What Car? says...
With pickups becoming ever more popular with people who fancy a chunky 4x4 but don’t want to give too much of their hard-earned wages away in company car tax, it’s no surprise to see another manufacturer releasing one. Enter the Fiat Fullback.
It may have a Fiat badge plonked between its headlights, but it’s actually a Mitsubishi L200 in a not-too-convincing disguise. That means a 2.4-litre diesel engine under the bonnet and a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. Unlike the L200, you’re stuck with the double-cab bodystyle.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If you’re considering buying this or any pickup truck instead of an SUV, it’s worth remembering what they’re designed to do. To be able to cope with more than a tonne in its load bay area, tow more than three tonnes and deal with severe off-roading, it has an old-school separate chassis, heavy-duty rear springs and lots of ground clearance.
The Fullback’s rugged nature becomes apparent as soon as you start the engine. The motor fires with a shudder and settles down to a coarse idle that leaves you in no doubt which fuel pump it sips from. It sounds clattery under hard acceleration, but settles down to a relatively quiet cruise. Two power outputs are available from the 2.4-litre diesel: 148bhp and 178bhp. The lower-powered model is manual gearbox only, with the other variant getting a choice of manual or auto ’box.
The 148bhp version is fairly sluggish, so we’d be tempted to upgrade if you plan on towing or carrying big loads. The manual gearbox is long of throw but is more precise than some of the competition. The auto feels very old-school, slurring between shifts and hurting performance considerably.
The steering is a pleasant surprise, offering good weighting and more precision than many rivals. Even so, you won’t be mistaking this for a more modern SUV once you’ve turned in to a corner. There’s more body lean and much less grip because of tyres that need to cope with off-roading.
The rear wheels have a habit of bouncing over bumps if the cargo area is empty and light, hurting comfort on all but the smoothest of roads. It’s better than the likes of the Isuzu D-Max, but isn’t as good as a Nissan Navara or Volkswagen Amarok. The ride will improve with a weighty load on board, but who wants to drive everywhere with half a tonne of bricks in the back? Well, apart from a bricklayer, of course.
Take it off road and those chunky tyres, four-wheel-drive system and high ground clearance help make light work of things. If you’re seriously intent on going mud-plugging, the range-topping Fullback Cross also gets a locking rear differential that should haul you out of all but the stickiest of situations.
It’s impressive, but rather over the top if the most off-road you’re likely to go is parking on the curb outside your local corner shop. Overall, then, the Fullback is by no means bad for a pickup, but feels decidedly agricultural when compared with a road-biased SUV.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The term ‘fit for purpose’ springs to mind here. Squishy plastics and complex shapes are lovely, but they don’t stand up too well to building materials, farm animals and the kind of abuse that a typical work truck might see. Because of that, pickup interiors are nowhere near as plush as a regular SUV.
That’s all very well and good, but Fiat doesn’t offer the Fullback in full-on tradesman spec like an L200 4Life. The trouble is that the dashboard is near-identical to the L200, with just a few chintzy trim pieces and plusher seats. That means lots of unyielding plastic that might be hard-wearing but isn’t very nice to look at or touch.
Even so, there’s a decent amount of adjustment for the wheel and seat, so most people will be able to get comfy. We suspect many people will like the lofty driving position that towers over smaller SUVs such as the Seat Ateca, Nissan Qashqai and other ‘pretend’ 4x4s. That means decent visibility out of the front and sides, too.
Rear visibility isn’t quite as good, because the rear end sits very high, with no cargo in the load bay. This means you can just about make out the roofs of cars in your rear-view mirror if they get too close. At least a rear-view camera is standard on mid-spec LX models and upwards.
Basic models get no touchscreen, which can make pairing a phone tricky, but it is easy enough to use otherwise. The 6.1in touchscreen system in LX manual and the 7.0in one in the LX auto and the Cross are clunky and low in resolution compared with what you’d get in an Amarok or even a Ranger.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Pickups are giant vehicles on UK roads, so you’d expect them to score highly for space and practicality. That isn’t necessarily the case. Room in the front of the Fullback is good, with decent head and leg room, plenty of width and a good selection of storage areas, including cupholders.
Move to the rear seats and you might be surprised with how cramped it can feel. That separate chassis means the rear floor is much higher, forcing your knees uncomfortably above your pelvis if you’re of average height or above. Head room is also tighter, so these seats are best left for short journeys or for kids.
While the idea of a big load bay to chuck stuff in sounds great, there are times when a conventional SUV might be more practical. As the cab and the load bed are separate items, you can’t use the full length of the truck for long loads. Your luggage will also get wet when it rains unless you pay extra for the load cover.
On the flip side, the Fullback can carry a tonne of weight (literally) and also has a towing capacity of up to 3100kg. Just remember that the D-Max and other rivals pull an even more impressive 3500kg. Fullback Cross models also gain a useful bed liner to protect your paintwork and a ‘sport bar’ behind the cab. This allows you to strap up to 30kg of weight to it if you need to secure long items.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Due to the Fullback’s double-cab bodystyle and relatively well-equipped trims, it looks a pricier choice than the more rudimentary entry-level Mitsubishi L200 on which it’s based. But factor in the equipment that comes as standard and the price is comparable to models higher up in the L200 range and undercuts the Volkswagen Amarok by a significant amount.
Entry-level SX models come with 16in alloys, cruise control, a DAB radio with Bluetooth for music and hands-free calls, and keyless entry. You’ll need to stick to the lower-powered diesel, though.
We’d therefore opt for LX trim to get the more powerful engine, a handy reversing camera and a few other luxuries. Cross trim could be of interest for its locking rear differential and bigger touchscreen, but most of the extra cost goes on fancy black detailing to make the Fullback look tougher.
Regardless of whether you go for the 148bhp or 178bhp manual, fuel economy and emissions are the same at 40.9mpg and 180g/km of CO2. The automatic is thirstier at 196g/km and 37.7mpg, but you’ll pay the same level of road tax if you’re a private buyer. Because the Fullback is less than £40,000, that means a yearly rate of £140.
As it’s classed as a light commercial vehicle, company car tax is much cheaper than it would be for a private car or SUV.
Thanks to its relative simplicity, reliability shouldn’t be a major concern, but Fiat supplies all new Fullbacks with a three-year, 120,000-mile warranty. It should be noted that this is two years less than what Mitsubishi offers with the L200. Although the Fullback hasn’t been tested, the very similar L200 scored four out of five stars in Euro NCAP safety tests; all versions come with seven airbags and lane departure warning is standard on LX models and above.