First drive: Fiat's Fullback Cross is all work and play

By Ryan Hirons

What is it?
When hearing the words fashion and lifestyle, what springs to mind first?

Italy might, but surely not a pick-up truck? Well, Fiat is hoping to change that — introducing the Fullback Cross.

The Thai-built, Mitsubishi L200-based commercial vehicle has received some fettling by the Italians to give it more appeal for lifestyle consumers.

(Fiat)

What’s new?
As hard as Fiat may try to pitch the Cross as a distinctive model — in reality, it’s just a trim level of the Fullback.

That’s not to say it doesn’t add a new dimension to the line-up, though.

With the Italians positioning it as a do-it-all vehicle, it comes with a host of aesthetic tweaks for a rugged look — as well as a new Torsen differential, allowing the truck to switch between several drivetrain modes.

(Fiat)

What’s under the bonnet?
The Cross retains the 2.4-litre diesel engine from the Fullback LX models – meaning 178bhp and 430Nm of torque, capable of taking the pick-up from 0-60mph in 11.6 seconds and up to a top speed of 111mph. Fuel economy is a claimed 37.7mpg combined with CO2 emissions coming in at 196g/km.

The engine pulls very well thanks to the high torque output, but it does run out of steam quite early in the rev-band, puffing out around 5,000rpm.

Our test car featured a five-speed automatic transmission, although a six-speed manual is also available. The automatic gearbox works pretty well, utilising the 2.4-litre diesel’s power effectively — although on some particularly steep inclines, it struggled to find the right gear for the task.


What’s it like to drive?
Considering the size of the Fullback Cross, it’s amazing how light the steering is. Sure, this makes more open-road driving something of a disconnected task, but around town it was surprisingly easy to manoeuvre about — we suspect this will come in handy when using the Cross as a workhorse.

It rides pretty well, too. We experienced some rather run-down Italian roads during our drive and felt very few of the uneven surfaces transferred to the cabin, nor was it overly soft when things got smoother.

However, this doesn’t make it a city-friendly vehicle — it is a pick-up truck after all. Huge dimensions and poor all-round visibility would make difficult to use as an urban runabout; however, it does come with a reverse parking camera to aid that slightly.

We did have a quick go using the new Torsen differentials settings, too. Most of our driving was done in 2WD mode, but a brief stint with 4WD enabled added a whole heap of traction on some slippery country lanes and seemed more than capable of dealing with everyday weather, albeit with the tradeoff of feeling more sluggish.

(Fiat)

How does it look?
The Fullback Cross takes the honest worker-appearance of the standard truck and adds a whole host of ruggedness.

Standard aesthetic additions to the Cross include a host of matte black details, including the ‘sports bar’ on the back of the vehicle, 17-inch alloys, the front grille and the side-entry steps.

It’s a seriously cool and stand-out looking thing — which we would suspect most pick-up drivers would want, as you’re never going to fly under the radar in something this size.

(Fiat)

What’s it like inside?
For something geared towards ‘lifestyle’, the Cross has a pretty weak interior. Aside from standard heated leather seats (which are also available on LX models), the cabin is full of hard, scratchy plastics.

This would be fine in a workhorse, but as this is aimed at those looking for a lifestyle machine, we would’ve like to have seen some plusher materials used.

You should expect practicality with a pick-up, and you won’t be disappointed with the Fullback Cross. There’s more than enough space inside the cabin for five full-sized adults, although the front passenger seat did feel a touch cramped with a close dashboard and transmission tunnel creating a cocooned feeling.

As for carrying loads, the Fullback Cross can haul up to 990kg of cargo and is capable of towing up to 3,100kg — not so different from its main rivals, such as the Toyota Hilux, which can carry 1,060kg but is only capable of towing 2,250kg, and the Nissan Navara which hauls up to 1,110kg and tows up to 2,600kg.

(Fiat)

What’s the spec like?
The Fullback Cross comes with a fair amount of equipment as standard — including bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual automatic climate control, cruise control, leather seats and steering wheel, a seven-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth.

As mentioned earlier, we would’ve preferred to see plusher materials available in the cabin considering the ‘lifestyle’ approach to the Cross.

The infotainment system seems in dire need of an update, too. Although it works reasonably well for navigation, it relies heavily on traditional button controls and the touchscreen had the response more akin to that on the original 2005 Nintendo DS, rather than an up-to-date system.

(Fiat)

Verdict
If you’re a manual worker by trade but also need something to compliment your adventurous lifestyle, the Fiat Fullback Cross is a cracking choice to make.

The ability the Italian pick-up has to handle everyday situations with ease is remarkable for something of its size, and the added aesthetic tweaks to differentiate it from the more workhorse-focused standard Fullback really do the trick — but do remember it’s no city car.

It’s just a shame the interior reminds us all too much of the Cross’ roots, and it really could benefit from a newer, more capable infotainment system.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Fiat Fullback Cross
Price as tested: £26,495 (excluding VAT), £32,863 (with VAT)
Engine: 2.4-litre diesel
Power (bhp): 178
Torque (Nm): 430
Max speed (mph): 111
0-60mph: 11.6 seconds
MPG (combined): 37.7
Emissions (g/km): 196

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