Tough enough to tame Africa

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Fiat wants a slice of the growing South African pick-up market, so has borrowed Mitsubishi technology to create its Fullback model.

Not many people associate Fiat with big stuff like pick-ups. If the name Fiat only conjures up images of small cars like the Panda, Punto, and 500, it is time to think again. The red and silver badge now adorns a freshly launched 1-ton ‘bakkie’ aptly named the Fullback.

The name was chosen for the Fullback in a rugby team being the last line of defence and the first to get back on the attack. The bottom line – reliability, and that’s exactly what it is. Whilst famous for their city cars, this isn’t Fiat’s first foray into the pick-up market – a Fiat 128 pickup was launched exclusively in South Africa in 1978, and then years later with the Strada. 

But with the Fullback, looks can be a little deceiving. While the exterior might shout Fiat, under the skin is the latest generation Mitsubishi Triton. The Fullback is manufactured in a Mitsubishi and Fiat joint venture factory in Thailand. Mating modern looks with old-school reliability and on a near bulletproof Japanese platform. What that means, of course, is that the running costs of the Fullback and Mitsubishi will naturally be very similar. 

In South Africa, two engine options are available in double-cab guise. A 2.5-litre turbodiesel does duty, but power output varies between two specs. The 4×2 double-cab does duty with a 100kw/324nm motor, while the 4x4 variant does battle with a 131kw/400nm engine. Both are mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. Diff-lock is standard equipment on South African Fullbacks, while approach and departure angles should make the Fullback extremely capable off-road.

The Fullback may be a minutely smaller than a number of its competitors, but it doesn’t give away anything in terms of practicality. With supportive seats, optimised driving position, two upholstery options, three dashboard styles and automatic dual-zone air conditioning, it’s got all the creature comforts of a car – as well as plenty of rear leg room for passengers. And if that’s not enough, the smart infotainment system gives you everything you need to tackle your day in style. 

It has also been fitted with 17 wheels, and while these might be smaller than its competitors, Fiat has done so to endow the Fullback with a smoother ride – as well as ensure better performance off-road. The Fullback’s leaf-spring rear set-up and independent wishbones at the front provide a good compromise between comfort, good handling and a 970kg payload capability. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Fiat has the smallest turning circle in the class at just under 12m. If you have to maneouvre in tight sites or off-road, that could be very significant.

A variety of trendy colours are available as well as an expansive accessory list from Mopar. The Fullback is priced at R280,900 for the single cab petrol workhorse variant, while the doublecabs are priced at R447,900 for 4x2 and R513,900 for the 4x4 model. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty and 5-year/100 000 km service plan on Double Cab models is standard.

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