What is it?
Not too long ago, pickup trucks were a bit of an odd choice in the UK. While our cousins across the pond couldn't get enough of them, we were much bigger fans of the drier and more secure cargo hold of the good old van.
But these days, the pickup is becoming more and more popular, helped by exceedingly tempting tax rates for company car drivers and the kind of outdoorsy image these trucks give. That’s where the Fiat Fullback Cross steps in, as a high-spec version of the regular Fullback with a bit more visual clout.
The additional attitude is generated by fancy 17in wheels, an aggressive new front grille, a ‘sports bar’ for the load bed and side steps all painted in a moody black. You also get black mirrors, door handles and wheel arch extensions, while a silver skidplate-effect bumper adds a little contrast.
To give a little substance, you also get a soft-opening tailgate, a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system and a locking rear differential. The rest of the kit list is identical to the well-equipped Fullback LX. That means the only engine available is a 2.4-litre turbodiesel with 178bhp, although you do get the choice of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox.
What's it like?
If you’ve driven a lesser Fullback or the mechanically identical Mitsubishi L200, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. That four-pot diesel can certainly get the Fullback Cross down the road at a reasonable pace, even with the performance-sapping slushbox fitted.
It doesn’t take too many revs to get a decent enough slug of power, and that’s handy, because this is an old-school oil burner that gets very vocal as engine speeds increase. Still, most other trucks out there aren’t exactly refined either, and this does quieten down nicely at a cruise. There’s a fair bit of wind and road noise as well, but barn door aerodynamics and chunky off-road tyres will do that.
The Fullback Cross's slightly agricultural feel continues with its ride. A live rear axle, leaf springs and not much weight over the tail mean progress can become pretty bouncy. You’ll also feel the chassis flex beneath you over bigger bumps and there’s plenty of fidget over tatty Tarmac.
Pitch the truck into a corner and you’ll find steering that is slow and uncommunicative. Even so, it’s still more precise than the Toyota Hilux and is easy enough to get used to. Once the Fullback Cross is turned in, there’s a fair bit of body roll and a modest amount of grip. Get on the power too hard and you’ll have the traction control clumsily stepping in, especially in the wet. You can turn it off, but then the unloaded rear end can try to overtake the nose if you’re not careful.