NOT A BAD BAKKIE: Fiat's latest attempt at entering the bakkie market shouldn't be underestimated. The Fullback is worth a shot. Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post
Cape Town - Fiat has launched a new bakkie, the Fullback earlier in 2016, with the hopes of taking on pick-up stalwarts such as the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Isuzu KB.
Though there hasn't been much of a big whoo-haa made about it, at least in terms of sales, given enough time, the Fullback definitely has the potential to make for a great alternative choice in SA's fiercely-contested bakkie market.
Wheels24's Janine Van der Post finds out 5 things you should know about the new Fullback bakkie:
1. It's a good-looking bakkie
Since it first appeared in concept guise, petrolheads said the Fullback is just a Mitsubishi Triton with a Fiat badge. The fact that it looked very similar in pictures didn't have me excited to get behind the wheel.
When the Fullback arrived at our office on test, I was pleasantly surprised that it had its own styling characteristics, albeit being able to see the family resemblance.
READ: Fiat adds Fullback bakkie to starting line-up in SA
2. Loads of space
The first thing you notice when entering the Fullback, is how absolutely spacious it is. The cabin is roomy, there's enough elbow room so your arms don't knock against the doors while you're driving and rear passengers are spoiled with ample head- and legroom.
The black leather seats are incredibly soft and comfortable, and materials are durable. I also love all the storage compartments in the doors, seat pockets and so forth.
Gallery: 2016 Fiat Fullback
3. Always ready to work
The Fullback is supposed to be an ode to the incredibly tough sport of rugby, hence the name. I'm often on the rugby field, watching my husband take some heavy-duty scrums and coming home wounded after the battle of the field.
Earlier in 2016, we were in a car crash where I was left battered and bruised but he walked away without a bump from the impact on the passenger side of the car. When I asked the doctor to explain that, he looked a my husband and asked: "Do you play rugby? So explain to your wife that your body is used to the impact."
Review: Fiat Fullback Professional 4x2 Double Cab
When the Fullback arrived, I asked my rugby-playing husband to explain a fullback's role in a squad. According to him, a fullback is the most important player on the field. Someone that can take the weight on his shoulders when the team is under pressure; the one with the best view and to see where the gaps are to take opportunities. When choosing a fullback, you have to be very discerning since he's the one who has one of the most critical jobs on the team; he's the one that's "always busy doing the work", always communicating, identifying gaps in the defense.
The bakkie's load bay is rubberised and came in very handy as we were in the process of moving house and there were endless loose ends to transport. One day I picked up some heavy rails and loads of boxes, yet it was nothing but a joke for this chap. It was so easy to load and move around.
4. Step in, step out, step not!
It's always useful when large vehicles have side steps or rails, especially for the vertically challenged.
The problem, and one of the two big gripes I had with this vehicle, is the size and placement of the steps. They're too close to the body of the vehicle so more than once I almost fell out of the bakkie as my foot would slip off the rail. It's slippery and if you don't plant your foot on the small area you're headed for a nose-dive into the concrete. It's especially difficult when you're trying to get in and out of the bakkie with a small child.
5. That alarm! Please make it stop
Vehicle alarms are supposed to be noisy and serve to notify if anyone attempts to break into your car. Alarms also warn if the kids, are trying to "borrow" your car without your permission. As a crime-deterrent, car alarms are a blessing.
The unit fitted to the Fullback is however incredibly overzealous with regards to beeps when locking/unlocking the bakkie. That isn't really such a bad thing, but when you have to leave home at 5am or earlier, and have to pack your car, your neighbours are not going to appreciate the alarm.
The FullBack is a great vehicle though and I genuinely think it's a good alternative if you want something cheaper than a Toyota Hilux, although Ford's Ranger pricing is very competitive too. So this is probably for the buyer who wants something different to the norm. Fiat's base model starts off from R199 995 while the 4x2 double cab I drove with fog lights, leather seats, cruise control comes in at R359 900. The rubberised loadbox and tow bow are all standard too. It also has a third brake light above the tailgate's handle.
It drives very comfortably for a bakkie and feels as if you're behind the wheel of a comfortable SUV. Gears are easy to change, and there isn't too much turbolag. It also comes with some proper Mickey Thompson tyres good for grip and road holding. The Fullback has a 30 degree approach angle, 22 degree departure angle and a 24 degree ramp-over angle. Off-road is pleasant too, gravel roads a charm and it feels at home on rugged terrain.
The Fullback might not look as menacing as the rest of the big boys, but it definitely warrants being given a chance. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
Images: Janine Van der Post