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Tow Vehicle: Fiat Fullback

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We all know that Italians have an incredible flare for design, from shoes to very fast, exotic motor vehicles, and even high performance aeroplanes – but how seriously would you take a one-ton bakkie made by Fiat Professional?

The Fiat Fullback double cab certainly looks stylish and it comes with a 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine. But it has a problem: Its towing capacity.

You see, underneath that sloping bonnet, behind the sleek headlights and Fiat Fullback badge, lies “the heart and soul” of an aging Mitsubishi Triton bakkie…

It’s complete with the previous generation Mitsubishi 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine, 5-speed manual gearbox, and the chassis mechanicals. Fact is, it represents a classic case of badge engineering.

Now, there is nothing really wrong with old technology; some might say older is stronger, more durable, and in the case of the Fullback’s old engine, the benefit would be that it can sip away all day on a rubber pipe from its fuel tank and simply “burp” the after-effects of low grade diesel… and all without missing too much of a beat.

The sad news for anyone wishing to tow with the Fiat Fullback is the fact that it is homologated to Italian specification, one which limits it to a low, factoryapproved towing capacity of only 1 405kg with a braked trailer!

We are told that the official factory maximum towing specification for a braked trailer in Thailand – where this vehicle originates – is 3 500kg. And, when applying this to the Mitsubishi Triton, they specify 1 500kg as the maximum factory-approved towing capacity. Splitting hairs… but why the 95kg difference? We took this matter up with Fiat SA, and while they were scrolling to find an answer our question, we had only a week to get on with our tow test.

A quick comparison

A little further perspective: Market-leader Toyota’s 2.7-litre double cab produces less power and torque than the Fullback, but is rated to tow up to 2 500kg – and it’s a cheaper vehicle.

Ford’s new Ranger 2.2-litre XLS 6-speed auto is rated at 3 500kg maximum towing capacity and it’s a really, really nice vehicle.

So, when you think Fiat Fullback, don’t get blindsided. It plays not with the Springboks, Super 12 or the Curry Cup team, but rather with Pofadder’s C team!

Suitable towing weight

And so, we had to settle on the lightest caravan in the Sprite Tourer range, the 1 370 kg GVM Tourer SP.

And here is the conundrum: The Fiat Fullback is not a poor towing vehicle by any means, it does what you ask of it, and it does it as expected. The oldtechnology diesel engine is “tractorish” in noise levels and – yes – it may be a little slow off the mark (due to turbo lag) in getting the revs up. But it will propel this combination along at an indicated140 km/h plus. For a vehicle to do this shows willing performance, and it will do this with stability and comfort equal to that of the better bakkies.


Fiat Fullback Images


The million-dollar question therefore must be: Would exceeding its towing capacity have any effect on this vehicle’s durability?

Performance

The Fullback’s suspension could be hard when not towing, as is expected from a double cab 4×4, and the gearbox was notchy between selecting reverse and forward gears… but it does the job!

Towball height with the caravan was 475mm, making the caravan a level tow; a good starting point as you won’t need a drop plate.

Acceleration from standstill to 100 took 20.62 seconds, which is fast enough; and there was the mandatory turbo lag as the engine got up to 2 000rpm and produced its healthy 400Nm of torque. At 4000rpm it produces 131kW of power.

The top towing speed was 140km/h over our kilometre dash, which in hindsight is better than some biggerengined cars. This indicates the combinations? ability to cruise happily at the maximum speed limits with performance to spare on the hills, although it was on the hill climb that it was a little slower than average.

Stability felt on par with other bakkies, and so did the braking ability.

With a towing fuel-consumption of 15,5 l/100 km, I really don’t feel that the Fiat Fullback was towing out of its class and could take more of a challenge.

Verdict

The Fiat Fullback’s only disappointment is its towing limit – and that limit is most caravans. If you have a trailer, or one of the smaller, lighter, folding caravans, you won’t be disappointed. As a vehicle it does the job, it’s reasonably economical, comfortable, has the bells and whistles, and is ideal for the outdoors family.

But if Fiat wants to play with the big boys, they will need to review the towing limit, because it is not a bad bakkie at all.

Pricing

The Fiat Fullback is priced at R468 900, which is R20 000 cheaper than the Triton, at R484 900. For the R20 000, I’d rather go for the Triton, which has a 95kg maximum towing capacity advantage.

 

Specifications and Information

Specifications

Engine capacity: 2 477cm3

Tare: 1 865kg

Ground Clearance: 205mm

Max Towing mass unbraked: 650kg

Max towing mass braked: 1 405kg

Tyre pressures for towing: Front 2.2 kpa | Rear 2.4 kpa

Torque Nm: 400Nm @ 2500 rpm

Power: 131kW @ 4 000 rpm

Gearbox: manual 5-speed

Most comfortable gear when towing: 100km/h: 4th-5th gear | 120km/h: 5th gear

Practicality

Interior space: 3/5

Seat comfort: 4/5

Trailer stability programme: not available

Accessibility to caravan’s electric socket: 3/5

Side mirrors: 3/5

Towing Acceleration

0 to 60 km/h: 8.91 secs

0 to 80 km/h: 14.32 secs

0 to 100 km/h: 20.62secs

Overtaking performance: 80 to 100 km/h – 8.2 secs in 4th gear

Hill climb: 1 minute 51.05 seconds over 2km climb

Fuel Consumption

Size of tank: 75 litres

Consumption when towing: 15.6 l/100 km

Probable range: 480 km

Gearbox: manual 5-speed

Most comfortable gear when towing: 100km/h: 4th-5th gear | 120km/h: 5th gear

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