Fiat Professional Fullback ; Mitsubishi in disguise.
You can’t fly direct to Turin from Manchester so I travelled to the new Fiat Professional Fullback launch at the Fiat Mirafiori plant in Turin, via a connecting flight from Munich.
The Fullback is in essence a Mitsubishi L200, which won the CCV pick-up of the Year award in 2015, that has been cleverly rebadged by Fiat, to allow them a crack at the ever increasing global pick-up market, worth a whopping 650,000 units across Europe, Middle East & Africa in 2015 with 40,000 of those finding homes here in the UK. The Fullback sees Fiat enter the pick-up market for the first time & rather than invest in their own technology, they have chosen the tried & tested Mitsubishi L200 on which to base their new product on.
Fiat are keeping the range simple, with UK customers offered 3 models; the 2.4 150hp SX, 2.4 180hp LX and the 2.4 180hp LX automatic, with prices in the UK starting from £21,095 excluding VAT and OTR charges. In terms of styling, the front of the Fullback adopts the upmarket appearance of a sports SUV with its swept-back fascia, chunky front bumper and roomy cab-forward layout. Distinctive lines along the flanks tie the front of the pickup truck to the rear & along with the sweeping shape of the front and rear lamps, help fully integrate the load bed as part of the vehicle’s overall design. Detailing is tasteful & restrained with two strips of satin silver trim used to frame the front grille on the entry-level SX, while LX versions also have a subtle satin silver trim around sump protector, as well as chrome-finished door mirrors, door handles and side steps. Attractive 16-inch alloy wheels are standard on the SX while the profile of the LX model is enhanced with 17-inch alloy wheels and substantial, body-coloured wheel arch protectors.
The interior is light years away from pick-ups of old. Standard equipment on the SX version includes 16″ alloy wheels, side steps,body coloured front bumper, electronic 4WD selector (3 modes), Start&Stop, cruise control with variable speed limiter, radio CD with Bluetooth®)hands free connectivity), keyless entry, manual climate control, leather steering wheel & gear lever, adjustable driver’s seat (sliding, height, reclining), front armrest, rear armrest with cup holder, rear head restraints, front & rear electric windows, 4-speaker sound system, heated rear window, front & rear fog lights ESC with ABS, Trailer Stability Assist, Hill Start Assist, rear body guard frame, immobiliser, driver, passenger, curtain and knee air bags & ISOFIX child seat mountings x2. Lane Departure Warning & reversing camera are both standard on the LX version.
Fullback SX is powered by an aluminium-block, 2.4-litre Euro 6 diesel engine with a variable-geometry turbo charger which produces 150hp and 380Nm of torque yet its official combined-cycle fuel economy figure is just 40.9MPG (6.4L/100km) & its CO2 emissions are 180g/km. The standard SX transmission comprises a six-speed manual gearbox with on demand four-wheel drive system with three electrically-selected settings: 2H, 4H and 4L.
The power & torque outputs of LX version are increased to 180hp and 430Nm, while the full-time four-wheel drive system has four electrically-controlled settings: 2H, 4H plus 4HLc and 4LLc with a locking central differential for improved traction. Its official combined-cycle fuel economy figure is also 40.9.MPG (6.6L/100km) and its CO2 emission figure is 186g/km.
Technical highlights across all Fiat Professional Fullback models include a one-tonne payload with a bed length of up to 1.52m, 3,100kg un-braked towing capacity (2,700kg for the SX model), best-in-class turning circle. Sophisticated double wishbone front suspension and a solid axle with leaf springs for maximum reliability and sturdiness.
The Fullback was presented to the assembled media, at the Mirafiori Media Centre in Torino & then the following morning, we all had the opportunity to drive it through the Lombardy countryside, including on a specially prepared off-road circuit. Fiat cleverly loaded each test car with something heavy, to show the assembled journalists, just how well the pick-up performed with a full load. My Fullback had a hay bale in the back, another Fullback had a Euro pallet of salt & the result of this was that both on road & off it, with something in the back, the Fullback drives extremely well. However, if you remove the rear load unsurprisingly, the ride gets far more bouncy, especially over undulating terrain & this is perhaps the only negative with the pick-up sector as a whole & the Fullback is no different.
Although Fiat describe the Fullback as a ‘leisure vehicle” & I’m sure in North America, Asia & Africa it will be used both for work & for play, in Europe including the UK, the Fullback is very much a pick-up & where leisure time is concerned, will not in most cases be a replacement for your SUV soft roader. If your wife & kids had to sit in the rear of the Fullback for any length of time, I promise that they won’t thank you for buying one, because although the two front seats offer a fairly comfortable ride, those in the back will wish they were riding the relatively smooth ‘Rubber Dingy Rapids’ at Alton Towers, because it’s bumpy in there. There is though, plenty of headroom in the rear with even the leg room acceptable, unless you’re sitting in the middle seat. the rear. The rear seats are also placed high in comparison with the two front seat passengers, allowing those in the back to look down on the driver & front seat passenger & to get a great view of the road ahead.
On road, the Fullback drives just fine in 2WD, although on our very steep bendy route – there was a lot of writing on the road itself, making me believe that the road we used had been recently ridden in the Giro D’Italia- first gear was required on a number of occasions. On the off-road section the Fullback performed admirably, although just like the L200, it’s shorter wheelbase & size is noticeably less able to handle the biggest craters & ruts, quite as well as the larger Nissan Navara or VW Amarok.
On the plus size, there is very little in the way of diesel clatter inside the Fullbacks cabin & once up & running, the engine soon settles into a smooth idle. Put your foot down & the thrust of 317lb ft of torque increases the decibels pretty quickly & you really get a feel for the power on tap that the Fullback offers. The real bonus of this is that on road you’ve got plenty of overtaking power. Add in a nicely balanced clutch & the gear-change feels smooth too, certainly compared to what pick-ups used to offer.
Goodies such as SatNav, Bluetooth & a rear view camera are fitted to the LX model, which I tested & so those of you who want toys in the cabin, will not be disappointed. Just don’t expect the dashboard & fittings, to be made of top notch plastics or feel soft to the touch. Like all Mitsubishis, the cabin quality is functional rather than luxurious. Perhaps the quality inside isn’t as good as you’d find in the new Nissan Navara or Ford Ranger, but it feels built to last none-the-less.
If you really need a pick-up to be used … as a pick-up then the dimensions would be quite useful.
Height 1,780mm; Kerb weight 1,875kg
Towing (unbraked) 3,100kg
Off-road angles: approach 30°, departure 22°
Ground clearance 205mm
If like me you are shallow & covet a car or van based mainly on looks, then the Fullback scores highly. The L200 Barbarian is a stunner, but Fiat have managed to make the Fullback a little less in-your-face than the Mitsy without compromising on the Fullback’s looks. The grille at the front, does look a little odd with a FIAT badge on it, but rest assured, CCV loved the look of the L200 last year & we love the Fullback just as much. From a purely practical point of view, the Fullback may not quite match the capabilities of the larger Nissan, Ford or VW pick-ups, but it is undoubtedly better-looking than all of these & it’s slightly more diminutive size enables one to drive & park it in town, much more easily than it’s larger competitors.
I drove the LX version in manual guise, reckoning that this model will be the best seller in the UK. Specifications & price are as follows, but it did include the goodies we are all starting to expect on our vehicle of choice, including keyless go, leather upholstery, electrically-adjusted & heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlamps with washers, enhanced body styling, privacy glass and a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB, Bluetooth connectivity & SatNav, Lane Departure Warning, a reversing camera. A comfort-orientated “touring” suspension is also included in the LX specification.
Fullback SX 150bhp
Price: £22,995 plus VAT and OTR charges
Engine: 2.4-litre turbo diesel
Gearbox: six-speed manual
Torque: 317lb ft 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 111mph
Fuel economy: 40.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 180g/km
In conclusion, the Fullback may be a ‘fake,’ a ‘plastic,’ but even if it is, it’s a bloody good one. There’s nothing wrong with the Mitsubishi L200 & there’s nothing wrong with the Fiat Professional Fullback either. With the Fullback only being sold in the UK by Fiat Professional dealerships, customers who buy or lease one will get the benefits of a fully commercial network, meaning out-of hours servicing & a willingness to listen to your commercial needs, something that perhaps a car based dealer wouldn’t do. And, if you already run Fiat Professional vehicles, you now have a ready-made pick-up to complete your fleet.
An Optimus Prime 4/5