A bakkie you should bet on

GAVIN MYERS drives the new top-spec Fiat Professional Fullback and comes away impressed by its well-rounded nature.

It’s hard to believe that the Fiat Professional Fullback has been on the market for two years already. However, in that time, it has not garnered the sales success enjoyed by many of its rivals – despite offering good value for money. Fiat has now added a new range-topper, with a new engine. Will it raise the Fullback’s appeal?

Fitted exclusively to the LX-spec model – with five-speed automatic transmission and 4×4 drivetrain – the new 2,4-litre turbodiesel engine produces a competitive 133 kW of power and 430 Nm torque from 2 500 r/min.

The drivetrain is lifted straight from the Fullback’s Mitsubishi Triton cousin, so it’s no surprise that, as in the Triton, the engine offers a smooth, sustained power delivery, while being quiet when at cruise. It’s a great improvement over the old 2,5-litre unit (which is still available in high- and low-output guises).

With this level of shove, the five-speed automatic transmission offers enough scope for most driving situations, keeping the engine humming in the torque band. A sixth gear for highway cruising wouldn’t go amiss, though.

For those who want to venture off road, the electronic Easy Select four-wheel-drive system offers a selection of high and low range with locking rear and centre diffs – so there shouldn’t be much this bakkie can’t handle.

Likewise, with a gross vehicle mass of 2 880 kg and payload of 1 030 kg, the Fullback’s rubber-lined 1,52-m long and 1,47-m wide load bed can be put to full use. It can also tow up to three tonnes.

To be honest, there is little to distinguish the 2,4-litre Fullback from lesser models in the range. It has the same simple-yet-handsome design with the same stylish 17-inch alloy wheels shod in 245/65 R17 rubber.

Likewise, the interior is little changed – with its light-grey lower panelling creating an airy feel within the cabin. All materials are of great quality, while the leather-covered seats and steering wheel are a treat.

Being the top-spec LX 4×4 version, features include electronic climate control, a reversing camera and Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights – in addition to the usual anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, hill hold, stability control and cruise control.

A touch-screen infotainment system is fitted, which, unlike the aftermarket version fitted to the SX unit we tested in 2016, doesn’t feature navigation. However, USB and Bluetooth connectivity is included.

The interior environment is, therefore, as comfortable as most of its rivals (as is the ride quality, which successfully straddles the line between workhorse tough and leisure-vehicle comfortable).

The Fullback 2.4 LX 4×4 Double Cab is priced competitively at R573 900. While some might view this to be expensive for a Fiat, it covers so many bases very well. It’s a well-rounded model – and there’s no reason it shouldn’t boost the Fullback’s sales performance.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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