ITALIAN BAKKIE IN SA:Fiat is taking on the South African bakkie market with its new single-cab workhorse and lifestyle-orientated double-cabs. Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker
Gauteng - Fiat has launched its first double-cab bakkie in South Africa with the hopes of gaining market share in the light commercial vehicle (LCV) segment.
It's called the Fullback, and in a country as fanatical about rugby as South Africa that's quite a bold choice of moniker. I drove Fiat's new Hilux, Ranger, BT-50, Amarok-challenger in Gauteng.
First shown at the 2015 Dubai auto show, the Fullback uses the same underpinnings as the new Mitsubishi Triton.
Three models are available from launch, offering something for everyone: there's the workhorse single-cab 2.4-litre petrol 4x2 and two double-cab models: powered by the same 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine.
Buyers can choose between a 4x2 and 4x4 model with a low-range transfer case and diff-lock. All models use a five-speed manual transmission.
It's solitary 2.4-litre petrol is capable of 97kW/202Nm.
The 2.5-litre turbodiesel is available in two power outputs: in the 4x2 model it produces 100kW/324Nm in 4x4 guise that power rises to 131kW/400Nm.
WATCH: Walk around of the 4x4 double cab:
What's it like to drive?
My time behind the wheel of the Fullback was limited to the 4x4 derivative, driving a few hundred metres on sand (the launch took place in a cement quarry) and then around 40km on tarred roads.
The engine needed to be run-in a bit more as the test car sported a ludicrous 80km on the odometer. The biggest problem was that the off-road tyres had been over-inflated resulting in a skittish ride.
Gallery: 2016 Fiat Fullback
The steering-wheel quivered in my hands like Zane Kirchner under a high ball. The positives? Well after my short stint behind the wheel, I thought the 2.5-litre engine performed admirably after I stretched its legs a bit.
What's it like inside?
Initial impressions are good, the cabin is well-laid out and ergonomically friendly. Dark hue plastics are used and a touch screen in the top of the range model is a nice to have.
The workhorse model has electric windows, manual aircon, 16" wheels and cloth seats.
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The lower-spec double cab derivative features an e-lock leather seats, cruise control, driver and passenger airbags, keyless entry and 17" wheels.
The flagship adds an e-locker rear axle, 17” wheels, xenon headlights, Bluetoot, USB port, auto air con, reversing camera and a tow hitch.
Single Cab 2.4 Petrol 4x2 - R232 900
Double cab 2.5 Diesel 4x2 LX - R402 900
Double cab 2.5 Diesel 131Kw 4x4 SX - R468 900
The Fullback is available with a standard three year or 100 000km warranty and a five year or 100 000km service plan.
Fiat will also offer a number of accessories from specialist Mopar. These include a front nudge bar, side steps, load body sports bar and rear bumper.
Will it make the 'squad'?
The Fullback might struggle to force its way into the minds of local buyers, simply because the public doesn't associate the Italian brand with double cab bakkies.
Fiat's dealer footprint is dwarfed by Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen in SA.
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The Fullback certainly offers a feature-laden bakkie with its top of the range model, the second transfer case lever is also a boon compared to an electronic 4x4 selector knobs.
However, the main protagonists in the bakkie market have mastered the balance between a lifestyle vehicle and an a genuine off-roader.
The Fullback's utilitarian bakkie underpinnings are perhaps more prominent than the competition. It's long-standing commitment to commercial vehicles definitely comes to the fore and that might sway a few price-conscious buyers.
WATCH: Walk around of the single cab 4x2: