ROAD TEST: @Fiat_UK Fullback LX

"Oh. My. God. How ******* massive is that...?" said the usually very mum-mouthed Road Magazine design queen when she clapped eyes on the all-new, range-topping Fiat Fullback LX for the first time, as it powered onto the Road HQ premises.
And, being brutally honest, what man doesn't want to hear that...?  

In fact, surely if you pick one of these VAT-dodging, stateside-inspired Euro pick-ups, that's the response you want, right? 
The aim is surely to make a big rugged impression, on a (relatively) small budget... yeah?   

What you wouldn't expect is a Fiat badge on the front though, right? Don't they make the 500 and 124 Spider (on test next week as it goes)?
But where Isuzu's Rodeo, Ford's Ranger and Mitsubishi's L200 (which the Fullback is based on) led the way with these big beasts, so VW followed in 2009 with the more luxury-focused Amarok. And they sold like hot bacon rolls drooling in butter and ketchup, as any drive, anywhere in the country will tell you immediately. Popular isn't the word, with almost a million of them knocking about in Europe. 

And Fiat aren't a stupid bunch and clearly decided they'd re-invest some of their Fiat 500 billions into a family/load-lugger of their own. And here we are with the maousive Fullback. 

Billed as being "rugged, reliable and practical down to the finest detail, the Fullback pick up is precisely what you expect from a work vehicle."

The reality is of course that most of these work vehicles won't be hill farming, or blasting building sites: many will simply be bought for families to knock about in, squeezing (effortlessly as it goes) into shopping centre car parks, hogging precious space outside our schools and the like. And why the heck not? They're practical, stylish, aspirational, impressive, fun, offer great visibility, space, safety and spec, for next to naff all... go figure.

The fresh-faced one-tonne+ payload, 3.5+ tonne towing, switchable 2WD, 4WD & low ranger that is the Fullback is 100% an all-luxury, double cab – there's definitely no single cab 'no frills commercial offering with Fiat's range, which starts at £20,995 for the base SX model, with a 148bhp 2.4-litre diesel and six-speed manual gearbox, moving up to the LX manual priced from £22,995 and five-speed LX automatic from £24,395, with a more powerful 178bhp 2.4 all-ally diesel, with trick twin scroll turbocharger technology. Cool.

We tested the manual LX range-topper, with all the bells and whistles – nice 17" Alloy Wheels on Toyo semi-knobbly rubber, fantastic wide angle rear camera, user-friendly 6.1" touchscreen DAB radio with bluetooth & great Garmin navigation System, electric full leather seats etc. On HP, you can grab one of these for just £199 right now. Told you they were affordable...

And there's so much to like about the big old bruiser – from it's funky style statements, like the side panel on the lockable cargo bed, to the incredibly responsive, pokey and economical (42.2mpg for 178bhp version) 2.4-litre diesel, which fair flies along.

But the Fullback's best party trick – as with all these no-weight at the back pick-ups – is it's inherently fun ability to exit every bend, roundabout and junction slowly totally sideways, with the traction turned "off" (it still fusses you), if you so choose.
That's big fun, for a big kid like me, and enough of a reason alone to buy one if I'm honest.

Then there's the Fullback's excellent off-road capability – not in our very own Fiat Project Panda 4x4 Italian hill farming lightweight class or indeed our Project Beast Range Rover utter domination, but they're class leaders.

The Fullback is a good mud-slinger though... and, if you did choose to take it off the beaten, it'll go a long way before getting stuck... in 4WD low range mode, and with some weight over the leaf spring rear axle that is, as these stats show.

Inside, it's lap dance club dark, but there's plenty of room (front and rear) and it's a comfortable place too do the miles in, with the clear visibility, decent sound deadening and nicely ergonomic leather seats, bright biXenon headlights and infotainment doing the job nicely. 

And the 1.5m long rear loading cargo bay (or "mobile swingers' hot tub stuck to the back" as one mate put it) is suitably cavernous – easily soaking up a double divan I had to do a tip run with (although I'd spec mine without the drop-down lockable top, but a locking rollback, for great versatility, personally).  

We like the new characterful, rugby-chic, blokey Fullback, but there's one but – and rather like the car itself... it's a big but...

As with all these modern pick-ups (to a greater or lesser degree) and their essential-for-big-loads, old tech, leaf sprung rear ends, they bounce around way too much on anything but the flattest road surface, making you and especially your rear passengers feel sick, or in one case, putting their backs out. Oops. But, to be fair on the Fullback, that could have been my drifting style, sorry, er, driving style ;-)  

There is a solution of course... riding your Fullback around with bags of cement permanently in the back to get it to sit down nicely and ride OK, or just only pick routes with smooth roads (not the UK, or indeed Norfolk then!). 

Or you can just accept the live rear axle humpty dumpty issue and roll with the bounces. Then there's no real reason not to buy a fresh-faced and funky Fullback... except maybe VW's 221bhp, 405lbft 3.0-litre V6 Amarok, which knocks on the door of 120mph and does 0-62 in seven seconds. But that's big bucks at way into £30K territory, which rather defeats the point of these popular pick-ups doesn't it?  


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