First impression: Fiat Fullback
This is Fiat’s new Fullback and before we go any further, let’s just get rid of the elephant in the room. It looks like a Triton, because it is basically one. It’s badge engineering at its best and it will arrive in South Africa next month to strut its stuff in the highly contested Hilux segment.
Not that the Fullback is a direct competitor to the likes of the Hilux, at least not in our opinion. The bakkie field can be broken up in various categories. At the top you have the big two, duking it out month after month. Then you have the alternative choices like the KB, Navara, Triton and Amarok, followed by a host of more affordable Chinese offerings. In order to buy a Fullback, you’d have to walk past every one of the models mentioned above and that’s a fairly long walk, especially in a South African context.
So where does the Fullback fit in? It took us the entire 10-hour flight home, but we finally worked it out. The Fullback is the alternative to the alternative. Considering how well even the alternative choices sell, a customer in search of a double-cab with a certain amount of exclusivity might be tempted right into the seat of a Fiat. It’s a small segment, but it exists and therefore must be filled. To be perfectly frank, this car may even be good enough to steal sales from some of the previously mentioned alternatives and the car it’s based on.
Being Italian, it will receive some harsh verbal abuse from competitor vehicle owners, but if you’re one of those people who simply can’t wait to make a lewd comment about its reliability online, don’t even bother. It uses the same platform as the all-new Triton, but not the newly developed 2.4-litre turbocharged diesel. Instead Fiat chose to stick with the 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel from the current Triton. Power output ranges from 100kW to 131kW. A Mitsubishi sourced 2.4-litre petrol with 97kW will also be available, but diesel will likely be the volume seller. All engines are mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Both 4×2 and 4×4 drivetrains will be available and, depending on the model you choose, can carry up to 1100kg on the bak. This isn’t some sissy bakkie. It has all the right stuff to seriously upset the apple cart once it arrives here.
Seeing as these engines have been running around in SA for a few years, the Fullback will likely be a reliable companion, which is one of the main factors prospective bakkie owners consider when purchasing a brand-new car. That’s probably the thinking behind the whole project, but whether it will succeed remains to be seen.
It’s a mash-up job from two very different countries, each known for being good at different things. That means you get Japanese reliability and Italian flair, in other words, both countries doing what their best at.
Our test drive was rather short, but we can give you a few highlights. It’s a large vehicle, but it hides its bulk rather well, which one appreciates even more when you find yourself on the wrong side of the car on a narrow Italian road. Hopefully this will translate into a relaxing inner-city driving experience on South African roads.
The engines perform nicely and the interior is right on par with the newly launched bakkies back home.
The biggest obstacle standing in its way is pricing. To be seriously competitive it will have to undercut the mainstream vehicles by a decent margin, or offer more as standard at the same price, but, unfortunately, Fiat wasn’t able to give us an idea of how much it will cost when it makes its local debut.
With the rand is as stable as a drunken student on a trampoline, it’s way to early to estimate the price.
It will arrive in June and pricing will hopefully be competitive.
We’ll give you a full driving impression, including all the major specifications and comments on its off-road ability in the next edition, so keep an eye out for that.