If you think you don’t need a pick-up truck in your life, you’re very very wrong.
The last time I had a long-term test of a pick-up truck was in 1999. A double cab Toyota Hilux with double roof tents and a fridge freezer. 15,000 kilometres through Namibia, Botswana and South Africa over what I considered at the time to be pretty ‘out there’ in terms of adventuring. It was a tried and tested and Toyota had absolutely nothing to fear. They knew they were the market leaders in that field and not many people had the audacity to think they had a credible answer to this beast.
Roll forwards 20 years and the world is a different place.
The ‘pick-up’ is now the one-quiver workhorse of many a farmer, builder, event manager and property developer.
This winter, James and I have a monster pick-up on loan. Our job? – to test this beast and see if it really is suitable as a a snowmad’s sports utility vehicle. This is part 1 in a series of blogs where we will test this monster IRL (as the kids say) and see what it’s got to offer.
Enter the imposters
When any new car enters the market everyone has an opinion about whether it has a place there – should Aston Martin build a city car? Should SEAT have an SUV in their range? And who the heck are FIAT to be peddling a pick-up truck???
Well – not stupid is what they are. Trucks have seen a huge surge in popularity, not least of all because they’re a neat tax swizz – officially a commercial vehicle but with the luxury interior of an upmarket SUV and the parkability of a Chelsea Tractor. So to all intents and purposes, a FIAT pickup truck is a pretty smart addition to their FIAT Professional range – the question is… does it stand up as a sporting vehicle?
We got our hands on this truck for a long-term test – not to see how if faired as a hod carrier or as a tow-truck for Princess Palomino the dressage pony, but whether in our lives as sporting, outdoors, uphill, downhill, all terrain overlanders, it has a place.
We need to caveat this entire post by saying that we’re Fiat fans. Why? Because FIAT are our Rudyard Kipling tools.
‘If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs’….
This is what Fiats are to us. If you have followed our winter motorhome adventures for the last year you will know that absolutely everything on our van failed – apart from the chassis. A 2017 FIAT Ducato. In -26˚C at 2600m, it started first time, every time. It made our adventure possible, coupled with our Falken winter tyres it made short work of the hundreds of mountain switch backs we negotiated over 6 months – imagine – it made this look so easy so what is this 4WD jacked up and country pick-up capable of?
I used to work at Volkswagen Group and if there’s one thing I learned there it’s that if you make something mint, stick another coat on it, sprinkle it with a brand identity and you’ve got yourself a winner. Without the development costs.
This is what FIAT have done with the Fullback range and there shouldn’t be a single person who even considers criticising this decision… “it’s just a Mitsubishi L200 with a FIAT badge” we hear those farmers and brickie’s lament. Yes, it is – and it’s cheaper and it looks smarter and it feels well, more like the kind of thing you’d take on a winter sporting adventure than a Mitsubishi.
Each winter, James and I head off into the mountains – and have kind of developed a reputation for punishing any equipment we have. Sometimes this means testing it to destruction. If FIAT are reading this – be assured, your Fullback is still in one shiny piece!
Our objective – testing the FIAT Fullback Cross
This winter we’ve had a few goals and the FIAT Fullback seemed like the tool for the job. More winter aire and mountain reviews; more high altitude mountain passes; more switchbacks; more compact ice and snow; more snow sports; more kit; more testing equipment; and more mileage.
This season looked a bit different for us. Based on a homestead in a place affectionately known as ‘Le Savage’ in the Midi Pyrenees (France), we needed something a bit game to get about these badlands.
Here are the three standout stories of daring-do this beast has given us to dine out on so far.
Last year – the kit we took totalled somewhere in the region of 400kg and fit tidily into a plastic box of 52.5 sqaure metres. That’s bigger than many London apartments.
Remove the snow shovel and the generator and we’ve brought pretty much the same kit this time around – and somehow managed to squeeze it into a pick-up bed and the back seats. We spent a good 6 hours on the journey south through France trying to fathom this feat, listing all the luggage we’d loaded but, in the end, resolved to just put it down to some sort of Italian magic.
Mme Gaston and The Marigold Incident
We tested the 4WD at Avon Dassett Country Park – just to see how all the buttons worked and what kind of performance we could expect if we found ourselves in a fix in some extreme overlanding incident. Needless to say, our first requirement for the full capabilities of this off-road beast was not a Dakar Rally-esque moment, but to get back on a road that we unceremoniously slipped off at 45˚… annihilating Mme Gaston’s prize winning marigold collection.
Much to our shame, we were encouraged to keep this incident secret, allowing the fuming (and somewhat devastated septuagenarian) to believe that it was the crime of an anonymous (and spineless) delivery driver. Still – remarkable that the Fullback made such swift work of the extraction – even before the village busy-body managed to make sense of the situation!
Like a ‘members only’ sign outside a swanky Soho establishment, there’s something very satisfying about seeing a road sign the prohibits all but the most capable of vehicles. The mountain pass from the Biros Valley over to Seix crosses one of the highest passes in the Ariège region, affords spectacular views from the saddle and has just one such sign ‘ROUTE BARRÉE’ with small print that reads… ‘accessible en 4×4 seulement’.
WOOHOOOOOOOO! I think perhaps the only way this road would be more fun is if you were on some sort of luge with all the jeopardy of careering off the side at any point. However, the Fullback Cross sauntered up this mountain pass as if it were a Sunday stroll around a National Trust garden. Quite unremarkable effort for the FIAT but made what would otherwise have been a white knuckle ride for me (who is growing increasingly uncomfortable with cliff edged roads and scenic chasms), pretty enjoyable!
Fiat Fullback Cross – The verdict so far: All purpose mountain beast.
Next time we’ll be looking at some of the more practical features of the FIAT Fullback Cross through the eyes of snowmads.