Fiat has launched its new Fullback mid-size bakkie in South Africa and we attended the launch this week in a deep, dusty quarry in Tshwane, Gauteng, to see what it has to offer...
We drove the Fiat Fullback bakkie in Italy earlier this year and the Mitsubishi Triton-based newcomer has now arrived on local soil and will be available at Fiat Professional outlets nationwide as of 1 July 2016. On the back of more than 650 000 sales in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region in 2015, Fiat is aiming to replicate the success of the Fullback in the South African bakkie market. However, the local market is very much polarised towards large volume bakkie models such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux and therefore the Fullback faces a tough task.
Fiat, however, is aware of the challenge ahead of it and hopes to steadily build sales momentum in coming months, with an expansion of the Fullback range expected in 2017 (more on this later). By offering a “versatile and reliable” product to customers looking for a vehicle that can work and play in equal measure, Fiat is aiming to capture the imagination of leisure buyers (who might otherwise be considering a crossover/SUV to transport their families), while also tapping into the commercial market with its Fullback workhorse offering.Time will tell how well the Fiat Fullback will be received locally, but with a "we will sell as many as we can" approach, Fiat targets at least 100 units a month by the end of the year.
What's on offer?
The Fiat Fullback is offered in both single and double-cab guises. The single-cab Fullback is only available as a 4x2 and is powered by a 2.4-litre petrol engine offering 97 kW and 202 Nm of torque. This derivative features a 5-speed manual transmission that powers the rear wheels.
In the double cab line-up, both 4x2 and 4x4 derivatives are available. A 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine powers the Fullback double cab with a choice of either 100 kW/384 Nm or 131 kW/ 400 Nm. These derivatives will initially be offered with a 5-speed manual transmission. The Fullback 4x4 is fitted with a rear differential lock as well as a manual 4x4 lever. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were unable to test the Fullback’s 4x4 capability.
Fiat did, however, confirm that the Fullback range will expand in the second quarter of 2017 with the addition of a 4x4 automatic derivative and a 4x2 diesel workhorse model.
The Fullback has a load carrying capacity exceeding one tonne and has a towing capacity of up to three tonnes.
Buyers can choose between various colours including Metallic Silver, Titanium Grey, Brown, Pearl White (4x4 double cab only), Black Mica, Solid Red and Solid White.
The interior of the Fullback is simple but comfortable and a touchscreen infotainment system is offered for double cab derivatives.
Standard features for the 97 kW Fullback 2.4-litre petrol 4x2 derivative includes power windows, manual air conditioning, central power locking, 16-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, ABS with EBD and a rubberised load bin.
As for the 100 kW 2.5-litre turbodiesel 4x2 SX derivative, leather seats, cruise control, front and rear electric windows, manual air conditioning, central locking, remote keyless entry, steering wheel controls, 17-inch alloy wheels, tow bar, rubberised load bin, two airbags and ABS with EBD are fitted as standard. Fiat also stated that this derivative is expected to be the most popular derivative in the Fullback range.
Lastly, the range-topping 131 kW 2.5-litre turbodiesel 4x4 in LX trim builds on the specification of the LX derivative with the addition of all-wheel drive on demand, bi-Xenon headlights, Bluetooth and USB capability, automatic conditioning and a reverse-view view camera.
Two airbags and ABS with EBD is also standard.
Moparise your Fullback
You can enhance the look of your Fullback with a wide range of accessories.
If you are looking beef up the look of your Fullback bakkie, there is a wide range of Mopar accessories available to you. Everything from nudge bars, side steps, rear sports bars and rear bumpers are on offer in either polished stainless steel or black powder coated stainless steel. Accessories can either be ordered with your Fullback or fitted as after-market additions by Fiat Professional dealerships.
For those with more active lifestyles, a Bosal towbar and a range of Thule roof bars will ensure that your sporting equipment is transported safely. Furthermore, various cosmetic and technical accessories are also available to customers including customised kick plates, chrome-plated side mouldings, chrome mirror housings, rear parking sensors, rubber and fabric mats, underbody protection, fog lights and special valve caps.
What’s it like to drive?
Unfortunately, our time in the Fullback was rather limited, but we did get a feel for the 100 kW Fullback 2.5-litre turbodiesel 4x2 double-cab SX derivative. Our journey started in a quarry in Olifantsfontein in the back seat of the Fullback.
The design of the front seats is quite chunky (they are, admittedly, electrically adjustable), but rear leg, head and shoulder room is sufficient. The leather upholstery was reasonably comfortable to sit on, but the leather did have a somewhat synthetic feel to it. Over corrugated and poor road conditions the ride was pretty bumpy for rear seat occupants, so the Fiat is not class-leading in that department...
A short 25 km stint behind the wheel of the Fullback followed and it was quickly evident that the 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine was willing to perform. Using a 5-speed manual gearbox, the Fullback got on with business and it’s worth mentioning that on the highway, the Fullback cruised along with ease without pining for a sixth gear. The steering felt direct and cabin insulation was good with minimal road and wind noise entering the cabin.
A touchscreen infotainment system is also included and from first impressions, it seemed rather straightforward to use.
We will be giving the Fiat Fullback a thorough evaluation in the near future, so look out for an upcoming review!
Fiat Fullback – prices in South Africa
Fiat Fullback 97 kW 2.4-litre petrol 4x2 Workhorse R232 900
Fiat Fullback 100 kW 2.5-litre turbodiesel 4x2 DC R402 900
Fiat Fullback 131 kW 2.5-litre turbodiesel 4x4 DC R468 900
The Fiat Fullback range comes standard with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 5-year/100 000 km service plan.