Fuso Canter Automatic truck review

By: Gary Worrall


The automatic version of the Canter is selling faster than Fuso can ship it to showrooms. But is its popularity deserved? Gary Worrall hit the road to find out

Fuso Canter Automatic truck review
Fuso Canter Automatic.

 

For a long time they were best known for the famous Sumo television advertisements, where a bunch of oversized wrestlers declared the Fuso cabs ‘not so squeezy’ to the delight of audiences and comedians everywhere.

Then came former rugby league great Paul Vautin’s infamous slip and fall as he attempted a spoof of the ad with his Footy Show brethren that left the former player in hospital fighting for his life, and his memory.

Throughout it all, Fuso has done a remarkable impersonation of the paint company, just ‘keep on keeping on’.

Along the way the Japanese manufacturer has moved from being a perennial third place in the light and medium rigid markets to challenging Hino for second behind Isuzu, helped in no small part by the latest generation of the Canter.

Late last year Fuso took the wraps off of its fully automatic ‘little big gun’.

With all of the changes under the skin, the Canter auto is externally identical to its manual cousin, which means integrated headlight/indicator assemblies either side of a ‘wide mouth’ grille, while the steel bumper also includes two generous-sized slots that pass more air through the engine bay.

The windscreen features a slight rearwards rake, offering the driver a good field of view, as well as wrapping around into the pillars in an attempt to reduce the side-angle blind spots.

And despite the ongoing drought in most of Australia, we did a get brief opportunity to use the wipers on our extended test, and can say they do a good job of clearing the main window.

The stick-out door mirrors resemble ears to go with the wide grin of the grille, and provide a decent view down the length of the truck, although a spotter mirror would be appreciated for completely eliminating blind spots.

Our test vehicle was configured with a fibreglass pantech body and 500kg Tieman electric tailgate lifter, so in an effort to direct airflow over the sharp edges of the body a roof-mounted aerofoil adorned the top of the cab in the chase for fuel economy.

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Engine

The new fully automatic version, gets some extra kick courtesy of the 130kW (175hp) / 530Nm (390ft-lb) from the United States version of its 4.9-litre four-cylinder engine, rather than the 110kW (148hp) / 470Nm (346ft-lb) offered in the manual versions.

Transmission

In this case, the main difference between the auto and manual versions was, well, the auto gearbox, with the regular dash-mounted manual shifter gone and in its place a very car-like auto shifter.

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Cab and Controls

With designers chasing maximum usable occupant space the shifter is still up on the dash, making it possible to slide right across from one side of the cab to the other.

Fuso -Canter -Automatic ,-truck ,-review ,-ATN6A nice touch was the tailored seat cover installed by local dealer Zupps Commercial Vehicles. These rather neat items are custom-made by a Melbourne company and stayed cool despite the 35-degree heat as well as protecting the upholstery from spills and marks.

Having already racked up plenty of kilometres in the manual versions, the kilometres in the manual versions, the auto is like an old friend – everything is exactly where you expect, and works with the same reassuring click, clack or thud, depending on what it was doing.

Standard fit includes an AM/FM/CD stereo, hot/cold air-conditioning and three seats across (although the third can be converted to a work table if needed). Dials and knobs are all big enough so that most tasks can be done by Braille (while keeping your eyes on the road), with rotary knobs looking after the ventilation, while big buttons do it for the radio.

The handbrake could pass for something lifted from a passenger car, increasing the ease for the ‘weekend warriors’ who tend to be the major customers of the rental fleets Fuso finds popularity with.

Head, leg, shoulder and foot room are all above average, even for tall and wide drivers, while the steering wheel adjustment allowed for a comfortable seating position.

The entry and exit is also easily accomplished; the doors open out to about 95 degrees, allowing the driver to use the step built into the wheel arch for a little extra leverage when entering and exiting (although a second grab handle would be good to allow for the recommended three contact points).

The auto also scores driver and passenger airbags, so in the unlikely event a car fails to see a 6.5-tonne GVM truck you are well protected. There’s also side intrusion beams in the doors and a strengthened frame underneath you.

Meanwhile, disc brakes with ABS help on every corner — Fuso has made the Canter as safe as is possible.

Performance 

The 4.9-litre engine fires up promptly after a turn of the key to get the starter motor spinning, before settling into what could be best described as an idle on helium — a slight high-pitched squeak mixed into the traditional burble.

Possibly because it only had about 2,500km on the clock, I found the auto shifter slightly notchy. It should ease up as it wears in, but either way it took some extra pressure to slide the selector down to ‘D’ for drive.

The steering is well-weighted, perhaps a bit heavier than the competition but not tiring, and it provides some decent feedback as to what was happening underneath the truck.

Fuso -Canter -Automatic ,-truck ,-review ,-ATN5Personally I like a slightly heavier steering, so long as you are not left fighting the wheel to try and coerce the truck into a corner — and that’s certainly not the case here — the Canter goes where you point it with minimal delay and no dead spots.

The real revelation is just how well the gearbox works with the engine.

The extra 60Nm (44ft-lb) of torque makes a huge difference.

While the manual Canter can hardly be called a slug, the auto version is so much quicker, to the point where a few dealer staff commented they would love to see the 130kW (174hp) American-spec engine used across the board.

While there is some stiffness in shifting the selector between gears, there are no such problems with the six-speed Aisin auto. It’s happy to bounce up and down through the gears, depending on what is required.

Unfortunately the Canter auto does not have cruise control, even as an option, and while the auto makes the job easier, a whole lot easier in fact, this is negated by having to constantly watch the speedo to ensure you are not creeping over the limit.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a 60 or a 100 zone, the reality is having to constantly glance at the speedo is tiring and frustrating. It needs to be addressed.

Otherwise, the auto Canter is a dream to drive. The exhaust brake ties in with the transmission nicely so that even long downhills can be negotiated without too much problem by simply lifting off the accelerator.

The all-round disc brakes do a great job of backing up the exhaust alternative; we never had need of the ABS, but it was good to know it was there lurking in the background just in case.

Cab noise was low, with no real mechanical intrusion from the engine, gearbox or even road noise. Running two and three up in the cab, conversations were never strained.

The only real intrusion came from the auxiliary transmission cooler, located at the left rear of the engine bay. The fan could be heard cutting in and out as it kept the gearbox fluid at the correct temperature, regardless of our road speed.

The only significant negative out of the whole test was the suspension setting.

Even accounting for the low miles on the click, on empty the rebound over bumps was rather vigorous. This may settle as the truck beds itself in, but for a vehicle that is going to spend most of its life carting goods based on volume rather than weight — and possibly fragile goods as well — there is a chance a sharp bump can send things flying.

Verdict

Without a doubt the Canter automatic is a great little truck, with a sweet shifting gearbox that makes the task of driving so much easier.

It eliminates gearshifts and even hill starts, once a thing to be dreaded, making them as simple as releasing the brake for a start.

When cruise becomes available, even as an option, this will be a truly great truck.

 

Likes:

  • Auto transmission; good vision
  • Sparkling engine performance
  • Disc brakes with ABS all-round

Dislikes:

  • No cruise control
  • Harsh ride at low weights

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Fuso Canter Automatic; 4x2 light rigid, three-seat cab

Engine: 4.9-litre, four-cylinder turocharged diesel with air to air intercooler

Transmission: Six-speed Aisin automatic

Emissions Standard: ADR 80/02

Emissions Control: Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR)

Power/Torque: 130kW (174hp) / 530Nm (390ft-lb)

GVM/GCM: 6,500kg / 8,000kg (optional derated 4,500kg / 7,500kg version)

 

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