles) like the Ducato, but it comes only as a double-cab here in the UK and with a fairly generous specification on even the base SX.

This car, an LX, keys into the oft-quoted statement by all the manufacturers offering one-tonne pick-ups here - be that Mercedes, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Nissan, Volkswagen, SsangYong or Renault (well, we're still waiting on the Alaskan, but you get the drift...) - which runs along the lines that 80 per cent of trucks like this sold in the UK are in top-spec, all-singing specification. In essence, they're not being used on building sites at all, but are instead chosen as multi-purpose family conveyances that are considerably cheaper than an equivalent size and level of SUV. Of course, there's then a whole grey area on the tax implications of registering, say, an Amarok Aventura with a V6 and a load of plush cabin toys as a CV to evade VAT, and then using it mainly for the school run and trips to Waitrose... but we digress.

The point is, the Fullback LX we're driving here comes with leather upholstery, 17-inch alloys, a 6.1-inch infotainment system with satnav, cruise control and a reversing camera, among much more. If this isn't enough for you, there's an even more surfboard-oriented lifestyle model called the Cross sitting above the LX in the range, that is aimed squarely at the sort of people who wouldn't dream of putting anything as grubby as a load of household waste in the boot for a trip to the local municipal tip; instead, they'd be loading up mountain bikes and kayaks and so on, for adventures into the wild. Oh yes.

So the Fullback, for all its ruggedness and mighty load-bed carrying capacity, doesn't feel like a workaday truck at all. The same Mitsubishi interior prevails, with tough but attractive materials the order of the day and an infotainment system that borders on the fiddly. It's spacious within, though, and the driving position is good and imperious. Opting for the plusher LX means you get the Mitsubishi's... sorry, we mean, the Fiat's more powerful version of the 2.4-litre turbodiesel, rated at 180hp and 430Nm. This can, if you feel like it, be teamed to an automatic gearbox but our test vehicle was a six-speed manual, and it's a fine transmission despite the typically long-and-chunky-of-throw feel through the gate that all these pick-ups have.

Indeed, the whole Fullback is a perfectly good truck, precisely because it is based on a perfectly good truck in the first place and very minimal work has occurred during the genesis of the Fiat. Longer leaf springs at the rear lead to an unladen ride that is probably one of the best in this business, controlled and pleasant on big roads and only showing up 'ladder-frame shudder' in the most extreme of surface circumstances. Genuinely, the Fiat has the comfiest ride in the sector, save for the Volkswagen Amarok and then the two machines which run on multilink rear suspension - the Nissan Navara and Mercedes X-Class.

The Fullback is also nicely refined, with only low levels of wind and tyre noise to report even at speed, and that massive 430Nm makes it feel sprightlier for acceleration than its punchy 10.4-second 0-62mph time would suggest. The Fullback has a decent turn of pace in all situations and the engine is only really agricultural if you venture beyond 3,500rpm, which is a totally counter-intuitive thing to do when driving a sub-200hp four-cylinder turbodiesel anyway. The steering is acceptable, precise if a bit slow and lacking feel, and given the Fullback LX was turning in more than 40mpg on a long motorway run, with a 32.4mpg average return across 400 hard miles in our company, it's also decent on fuel too - for something that's more than five metres long and in excess of two tonnes, remember.

So, the ultimate verdict of 'a good truck becomes another good truck' is hardly a shocker, but the Fullback is every bit as likeable and appealing as the L200, which is one of the long-standing, much-admired names in this business. The only real problem with the Fiat is that, by playing it so safe in terms of differentiation from the Mitsubishi source material, we wonder whether the Italian company done enough to make the Fullback stand out in an ever-more-congested pick-up class... Maybe not; it's tough to say. But if you can get past any surprise you might have at realising Fiat now makes a one-tonne truck, then what we have here is another strong contender in a segment stuffed full of the things.

Alternatives:

Mitsubishi L200: the truck with which the Fullback shares so much is a fine thing, so you might be tempted to go with Mitsubishi's longer history in this market sector, rather than the newer Fiat.

Nissan Navara: one of only a few pick-ups in the class with multilink rear suspension, rather than leaf springs, giving it the best ride in the segment. Has spawned the Renault Alaskan and Mercedes X-Class, too.

Toyota Hilux: a legendary name in pick-up trucks, the Hilux remains an appealing machine, but it has one of the least powerful diesel engines available right now and it's not that cheap as a result.


Matt Robinson - 17 Nov 2017









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