When Fiat announced that they would take on the bakkie market back in 2016, I had my doubts.
The company have a long history of building successful rally cars like the Fiat 131 Abarth.
But bakkies? I got the opportunity to put their offering to the test when I had the chance to drive a Fullback 4×4 for the duration of the festive season.
A long-term test made sense, since I have driven most of the other bakkies available in South Africa and was quite keen to compare the Fiat with them.
The Fullback is certainly a love-it-or-hate-it vehicle and I found more reasons to like it than to dislike it. Actually, the vehicle is simply a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton, which has proven itself as a competent bakkie.
It boasts a more than useful load compartment which swallowed all my luggage, including two bicycles and television stands.
For convenience sake, there are storage compartments in the door panels which were a pleasure and made the ride all the more comfortable.
It also has very decent leather seats. An impressive ground clearance of 205mm inspires plenty of confidence to engage the allwheel driving capabilities.
There is a rotary switch near the gear stick where you can select different drive modes, from 2H, 4H plus 4HLc and 4LLC. There is also a diff-lock button for the occasions when you really need serious traction.
The Fullback’s looks are on point, but our test unit came without side steps which made getting into the car a challenge – something pointed out by my girlfriend.
The cabin boasted a multi-functional height and reach adjustable steering wheel, lots of durable plastic, electrically adjustable front seats and a rear bench seat that passengers found comfortable during a 400km trek to Mpumalanga.
Features also include a rearview camera, Bluetooth, USB, touchscreen plus cruise control. Safety comes in the form of driver and passenger airbags, ABS with EBD and hill start assist.
The Fullback features a tried and tested four-cylinder 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine partnered with a five-speed automatic gearbox.
Outputs are at 133kW of power and 430Nm of torque. The Fullback easily towed a trailer full of wood when called upon to do so.
With the enormous torque available, the Fullback accelerated with no hesitation and gear changes were almost unnoticeable.
The Fullback was mostly driven on gravel roads and it felt at home, even through serious muddy terrains without having to engage the off-road systems.
The suspension of the Fullback was stiff, but that is the case with most bakkies.
With the firm ride you get to feel even the smallest road bumps, while the load bin jitters when empty.
- Smooth engine.
- Good acceleration for a bakkie.
- 4×4 driving modes easy to engage.
- Infotainment system feels outdated and is difficult to operate in bright sunlight.
- Rear suspension jitters over bumps.
Worthy to look at in the bakkie segment but competition offers more.