Fleet News

New launch: Mitsubishi Fuso Canter

Fuso is the name of a huge Japanese truck manufacturer with a £4 billion a year turnover. It comes under the Mitsubishi banner and the new Mitsubishi Canter, which was launched in the UK this month, now proudly carries this moniker for the first time.

Rather confusingly, as DaimlerChrysler owns 85% of Mitsubishi Fuso, you don’t go to a Mitsubishi dealer to buy one but have to visit a Mercedes-Benz showroom.

The Canter occupies an odd kind of halfway niche between van and truck. It is available at 3.5, 6.5 and 7.5-tonnes gross vehicle weight. At 3.5 tonnes, it looks like a truck, but can still be driven on a car licence.

But it is more than just a platform truck. Mercedes-Benz can offer a huge array of variations, including double-cabs, tippers, car transporters, box bodies, cranes, fridge units and many more.

You pay £14,600 for a single-cab chassis and £16,900 for a double-cab (prices ex-VAT) and then negotiate upwards depending on which body you want.

The new Canter is assembled in Portugal. The engines from the old model are carried over. The 3.5-tonners have a 3.0-litre unit offering 125bhp at 3,200rpm and 216lb-ft of torque at 1,800rpm. The bigger models have a 4.0-litre engine offering 143bhp and 304lb-ft of torque.

Much of the facelift has taken place in the cab, which becomes bigger and more comfortable. Overall dimensions increase, door apertures are wider and a larger windscreen is fitted for an extra airy feel.

This equates to more head and legroom for the occupants and the gearstick migrates from the floor to the dash.

The new model features an Isringhausen suspended driver’s seat with a dial for the driver’s weight and fully adjustable steering column.

The dashboard is completely reshaped and central locking and electric windows come as standard, along with a radio/CD player – although we were concerned to find that a driver’s airbag and ABS brakes are paid-for options at £300 and £850 respectively.

Insulation in the cab has also been increased for quieter running.

At 3.5 tonnes and with a single cab, four wheelbases are available – 2,500mm, 2,950mm, 3,300mm and 3,850mm. With a double-cab, only a 3,350mm wheelbase is on offer. Payload is between 1,265kg and 1,500kg excluding the weight of the body.

Behind the wheel

I DIDN’T believe the Fuso Canter was a 3.5-tonner at first glance. It looks sturdier and bigger than its van counterparts – mainly because it is in fact a 7.5-tonner scaled down – and is for all the world a pukka heavy commercial vehicle.

That’s good news for fleets with some serious shifting to do, but there must be a temptation to overload a vehicle like this and care should be taken when instructing drivers on its payload limitations.

The good news, of course, is that operators don’t have to bother about tachographs, new licences and all those other annoying trifles that heavy goods vehicle fleets have to worry themselves with.

The cab looks 100% better than the old one. It’s a lot more light and airy, the dash is more functional and stylish and there are more cubby holes.

The plastics in general look a bit cheap and tacky, but everything is of the wipe-clean variety and feels solid enough. The driver’s seat is best in class. You dial in your weight (in kilograms) and the clever little blighter decides for itself how much ‘give’ and support you are going to get. It hisses up and down gently to iron out the worst bumps in the road and is, in short, brilliant.

On the minus side, the lack of airbags gets a big thumbs down and the CD player was sadly of the more basic variety and full of horrible fiddly little buttons.

On the road, it’s no idle boast that the new Canter is quieter. For a vehicle of this size, it’s almost uncanny. My co-pilot and I were able to converse in hushed tones even at motorway speeds, so some serious sound-proofing has been undertaken.

Meanwhile, the clutch is on the heavy side while the power steering is on the light side, although we soon got used to it after a few junctions. The Canter is wonderfully agile for its size and has an excellent turning circle, as we discovered when we went wrong on our test route and had to do an about-turn.

My only serious criticism was with the notchy gearchange. The four test models we tried out ranged from OK to awful, but they were all new vehicles so maybe that graunchiness will abate over time.

Driving verdict

IT IS not often that we get both a new model and a new marque in the UK, so let’s give a good old British welcome to Fuso. The new Canter is chunky, stylish and very drivable, despite that dodgy gearchange, and I’d have no problems as a driver spending my working life within its confines.

Engine size (cc): 2,977
Power (bhp/rpm): 125/3,200
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 216/1,800
Payload (kg): 1,265-1,500
Prices (£ ex-VAT): 14,600-16,900 (chassis cab only)

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