UP FOR RENT

Mitsubishi Fuso’s Canter 515 is a typical short-term hire light truck for the inexperienced driver

The light truck market has traditionally belonged to the Japanese-inspired products from Isuzu, Hino and Mitsubishi Fuso. Always functional, they’ve made their name for reliability across the light truck spectrum, especially in the hire and rental market where their load-carrying capabilities differentiate them from the alternative option of a one-tonne ute.

Delivery headed out on the road recently in a Canter 515. This is the model intended for car licence holders looking to shift their home themselves, or at least to move volume rather than weight. With a standard pantech body fitted the payload available is around the 1,200-1,500 kg level, lifting expectations above those capable with a standard ute unless it is towing a trailer.

With a GVM of 4500 kg, the Canter 515 is available in two wheelbases (2,800 mm and 3,400 mm) and with a choice of cabins – one narrower than the other and called the City Cab. Both offer dual seat capability for passengers and a single seat for the driver (spring suspended on the wider-cab model). SRS airbags protect the driver and outer seat passenger, but the centre seat passenger remains less protected in the evFuso-Trucks_5ent of an accident, restrained only by a lap seatbelt.

Storage areas for packages inside the cab are limited, but, with an above-windscreen shelf and a slot in the dash that will hold a clipboard, it’s possible to keep docket books handy and not have them sliding around on the seat.

Thanks to what Fuso calls it’s “Multi-Media Package” the driver can benefit from a dash-mounted unit that provides satellite navigation on a 6.1-inch colour display screen. This also doubles up with vision from up to three blind-spot monitoring cameras. The unit also incorporates Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming with a CD/DVD player and digital and analogue radio.

The ride comfort, even when unladen is certainly better than 4×2 light trucks of even a decade ago, thanks to the now common practice of fitting independent front suspension to models in this lighter weight category. The rear suspension retains the common semi-elliptic parabolic spring design. Also worthy of mention is the move to disc brakes front and rear, the inclusion of ABS and electronic brake force distribution as standard, and the exhaust brake that provides valuable engine braking on steep downhill grades.

Both the standard-cabin version of the 515 and the City Cab sit above the same 3.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine with a variable turbo charger and air-to-air intercooler. Maximum power of 110 kW is produced at 2,840-3,500 rpm, and peak torque of 370 Nm is rated from 1,350 to 2,840 rpm. Service intervals of 30,000 km or 12 months are best in class. The warranty coverage is for three-years/100,000 km or 2,000 operating hours.

Fuso-Trucks_7This is a strong little engine with Bosch common-rail direct injection and double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder that incorporates a diesel particulate filter to achieve Euro V exhaust emissions compliance. The timing for exhaust system regeneration is indicated on a dashboard display, and this function can be completed while the vehicle is stationary to avoid loss of power that can occur if it is actuated on the move.

Service and maintenance access to the engine and transmission is via the now standard inclusion of a tilt cabin, allowing virtual walk-in access to the entire front end of the truck. Restricted access to the engine is achieved through a lift-up floor panel available through lifting the passenger seat.

The aim for any rental fleet is to keep things as simple as possible, and with this in mind Fuso introduced the Duonic transmission, offering two-pedal driving with an automated six-speed manual shift in place of a standard five-speed manual gearbox. For those familiar with the VW DSG transmission, there’s a lot of similarity. Both operate through having twin-clutch internals where one part of the gearbox is pre-selecting the gear prior to it being needed for the next shift.

The benefit of a twin-clutch gearbox is that gearshifts are enabled with a much reduced shift time, with the manufacturer claiming that torque converter lag (as can be experienced with a full-fluid automatic) is overcome. The disadvantage of the Duonic, as with the VW DSG, is that at low speeds and in stop/start motoring around the inner city it can appear clunky and gives the impression the clutches are fighting internally to engage and disengage drive.

Delivery Magazine raised this concern with Dr. Albert Kirchmann, president and CEO of Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, in a private interview at the last Tokyo Motor Show. The resulting discussion led to why Fuso had not gone down the path of adopting a higher degree of integration with other available brands in the Daimler stable.Fuso-Trucks_9

We talk often these days of integration within brands and a corresponding crossover of technologies and components. In Delivery’s view, a better solution for the Canter, especially those operating in the rental market, would be to adopt the spectacular 7G-Tronic torque converter automatic, currently available in the Mercedes-Benz range in the Sprinter. While the Duonic gets the job done, it doesn’t provide the flexibility of a torque converter automatic, especially in operations such as landscape supplies with a light tipper body where slow speed manoeuvring off the bitumen highlights the conflict occurring in the Duonic’s shift and clutch engagement capability.

Dr. Kirchmann acknowledged the earlier problems experienced with the Duonic and stated the possible adoption of the 7G-Tronic transmission would be under consideration in a future product review.

The simplicity of the light truck design is one of its major benefits, and when compared to the van derived cab/chassis models there’s also usually a price advantage. This segment, though, is coming under increasing attack from the European cab/chassis manufacturers such as Renault, Mercedes-Benz, IVECO, Volkswagen and Fiat.

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