The Italian Stallion
The Fiat Fullback is a tough double cab 4×4, no doubt. But it also brings a bit of Italian flair to the conservative bakkie market.
Claim to fame: The Italian American actor, writer and director has starred in movies like Rocky, Rambo and The Expendables. He’s 70 years old and still has a six pack.
Great quote: “You’ve got to show your soul otherwise you’re just a piece of equipment.”
Sylvester Stallone is one interesting guy. His father, with the incredibly macho name of Frank Stallone, was a hairdresser and beautician in New York. His mother, Jackie Stallone, was a dancer, astrologer and promoter of women’s wrestling. Sly himself is the epitome of ‘butch’. His muscles have muscles. He does his own stunts. When filming Rocky IV, he told Dolph Lundgren to punch him in the chest as hard as he could. He woke up in the intensive care unit of St John’s Hospital.
But he also has a sensitive side. He’s a writer. He’s a director. He created his own upmarket bottled water in 2006 called Sly Water. Sometimes, in the midst of an interview, he can be surprisingly insightful and philosophical. Here’s an example of something he said: “The biggest and most interesting crisis in the world is the human crisis, and it never gets boring. It goes back to Shakespeare. You don’t need a gimmick; it’s just man against man and their intolerance of each other.”
Yes, Sly Stallone is a great example of what can happen when you toss a little Italian flavour into a macho environment. You’re left with something that defies expectations.
This brings us nicely to the Fiat Fullback. Here is an Italian vehicle wading into a segment that’s been dominated by the Americans and Japanese for decades. It does, however, have an ace up its sleeve, or rather, under its body panels. The Fullback, you see, could be compared to a Japanese businessman wearing an exquisite Italian suit: there’s the style and panache that an Italian label promises, but underneath is a whole lot of no-nonsense get-the-job-done experience and capability.
The Fullback shares its underpinnings with the next-gen Mitsubishi Triton (which isn’t available locally at the moment, but an updated version will be launched in February 2017). This includes the engine, most of the interior and the 4WD system.
The engine in the 4×4 model is a 2.5-litre turbodiesel that delivers 131kW of power and 400Nm of torque, and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. These figures aren’t quite class-leading, but spend some time behind the wheel, and it quickly becomes clear that the Fullback has all the oomph it needs. Driving it on the open road is a pleasure.
On dirt, the Fullback benefits from the same Super Select system that’s been present in the Triton for a while. There’s 2H for tar driving and 4H for dirt, which can be switched to on the fly. Once in 4WD, the Fullback feels solid and comfortable. Traction and stability control would have been nice, but the bakkie isn’t terrifying on ugly gravel. It seems right at home.
Once things get really hairy, there’s low-range. The South African Fullback also has rear diff lock, which European models don’t have. Like the Triton, the Fiat is capable off road. Sure, it’s got some drawbacks, which all bakkies have – like a big turning circle and big dimensions – but it can 4×4 if it needs to. Ground clearance is pegged at an adequate 205mm. Its approach angle is an impressive 30 degrees, while its big load area limits its departure angle to 22 degrees. Its lateral travel angle, which should best not be tested to its maximum potential, is 45 degrees.
On the inside, the Fullback and Triton are virtually identical, although the Fullback obviously sports a large Fiat badge. That said, the cabin is spacious and well equipped for a bakkie. There’s climate control, a touchscreen infotainment system and steering wheel controls.
Overall, the Fiat Fullback is a welcome addition to the bakkie market. It mixes things up a little and inserts some Italian panache into a segment that’s often described as overly conservative. But it doesn’t break from the mould too drastically. Sharing its underpinnings with the Triton, its still a ‘real’ bakkie, but its one for people who buy their luggage at Gucci, not Outdoor Warehouse.
Engine: 2.5-Litre Turbodiesel
Transmission: Five-Speed Manual
4wd System: Part-Time 4wd (2h, 4h And 4low)
Traction Aids: Rear Diff Lock
Ground Clearance: 205mm
Price: R419 900
Illustration: Tauriq Loofer
Photos: Deon van der Walt and Jannie Herbst