Ed Higginson reports on the improved safety features of the ‘Not So Squeezy’ Canter

FUSO’s Canter range has recently been updated with a range of safety features, raising standards for drivers operating in the light truck delivery arena. The step up in safety features includes advanced (autonomous) emergency braking (AEB),  lane-departure warning (LDW) and electronic stability control programming (ESC) bringing the benefits of heavy-truck technology down to the high street level.

With a GVM starting at 3500 kg, the Canter fits nicely into the car license category, so these safety features on the 4×2 cab-chassis are a welcome addition for inexperienced drivers jumping from a car into a small truck.

The light-duty market in Australia has been dominated by the Japanese brands for some years, with Isuzu taking top spot with 37 percent in 2018, then the next two spots being taken by Hino and FUSO with 22 percent and 19 percent respectively.

A couple of areas that have held FUSO back in the past have been its hesitation to introduce a “built ready range”, plus some early criticism of the automated manual transmission. Both those concerns are now claimed by the manufacturer to have been corrected, plus with the recent updates the brand has moved its products into a higher capability that comes from the adoption of higher standards of technology.

An invitation to see at first-hand how these improvements have benefitted the Canter range resulted in Delivery magazine heading out on the Victorian road network to drive the Canter 515 Wide Cab fitted with the Duonic transmission, firstly, with a new refrigerated body and then a similar model fitted with an alloy tray.

When comparing the FUSO Canter against the Isuzu N Series and Hino 300 Series, the external styling of all three resemble the Hino, with subtle differences reflected in the Isuzu which shows a squarer look. That said, there’s not much you can do to make either stand out visually from the other competitors and final selection would come down to personal choice and the ease of access to local servicing dealerships.

When it comes in the interior styling all have come a long way in recent years to make their appearance more modern whilst retaining their durability. They have all improved their safety with the addition of dual airbags (driver and far passenger) and cabs that are approved to ECE-R29 crash tests.

FUSO offers four main cab variants in its Canter range. Firstly, the City Cab Narrow with a 1695 mm width which is great for tight delivery spots. Next up is the Superlow with a 2100 mm overall height for access into low delivery locations such as carparks. The Wide Cab option comes in next, with a 1995 mm width which is better for three adults, and finally the Crew Cab if you have six mates you want to take to work with you.

FUSO has added a sprung suspended driver’s seat with a left-hand folding arm rest, lumber support and weight adjustment (on wide-cab models only). Combined with a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position for a shift behind the wheel.

The Canter also gets a multimedia satellite navigation unit with Bluetooth and three years of map upgrades, which can be programmed with heavy vehicle weight, length, height and hazardous material restrictions. The unit can also stream music from your phone and monitor vision from up to five reversing cameras.

Some audio systems on the market work more easily than others, and the FUSO system is impressive by taking only a few seconds to connect with your smartphone and worked well during our drives around Melbourne.

The cab has lots of storage locations, such as the two compartments above the windscreen, a deep compartment on the lower dash and open areas for loose items or to fit additional systems such as a UHF or a fridge control unit as per one of the test trucks we drove. If you fold down the middle seat, you also get additional storage on the rear backrest and the folded down seat, plus additional room behind the seats if required.

When you head out onto the roads, you soon notice how quietness, smoothness and responsiveness of FUSO’s four-cylinder, in-line DOHC 3-litre diesel. With 110 kW of power and 370 Nm of torque at 1350-2840 rpm, the little Canter is quick to get going, even when loaded. Designed to meet EEV standards, which are between Euro 5 and Euro 6, it also ticks the environmental box for you too.

The move to a Duonic six-speed automated manual transmission has really helped improve driveline smoothness, an area in which FUSO struggled in the past. The Duonic has a dual clutch to offer virtually instant gear changes, and the in-dash gear lever is well located for the driver that prefers to shift manually when required.

Once you are up to speed in the suburbs, you soon notice how much effort has gone into maintaining a smooth and compliant suspension. The independent coil-sprung front set-up is a major improvement over the old live axle, which can still be ordered when required for tipper or light off-road work. The rear runs on standard parabolic leaf springs as you would expect and worked well when loaded.

Combined with a rack and pinion steering, the medium-wheelbase Canter has a great turning circle and is much more responsive, a feature that is certainly appreciated for city driving.

Fitted with disc brakes all-round, ABS with EBD, ESC, ASR, an exhaust brake and now with AEB, it can stop you just as quickly. All of which is important for a light truck that potentially can have a GCM of 8000 kg when towing to its maximum 3500 kg braked towing capacity. Unbraked towing capacity is 750 kg.

If you want a truck in a hurry, FUSO currently offer the 515 Cab Chassis with four body options.

Firstly a 515 Wide Cab is available with a Pantech body, built in either reinforced fibreglass paneling or light-weight honeycomb construction for increased payload. With interior LED lights, 3mm steel chequer plate floor, internal tie rails, rear barn doors, reverse camera and DHollandia 600 kg tuck-away tailgate, it is a great option for parcel freight work.

Next, you could opt for the 515 City Cab with a refrigerated body. With styrene sandwich panel construction, non-slip fibreglass over 17 mm CD ply floors, kerb-side door with fold-down step, two rows of load-lock, cold curtains at side and rear opening, a Thermo King v500max with 240-volt standby and in-cab control fridge unit to operate between 0C to -21C, it makes for the ideal home delivery body.

Next, if you are looking for a decent sized alloy tray, you can opt for the 515 in a City Cab or the Wide version. The tray gets a 4-tonne rated floor, has 290 mm high split drop-sides with removable rack, a mesh-lined headboard, front corner side steps and rope rails.

Finally, if you want a body for tipping, the factory-built option is available on the larger 615 with the City Cab, or the 815 Wide Cab. With automatic tailgate and drop sides for easier access, a unique box-section chassis to lower its height and fitted with lug tyres as well as a limited-slip diff for improved traction, it’s another great off the shelf solution.

One benefit of going with FUSO’s own Built Ready Range is that it’s also covered by the FUSO warranty for one-year whilst the Cab Chassis now gets a five-year and 200,000 km coverage. If you go with FUSO’s seven-year Complete Service plan, you’ll also get an extended seven-year warranty and 300,000 km distance for real peace of mind.

Just be careful though because this won’t cover trucks working off-road, in mining, spraying crops or if driven onto the beach.

Overall, there is a lot to like with the FUSO Canter. A smooth ride, impressive engine and transmission and plenty of room in the cab for three adults in the Wide Cab. It’s just a shame it doesn’t have electric mirrors. The FUSO also misses out on not being able to offer the wide range of configurations or Ready Built Body options that are a feature of some of its competitors.

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