The What Van? Road Test: Fiat Professional Fullback

Date: Wednesday, June 07, 2017   |   Author: Steve Banner

Price (ex VAT) £23,495
Price range (ex VAT) £21,345-£24,895
Gross payload 1,045kg
Load length 1,520mm
Load width (min/max) 1,041/1,470mm
Load bay height 475mm (890mm with hard-top)
Loading height 850mm
Gross vehicle weight 2,905kg
Braked trailer towing weight 3,100kg
Residual value 27.5p
Cost per mile 49.2p
Engine size 2,442cc, 180hp @ 3,500rpm
Torque 430Nm @ 2,500rpm
Gearbox 6sp manual
Fuel economy 40.9mpg (combined)
Fuel tank 75 litres
CO2 186g/km
Warranty 3yrs/120,000mls
Service intervals 1yr/12,000mls
Insurance group 44E
Price as tested £25,269

Do the photos on these pages look somehow familiar? If they don’t, then they should.

That’s because Fiat Professional’s Fullback is a rebadged version of the latest Mitsubishi L200 pick-up.

It has enabled the Italian brand to enter the hard-fought 1.0t payload (or thereabouts) 4x4, four-door, five-seater, double-cab sector of the market with minimal investment. The two manufacturers are not the only ones to juggle with badges. Nissan’s Navara, for example, is the basis for Renault’s forthcoming Alaskan and will provide the platform for the not too far away Mercedes-Benz X-class.

Three Fullback models are up for grabs. Buyers can pick a 180hp 2.4-litre diesel in LX trim with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic. If you are happy with less power and more basic specifications then you can opt for the manual-only 150hp 2.4-litre SX instead.

We chose an LX manual finished in white and watched it get satisfyingly filthy as we criss-crossed the muddy fields and potholed, unclassified roads of rural Herefordshire.

Load area

Access to the cargo bed comes via a chunky tailgate that you drop down by flipping up the single, centrally mounted lever. The tailgate falls to a horizontal position and cannot be lowered further thanks to a beefy rear bumper.

Six load tie-down points are provided and our test vehicle was equipped with a plastic load area liner. It additionally boasted an attractive hardtop, which can be found on the Fiat Professional accessories list, offering an internal height of 890mm. Coloured to match the paint finish on the rest of the truck, it comes complete with a lockable and glazed rear hatch, roof rails, an LED interior light, and side windows that slide open – just what you need if you want any animals you are transporting to get some fresh air.

Cab and equipment

Leather-trimmed throughout, the cab is for the most part comfortable and remarkably well-equipped, and seems to offer value for money. Climate control is included in the deal as is a driver assistance and entertainment package with remote controls on the leather-trimmed steering wheel.

The package includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, a DAB radio, a CD/MP3 player, a USB port and Bluetooth compatibility. Thanks to a rear-mounted camera the screen clearly displays whatever is directly behind the vehicle when you engage reverse.

Both the front seats are heated and the driver’s is electrically adjustable for height, reach and rake. The passenger seat is adjusted manually, however, as is the steering column for height and reach.

Other features include keyless ignition and cruise control with a variable speed limiter.
Electric windows are fitted to all four doors, and the exterior mirrors are electrically adjustable and heated. There are airbags hidden all over the cab (driver, front passenger, curtain and so on) so the occupants should be well protected in a collision.

Grab handles are fitted to both the A pillars and the one on the nearside may prove particularly handy for a shaken passenger to cling to if the off-road going gets rough.
Oddment stowage facilities include bins in all four doors, a deep, lidded box between the front seats, a couple of cup-holders and a good-sized, lockable glove box.

Climb into the back and you discover that sitting three-abreast is likely to be a bit too cosy for some tastes, although everybody gets to use a full lap-and-diagonal seatbelt plus an adjustable headrest. Legroom for the centre passenger is somewhat restricted and the section of seat back offering piggy-in-the-middle lumbar support bulges outwards slightly and is none too comfortable. It can be folded down and turned into a centre armrest complete with a couple of cup-holders when there are only two people using the rear seat.
The exterior is graced by front fog lamps along with chrome-look door handles, mirror casings and sill bars complete with steps.

Onboard electronic safety systems include ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control (ESC), hill-start assist and trailer stability assist. Lane departure warning is installed and, thankfully, you can switch it off, although it comes back on automatically and starts beeping at you again every time you fire up the engine on the Fullback.

When the rain comes down and dusk begins to fall sensors switch on the wipers and the headlights. The latter are  bi-xenon and have their own washers.

Powertrain

The Fullback’s 2.4-litre common-rail direct-injection intercooled four-cylinder Euro6 diesel comes with a variable-geometry turbocharger and variable valve timing. Maximum power kicks in at 3500rpm while top torque of 430Nm bites at 2500rpm.

Chassis and steering

Suspension with a double A-arm plus a stabiliser bar is installed at the front while elongated multi-layer leaf springs help support the truck’s rear. Our Fullback’s 17-inch alloy wheels were shod with Toyo A28 Open Country 245/65 R17 tyres.

Power-assisted rack and pinion steering delivers a tight 11.8m minimum turning circle – tighter than some of the truck’s rivals – which aids manoeuvrability. Disc brakes are fitted at the front while drums provide the rear stopping power.

Performance

Strong mid-range acceleration is a feature of the 180hp Fullback. While that is to be applauded, it is, however, accompanied by a harsh, intrusive engine note that makes you wish for a bit more sound insulation.

A user-friendly gear change allows you to get the best out of the vehicle, but the handling is not quite as sharp as that of some of the Fullback’s competitors. The truck has a tendency to wallow a little as you push it through bends and the unladen ride can be choppy. As with most pick-ups, though, the ride improves a lot when you load it up with a pile of 25kg bags of sand.

Fuel consumption is respectable for a truck of its weight and size. We achieved roughly 38mpg – below the officially quoted combined figure of 40.9mpg, but not disastrously so. However, always bear in mind that the official figures are only rough guides and do not reflect the real-life world of working commercial vehicles.

Off-road the good-looking Fullback is highly competent and its four-wheel drive system could not be easier to manage. All you have to do is rotate a knob between the front seats and you can switch from 4x4 to 4x2 and back again at speeds of up to 62mph.

Stick with the 2H setting and you are in rear-wheel drive. Opt for 4H and you revert to four-wheel drive. 4HLc provides 4x4 with the centre diff locked, while 4LLc adds a set of low-range ratios to the four-wheel drive menu.

Scattering sheep before us, we chugged across fields, along muddy, rutted, farm tracks, up and down embankments and forded a couple of streams. Nothing that we encountered prompted us to venture beyond 4HLc, and the Fullback coped with everything we came across without breaking sweat or getting anywhere close to stuck.

Ground clearance is 205mm and you can switch off the ESC if you wish prior to any off-road rambling.

Buying and running

At 12,000 miles/12 months, the service interval is on the short side, although it may be justified if the Fullback is having to tackle a lot of arduous work in the rough. The warranty arrangements are rather more encouraging, however.

The truck is covered for three years/120,000 miles, with no mileage limit for the first two years.  The paintwork warranty lasts for three years while the perforation corrosion warranty runs for eight years. Aside from how much discount you are offered, your choice of whether to opt for a Mitsubishi L200 or a Fullback will, we suspect, also be coloured by your view of the capabilities of the manufacturers’ dealer networks.

While Mitsubishi outlets have far more experience of purpose-built 4x4 pick-ups than Fiat Professional dealerships do, the latter are commercial vehicle specialists. Some of them open their workshops round the clock because they also hold Iveco and DAF heavy truck franchises, and hauliers insist on the availability of out-of-hours servicing.



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