Vehicle Comparisons

Fiat Fullback

Fiat Fullback

Fiat wants a slice of the growing UK pick-up market, so has borrowed Mitsubishi technology to create the Fiat Fullback pick-up.

Fiat brings us its first best pick-up truck to the competition, the Fiat Fullback. You've seen the engineering before, but the value proposition makes a lot of sense. Plus it's great off road and, if you tow, this vehicle is up with the very best in the amount it'll be able to lug about.

Under the bonnet, the 2.4-litre Mitsubishi engine gives the Fiat Fullback decent pulling power. With 178bhp and 430Nm of torque on-tap, the 0-62mph time takes a very un-pick-up-like 10.4s. As you'd expect, the Fiat Fullback pick-up can be driven in either 2WD or 4WD on tarmac or off road. The entry-level 150hp Fullback SX features an on-demand four-wheel drive system with three electrically-selected settings: 2H, 4H and 4L, while the LX has four electrically-controlled settings: 2H, 4H plus 4HLc and 4LLC with a locking central differential. The vehicle can also tow up to 4.1 tonnes. And there's a segment-leadingly tight turning circle too.

Thanks to the stiff chassis, handling is better than you might expect it would be from this class of vehicle and body roll, usually something of a problem in vehicles with higher centres of gravity, is usually kept in check, unless you're really pushing on. The suspension set-up includes a larger stabiliser bar, stiff front springs and carefully-chosen damping settings, which allow the Fullback to handle and ride with reasonable comfort and agility.

There might not have been much change in the engineering of their Fiat Fullback pick-up, but its stylists have tried to give the vehicle more of its own character when it comes to the exterior look and feel. Distinctive swage lines along the flanks along with the sweeping shape of the front and rear lamps help fully integrate the load bed as part of the vehicle's overall design. Detailing is tasteful and restrained (for a pick-up) with two strips of satin silver trim used to frame the front grille on the entry-level SX, while LX versions also have a subtle satin silver trim around sump protector, as well as chrome-finished door mirrors, door handles and side steps. Smart 16-inch alloy wheels are standard on the SX while the profile of the LX model is enhanced with 17-inch alloy wheels and substantial, body-coloured wheel arch protectors.

Inside, there's a, two-tone black-and-silver dashboard, plus supportive and comfortable seats and decent rear passenger room. The Fiat Fullback only comes in the Doublecab format most UK buyers will want. Take a seat in the back and of course, it's nothing like as comfortable as it is in the front, but a six-foot adult can easily sit behind a similarly-sized driver, though the low seating position does mean that they have to bunch their knees up a bit.

At the business end of the Fiat Fullback, you're faced with a cargo bed 475mm deep and 1,470mm in both length and width. In this area, you'd be able to take a payload of up to 1,045kg. Most rivals can better these figures but that, according to Fiat, doesn't tell the whole story. The brand points out that the stat that really matters to many operators is the one for combined carrying and towing capacity, an area in which this Fullback performs impressively. Combine the cargo area capacity with this model's prodigious braked towing capability of up to 3,100kg and you'll be able to lug up to 4,090kg - that's 77kgs more than an Isuzu D-Max and around 230kgs more than a Toyota HiLux or a Volkswagen Amarok.

As for the running costs of a Fiat Fullback, well expect the combined cycle economy figure will be somewhere between 39mpg and 44mpg, depending on the variant you choose. The brand reckons this means that your Fullback will be able to travel up to 685 miles on a single tank, which gives it one of the longest ranges in its class.

OK, so the Fiat Fullback isn't very Italian. In fact, it isn't even very Fiat. But who cares? It's a strong contender to be in the best pick-up trucks category. How could it not be, based on the impressively complete Mitsubishi L200 Series 5?

We think the Fiat Fullback is better looking than the L200. And it's certainly extremely well equipped, plus it's backed by the impressive resources of the Fiat Professional LCV dealer network. A strong contender then. If you're shopping in this segment, we think you might like it.

Click here to find out more about our Fiat Fullback range
Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger

The much improved Ford Ranger pick-up is far more efficient, as well as being smarter and very media-savvy. Plus it's still tough and decent to drive for a vehicle of this kind.

Ford's improved Ranger really has gone large in its appeal as a competitive proposition as one of the best pick-up trucks. It's against tough rivals in the pick-up van segment. The idea is to tempt everyone from builders to surf-boarding, mountain-biking families with what is now a very complete product indeed.

There aren't many pick-ups developed first and foremost to prioritise driving dynamics, but this is one of them. So what's the Ford Ranger like? Well, really, it depends upon your expectations. Does it ride and handle like a Discovery? Well of course it doesn't. A Discovery isn't built to take a 1.3-tonne payload. But does it set handling standards for the pick-up segment? Very definitely yes, more agile, stable, precise and comfortable than any vehicle of its kind we've seen to date. There's decent steering feel for a pick-up too, despite the introduction of electrical assistance for the helm of this revised model.

Under the bonnet, most Ford Ranger pick-up models will be sold with the 160PS 2.2-litre four cylinder TDCi turbo diesel that Ford uses in its passenger car line-up. For really effortless towing though, you'll need the flagship Ranger engine, a purpose-designed 3.2-litre five cylinder TDCi diesel with 200PS on tap and 470NM of torque, most of which you can access from as low in the rev range as 1,750rpm.

Of course, if you're a typical Ford Ranger owner, you'll want to be putting its all-terrain capability to the test on a pretty regular basis. Which is why, though there's a two-wheel drive entry-level model for those that want it, most of the range is built around 4WD variants. As usual with vehicles of this type, this one runs in 2WD unless you rotate this controller to its '4H' '4x4 High' setting, something that can be done on the move. That'll be fine for slippery tarmac and grassy fields, but for anything more serious than that, you'll want to switch further into the '4L' '4x4 Low range' mode that'll give you a seriously go-anywhere set of off road ratios.

Almost the only global market in which you won't find the Ford Ranger pick-up is that of the US. Apparently, it's not big enough. Seems pretty large to us, nearly five and a half metres long and with a bulk quite intimidating enough to frighten away fast lane dawdlers. This revised version gets a smarter look with a more aggressive front end featuring a bold traezoidal front grille.

And inside? Well, if you go for the four-door Double Cab, there's plenty of space in the back: two six-footers can certainly sit one behind the other with ease. Under the rear seat, you've hidden storage bins to keep tools and valuables away from prying eyes. Or, if the rear bench isn't in use, you can fold down the backrest for packages you may not want to consign to the rear loadbay.

And up-front? Well, you climb up high to perch behind the wheel of all of the best pick-up trucks and the Ford Ranger is no exception, with an airy, commanding cab offering great all-round visibility and class-leading front seat headroom. The instrument cluster with its central LED display was apparently inspired by the design of a G-Shock watch, precision workings protected by a robust casing. And plusher models get an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen on the dash, via which owners can use the latest 'SYNC 2' media connectivity system that Ford now offers in this vehicle.

You can't deny that this revised Ford Ranger is a thoroughly engineered product. But is it the first Ford pick-up to truly approach sitting at the best pick-up trucks table? We think it might be. It's safe, spacious, clever, able to carry large loads and, in four cylinder guise, finally has an engine efficient enough to match or beat the competition. Whether the need is for active family weekends, or simply to carry workmates with their kit and tools, this rugged do-almost-anything automotive swiss army knife seems to have it covered.

From the back streets of Bangkok to the logging trails of Liberia, you'll find Ford Ranger pick-ups earning their keep, but the key thing here isn't really this product's ruggedness: this Ford was always tough to break. It's the driving dynamics on offer. Maybe these aren't as car-like as the Blue Oval would like us to think, but they're very good for a vehicle of this kind, aided by technology that'll see Japanese competitors having to play catch-up. When it all comes down to it, the right tool can make child's play of men's work. And if you're looking for one of the contenders for best pick-up vans in the pick-up sector right now, then this is the right tool. Job done.

Click here to find out more about our Ford Ranger range
Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen Amarok

The latest version of the Volkswagen Amarok cause to be in among the best pick-up trucks on the road is aided by the addition of a freshly developed six cylinder engine range.

Oriental models have for too long held sway in the UK pick-up truck market, a state of affairs that Volkswagen set out to change when they launched this off-road load-lugger in 2011. Big, economical and very capable, Volkswagen Amarok was designed to give the Japanese contingent a few sleepless nights but originally boasted a 2.0-litre diesel line-up in a class where rivals had 2.5 or 3.0-litre units. Hence the development of an all-new six cylinder 3.0-litre TDI unit for this latest version claiming an effective mixture of power and efficiency. The result should be one of the best pick-up vans indeed.

A tough ladder-framed chassis and a solid, leaf-sprung rear axle necessary to carry heavy loads offer the inevitably utilitarian feel. Within the confines of this approach though, the Wolfsburg engineers have actually done a very good job in making this VW Amarok as car-like as it reasonably could be. The introduction of 3.0-litre V6 TDI power means that there's nothing wrong with the performance now on offer, this unit available in three guises offering either 163, 204 or 224PS. The pokiest unit develops 550Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm, that's 130Nm more than the previous model could manage.

UK customers can choose from selectable (with manual gearbox) and permanent (with auto) 4MOTION four-wheel drive. An optional mechanical rear-axle differential lock is also available for demanding off-road use. On the road, the improved Volkswagen Amarok should feel sharper to drive courtesy of a new Servotronic steering system. Plus new 17-inch brake discs on the front axle and 16-inch discs at the rear ensure that this pickup always comes to a stop quickly and safely.

As before, with a length of 5.25 metres and a width of 2.23 metres, the VW Amarok is a substantial thing. To reflect the changes made beneath the bonnet, Volkswagen's stylists have tried to give this improved version a more athletic-looking front end. As before, the chunky shape appears solidly planted to the ground with cleanly sculpted bonnet curves and a large Volkswagen emblem and grille, with clear horizontal lines linking them together across the front of the vehicle.

Inside, there's a completely re-styled dashboard. Together with new ergonomic seats, these features aim to lend the vehicle a more sophisticated appearance. As before, there's neat switchgear, clearly defined instruments, a lovely three-spoke reach and rake-adjustable steering wheel and soft-touch plastics lifted straight from Volkswagen passenger cars. Driving a VW Amarok is rather like being in a Golf on stilts and it'll be rather surreal if you come to this vehicle straight from an older pick-up rival. It's practical too, with lots of storage, including large bins in all the doors which can hold a 1.5-litre bottle in front and a 1.0-litre bottle in the rear. There's also a lidded bin, a lockable glovebox, a compartment for your sunglasses, two cupholders between the front seats and under-front-seat drawers on most models.

In the rear, the extra width of the VW Amarok pick-up makes it easier to accommodate three adults if need be - though two will obviously be more comfortable. All will get proper three-point seatbelts and most trim levels include rear cupholders for their use. If the rear bench isn't in use and you need more storage room, you can tip the backrest forward to free up extra loadspace.

Users driving even the best pick-up trucks aren't necessarily expecting their vehicles to be advanced, car-like and fuel efficient. But most would be very pleased if they were. These are people who should get themselves behind the wheel of this improved 3.0-litre V6 TDI Amarok. You do have nagging worries in the plush, car-like cabin as to whether this vehicle really is going to prove as tough and durable as its Asian rivals in the long term. But these are concerns your Volkswagen Van Centre will be quick to play down, pointing to this vehicle's development in the Patagonian wilderness and its use on the testing Paris-Dakar rally.

This aside, the only issues are those common to all pick-ups, essentially based around a utilitarian on-tarmac feel. And this is less of an issue with a VW Amarok than with any other rival model. Limited UK numbers mean that this Volkswagen isn't going to threaten its Oriental rivals' market dominance too much, but in terms of product excellence, it certainly should give them plenty to think about. At last, we Europeans have given the Far East something it can learn from.

Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen Amarok range