Vehicle test – the new Mitsubishi Fuso Canter

Published:  31 May, 2012

With an eye on the needs of local authorities, fire brigades and construction companies, Fuso has expanded its 3.5-to-7.5-tonne Canter truck range with the addition of a high-ground-clearance 4x4 model. Steve Banner travelled to Germany to put the new range through its paces.

Like Mercedes-Benz, Mistubishi Fuso Canter is part of the Daimler group and its vehicles are distributed through Mercedes van and truck dealerships in the UK.

A 6.5-tonner launched at the Amsterdam Commercial Vehicle Show in the Netherlands earlier this year, the 4x4 is produced in both single-cab two-door three-seater and crew-cab four-door seven-seater guise.

The former is known as the 6C18, the latter as the 6C18D. Both versions are built on chassis with either a 3,415mm or a 3,865mm wheelbase, although the double-cab is unfortunately not available in right-hand-drive on the longer wheelbase. Both cabs are 2.0m wide.

Power comes courtesy of a 3.0-litre turbocharged and intercooled common rail direct fuel injection 16-valve four-cylinder diesel. Maximum power output is 175hp at 3,500rpm while maximum torque is 430Nm delivered across a 1,600rpm-to-2,900rpm plateau.

A combination of selective catalytic reduction – which means periodic doses of AdBlue fed from a 12-litre onboard tank – exhaust gas recirculation plus a particulate filter are used to ensure the engine meets the mandatory Euro 5 exhaust emission regulations. Canter 4x4 meets EEV – Enhanced Environmentally friendly Vehicle – requirements too.

Controls

Given that local authority vehicles tend to be used on short trips, the particulate filter may not always regenerate automatically because the system may not get hot enough. A display tells the driver when manual regeneration is required however: all he or she needs to do is press a button.

A five-speed manual gearbox is fitted and four-wheel-drive is selectable using a switch in the cab. Somewhat surprisingly, the freewheeling front hubs have to be locked and unlocked manually – potentially an awkward task if they are clogged with mud – but it is not essential to unlock them if you wish to revert to 4x2 mode.

Leave them locked and run Canter as a 4x2, however, and your fuel economy will worsen by 5%, warns Fuso.

A Canter 4x4 with a dual-clutch Duonic gearbox – the first of its type to be installed in a truck – that can be used in either manual or automatic guise is already available in Japan and may eventually be offered here.

A rear differential lock is fitted as standard, and there is no centre or front diff lock: an indication that the Canter is not designed for really arduous off-road activities that might be better tackled by a Unimog.

Under-axle ground clearance is 210mm at the front and 185mm at the back, with a between-axle clearance of 320mm. The approach and departure angles are 35 degrees and 25 degrees respectively.

The turning circle is 13.5m kerb-to-kerb and 14.9m wall-to-wall if you opt for the short-wheelbase rising to 15.1m and 16.5m respectively if you select the long-wheelbase.

Start/Stop can be specified which prevents the engine idling in traffic jams and at the lights, wasting fuel and increasing CO2 emissions. Other extra-cost options include a mechanically-sprung driver's seat and two different factory-fitted power take-offs, either with or without a flange.

Power output is 31kW and Canter can be ordered ex-works with an external power take-off rpm controller. It can also be specified with a voltage converter that allows its 12v electrical system to be connected to a 24v interface.

Payload capacity ranges from 3,500kg to 3,735kg depending on the model selected and Canter 4x4 is capable of hauling a braked trailer grossing at 3.5 tonnes. Less prone to becoming clogged by mud and grit than discs, drum brakes are fitted all round and ABS is a standard feature.

While all of the basics are provided for, Canter's cab is at heart a no-frills working environment, albeit one that is available with air-conditioning. Two big stowage compartments can be found beneath the double-cab's rear bench seat, and while all four of its occupants are protected by headrests, only the outboard passengers are held in place by lap-and-diagonal belts. The two in the middle have to be content with lap straps.

The test

So what is the newcomer like to drive? We put it through its paces in Germany at Daimler's off-road proving ground at Otigheim, just over an hour's drive from Frankfurt.

While the course was only moderately-demanding, and bone-dry, it certainly showed that the long-wheelbase Canter 4x4 was capable of climbing up a rutted 1-in-3 incline without breaking sweat, and with a 1.5-tonne test load on board. The availability of maximum torque across such a wide sector of the rev band clearly helped.

Descents that were almost as steep caused it little trouble too. A highly-effective exhaust brake, which is fitted as standard, offered ample retardation whenever required.

Producing up to 50kW of braking power, it is operated by a switch on the steering column. With less risk of grounding, the short-wheelbase variant proved even more capable, crawling over several large hummocks with ease. However the un-laden demonstrator we drove hopped around so much that it was difficult to keep our feet on the pedals.

Ample suspension articulation aided the truck's progress. The test circuits were completed in either first or second gear, with both proving easy to engage.

Service intervals are set at 40,000km/25,000 miles with the AdBlue tank typically requiring replenishment every 8,000km/5,000 miles.

Canters are assembled at a plant in Portugal and the off-roading Canter has few direct competitors. Anybody who needs something a little heavier however might care to check out another truck that put in a surprise appearance at Amsterdam: Avia's high-ground-clearance 4x4 D120 12-tonner.

The creation of Longton Avia (UK) and the possibility that Avias might be assembled in a plant in Stoke-on-Trent one day means that the marque could be due for a revival on this side of the Channel. The D120 4x4 apparently spent several days in Britain earlier this year being appraised for its sales potential.

Though based in the Czech Republic, Avia is part of India's Hinduja Group. Its sister companies include Indian truck manufacturer Ashok Leyland, which has a 75% stake in British bus maker Optare: so it does not lack corporate muscle.

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LAPV (Local Authority Plant and Vehicles) is the only UK information source purely dedicated to local authority vehicles and affiliated plant equipment. Appearing four times a year, it offers well-researched technical articles on the latest equipment/technology as well as in-depth interviews with key industry professionals. More...

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