Fiat looks to have picked up the signing of the season with its new attacking Fullback!
Legendary Japanese utility player in switch to Italian Giant! That was the big transfer news that captured our imagination this summer, and even more so when we learnt that the new acquisition would be occupying the Fullback position.
We were at the famous Fiat Mirafiori factory in Turin, where such exponents of the beautiful game have not always enjoyed the best of times. Who, even 26 years on, will ever forget that penalty miss by Stuart Pearce against Germany?
If anyone could make this traditionally reliable but dour position sexy, however, it has to be the Italians;, think the trophy-laden 24-year career of Paolo Maldini and clearly the already impressive Fiat line up of award-winning performers like Ducato, Doblo and Fiorino has certainly been further beefed up with the addition of its new pick up.
With big names like Nissan, Ford, Isuzu and VAG already spoiling for a title fight and others, like Renault and Mercedes, expected to enter the fray next year, it seems you can’t challenge for the position of LCV champion these days without having a rampaging pick up within your squad.
And the rewards are clearly there for those who occupy these top spots. Thanks, in no small part, to peculiarities in the tax regime which rewards owners of upmarket double cabs. The UK saw around 40,000 units registered in 2015, up by a fifth, whilst the Middle East, Africa and Europe enjoy sales in excess of 650,000 units.
By entering into a partnership with Mitsubishi and, rebranding the highly successful L200, Fiat is determined not to have to wait until the end of the season to join in the celebrations.
So, to all intents and purposes, apart from a sprinkling of badges, own grille design and tweaked lights dedicated followers of pick ups will know what they are getting with the Fullback.
Not as imposing as some of its bigger rivals, it is nevertheless a strong and capable one tonne pick up, and boasts really impressive off road credentials with four wheel drive and 2.4 litre diesel engines capable of towing 3.1 tonnes when hooked to a braked trailer.
According to Fiat the Fullback is the new Fiat Professional ‘Work Hero’ although, like its competitors, it is far removed from the vehicles originally designed for farmers and builders, who were more likely to take a hose to the inside rather than the outside body.
These days it’s all about work/lifestyle balances. These are vehicles which are designed and built to look as comfortable with a motor cross bike/surf board or a pallet of bricks in the load bed and those looking for a low spec option of the Fullback will be disappointed.
The uninspiringly named SX is the entry level, and comes with a spec list similar to the Mitsubishi Titan with a 148bhp version of the 2.4 diesel engine, DAB radio, cruise control, air con, hill hold and LED daytime running lights, whilst the automatic comes at a premium.
More power is offered with the higher spec LX at 178BHP, plus the choice of six-speed manual or five-speed auto gears and a host of luxuries, such as heated leather seats, 6 in. touchscreen with sat nav and a slightly softer suspension, which was welcome given the now somewhat dated rear leaf spring arrangement which we found results in a noticeable bumpier ride when unladen.
Certainly the performance was enhanced with a Euro pallet of salt on the back, and provided more traction at the rear as we engaged the lower foothills of the Italian Alps on the extensive test route.
Although not class leading, the load bay is a good size – 1,850mm long 1,470mm wide and 475mm deep, and the maximum payload is 1,035kg across the range. We like the slowed down opening mechanism for the tailgate, preventing it from crashing open the moment you pull the handle.
The Fullback does, however, share the smallest turning cycle amongst pick ups, at just under 12m, which is a distinct advantage on tight sites.
It also benefits naturally from the advances made on the safety front, with the latest L200 including greater chassis reinforcement and inherent strength, together with a host of new technology features.
The cab itself is roomy enough for even the burliest of builders, with plenty of seat adjustment although the storage space is adequate rather than in the spoilt for choice category.
Claimed economy is good for both engine versions at around 44.2 and 42.8mpg respectively, and prices start at around £23,000 plus VAT, rising to £24,395 plus VAT and is available via Fiat Professional dealers only.
On first impressions the new Fullback represents good value in a highly competitive market, none more so than here, of course, where the two vehicles will go head to head this Autumn. It’s got the feel of a six pointer already.
Fiat used the launch to announce details of another collaboration between themselves, Vauxhall and Renault resulting in the launch of the new Talento.
A rebadged version of the Vivaro and Traffic, it is being heralded as the link between Doblo cargo and Ducato, allowing Fiat Professional to cover new volumes and load lengths in one of the most important sectors of the LCV market.
For further information on the Fiat Fullback click here.