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The Canter goes 4 by 4

SIX months after the seventh generation of the Canter was launched, Fuso invited us to the Unimog testing grounds in southern Germany for the European première of the newly developed 4x4 version.

Steep inclines, water traverses and car-sized potholes have given the Munsingen grounds an infamous reputation over the years, and left us asking – could the Canter cope?

It’s nearly fifty years since the first Canter rolled off the production line in Japan, and now the distinguishably narrow and lightweight truck from Fuso is into its seventh generation. While its European market penetration remains relatively low for the Canter, it’s certainly not lacking in variety. The latest 4x4 version in Europe is expected to open up the more extreme utility, landscaping, and fire and rescue sectors to the Canter.

The Portuguese-built Canter was designed in Japan, and has always been a fairly basic vehicle and designed to cater for the needs of a variety of markets. The clunky gearbox, all round leaf spring suspension and drum brakes, lack of ESP, and manual locking wheel hub, all make it affordable for developing countries at the expense of luxuries one might expect from a European manufacturer.

Nevertheless, it gets the job done, and there are certainly no complaints with regard to ability. Traditional strengths of the Canter include the excellent manoeuvrability thanks to the cab-over design, trademark Japanese slenderness, good cab visibility from the low windows, straightforward maintenance due to the tilting cab and enhanced safety and reduced wear from the standard fitted exhaust brake.

According to Fuso, the decision to market it as a 6.5t as opposed to 7.5t was put down to “a customer demand for this underrepresented weight class”. Regardless of the reduced gross weight, the Fuso has always been a strong performer when it comes to payload. The light chassis still allows for a generous 3735 kgs of payload on the Single Cab SWB version. On the crew cab LWB version, the payload is still a respectable 3500 kgs.

Equally important to the Canter’s market is the towing capacity. The rear wheel drive transmission allows for a 3,500 kg weight to be pulled along, giving a gross train weight of 10 tonnes.

Another trait of the Japanese with a vehicle of this size is the Cab Over Engine design. This gives an extra metre of load length over an equivalent ‘bull nose’ truck.

The 4P10 engine powering the Canter is actually a rebadged version of the renowned second generation multijets from Fiat Power Trains, and can be found under the bonnet of the Ducato and the Iveco Daily. Shorter, but more frequent and precise injections means it is one the most fuel efficient trucks in its sector. Rated at 175 hp, it also packs a big punch on a full load with 430 Nm of torque at hand.

The combination of a DPF, SCR, EGR and AdBlue means it not only meets Euro-5 standards, but it has also been designated an EEV. Fuel consumption can be reduced further with the availability of Stop/Start technology.

Fuso have recognised that a number of their vehicles in this segment go on to be converted, and stated that their designers bore this is mind during the design stage to make the Canter a more bodybuilder friendly vehicle.

“Conversions make up a huge proportion of our sales in this segment,” explained Martin Schmidt, the Fuso Bodybuilder Manager, “specialist operations such as fire & rescue, local authorities, the utilities, landscaping and construction require a vehicle that can be easily transformed into the application of their needs.”

“The uniform hole pattern of the high-payload frame makes life easier as there is no need for drilling. All chassis are available on request with body consoles to facilitate body assembly. We've even placed the coolant tank under the cab to make more room.”

A 42 hp Power Take-Off system can be factory fitted with or without flange, with a rear end positioned rpm controller. As an option, the 12v system can be upgraded to 24v along with various alternators to guarantee supply.

Despite the lack of standard disc brakes, EBD, driver's airbag and ESP, Mitsubishi-Fuso insist safety is paramount of the Canter. The RISE passive safety system has again been implemented into the Canter along with the Brake Override technology, which gives priority to braking over acceleration if both pedals are depressed at the same time.

Daytime running lights and fog lights are standard on the new Canter, as is the exhaust brake, which is capable of 68 hp braking power.

The first noticeable characteristic of the cab is its basic, utilitarian feel. Commercial vehicles aren't known for their in cab décor but even by these standards, the plain boxy dashboard, outdated switches and gauges are slightly bemusing. Having said that, there's good access, great visibility and everything is generally very easy to operate and within easy reach.

With the all wheel drive mode selected and the diff lock engaged, it was off to the Unimog testing grounds.

The first sighting of the vehicle reveals the fact that the body has been raised quite substantially to give a ground clearance of 320 mm. For the more extreme offroad applications, this means the Canter is now capable of 35 degree approach and 25 degree departure angles. On the rocky terrain, there was a need for more shock-absorption, as with every bump in the road, the driver’s head got pretty close to the roof – unless he or she ducked!

Good manoeuvrability, a traditional strong point on the Canter, has been retained on the new 4x4. The short wheelbase version can perform a complete turn in 13.5 metres, a significant advantage for those working in tight spaces.

Running costs have been further reduced with the lengthening of the service intervals to 25,000 miles. In addition, Adblue consumption has been dramatically reduced to achieve a range of around 5,000 miles from the 12 litre tank. The Canter comes with a 3 year unlimited mileage warranty.

Long term corrosion has been significantly reduced thanks to cataphoretic dip priming (CDP) on the frame, finished with a fine powder.

Despite the dropping of ‘Mitsubishi’ from the Fuso name, the badge still causes a great deal of confusion amongst the public over the truck’s actual ownership. The Canter is sold and distributed via the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle network. The Canter 4x4 entered production at the Tramagal plant in Portugal back in February, and will be available within the coming weeks.

See used Canters for sale in our classifieds.