Mitsubishi Fuso Canter

Date: Friday, August 28, 2009

Employing 3.0-litre diesel engines sourced from Fiat Powertrain that meet the new Euro 5 exhaust emission regulations, Mitsubishi Fuso has unveiled the latest version of its Canter.

 

Sold in the UK through Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealerships — M-B’s parent Daimler controls the Japanese manufacturer — Canter is marketed solely as a chassis cab and chassis crew cab. Grossing at from 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes, versions destined for Britain are assembled at Tramagal in Portugal.


Replacing the old 4.9-litre as well as the old 3.0-litre, the new four-cylinder common rail 3.0-litre engine can be specified at 130hp at 3.5 and 5.5 tonnes, at 145hp at 3.5, 6.5 and 7.5 tonnes and at 175hp at 6.5 and 7.5 tonnes. Fuel usage is said to be down by from five to eight per cent depending on the model and all versions of the engine come with a particulate trap.

 

EGR & SCR

The 175hp version employs Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) along with BlueTEC Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology. The use of SCR means that a mixture of urea and water commonly known as AdBlue has to be poured into a tank on the vehicle every so often. It’s injected into the exhaust gases as part of a process that helps clean them up.


Mitsubishi Fuso estimates that 12 litres of AdBlue will be sufficient for up to 5,000 miles of travel. A dashboard display tells the driver how much is left. The 130hp and 145hp variants rely solely on EGR which puts Mitsubishi Fuso in the unusual position of being able to offer either EGR or a combined EGR/SCR emission control system at 7.5 tonnes.


It’s also unusual in fitting an engine brake as standard to all variants, including the 3.5-tonner. It can be invaluable when it comes to slowing Canter down when descending steep hills. Rely solely on the service brakes and you risk wearing out the pads prematurely. The latest engines are married to a new, standard six-speed manual gearbox supplied by ZF. At 72kg it is 29kg lighter than the old six-speeder and 7kg lighter than the five-speed ’box that used to be offered too.

 

Weight Loss

Canter has a commendably light chassis anyway and even more kilos have been shaved off the vehicle this time round. Mitsubishi Fuso’s latest offering weighs up to 180kg less than its predecessor depending on the model chosen. The engine is lighter than the power plants previously fitted and the fuel tank is now made of plastic rather than steel. As a consequence the 7.5-tonner boasts a generous body and payload allowance of 5,020kg.


In a further bid to cut the flab, at 3.5 tonnes the spare wheel has been dropped in favour of what Mitsubishi Fuso refers to as a Premium Seal system. What Van? feels that this is a retrograde step.


Despite the weight penalty, a full-sized spare rather than puncture sealant should always be provided in a light commercial. Sealant won’t help if your tyre is severely shredded and if you haven’t got a proper spare, you’ll be stuck.

 

Cab Changes

Minor changes to the cab’s exterior include a bigger front bumper and the dropping of the Mitsubishi name. Canter’s manufacturer is edging somewhat tentatively towards being known solely as Fuso.


Again unusually, new Canter’s cab is produced in two different widths as is the case with the outgoing model. In the UK we’ll be taking the wider, 1,995mm, C-Series version and it will be interesting to see if the narrower, 1,695mm, S-Series variant will be offered on this side of the Channel too. At present there are no plans — Britain hasn’t taken the narrow cab in the past — but there’s an outside possibility that it could arrive in 2011 if there is sufficient demand.


Lighter than its bulkier companion, it allows the vehicle to get into difficult-to-access places that would be barred to it otherwise. The narrow cab is produced solely on 3.5 and 5.5 tonne chassis.


Both cabs are three-seaters, but three is bound to be something of a crowd in the narrower example.


With service intervals set at 18,750 miles, Canter is produced with seven different wheelbases, from 2,500mm to 4,470mm; so there’s no lack of choice.


Operators proposing to body it as a tipper and venture onto muddy building sites may care to note that it is equipped, as before, with a rear diff lock and can be specified with twin rear wheels. They may also care to note that all Canters, including the 3.5-tonner, can haul a braked trailer grossing at up to 3.5 tonnes.

 

Eco Canter

Next spring will see the availability of EEV (Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicle) versions of the 3.0-litre. They’ll offer a one-third-or-thereabouts reduction in particulate emissions when compared to the Euro 5 limits.


Talking about the environment, a total of ten diesel electric hybrid versions of the existing Canter are undergoing an extended trial with eight high-profile fleet operators in the UK. They include DHL, Tesco and the Royal Mail. Some 600 hybrid Canters have already been delivered to customers in Japan.

 

On the Road

So what’s Mitsubishi Fuso’s new offering like to drive? We took to the roads of southern Germany to find out. Our first outing was in a box-bodied 4,200mm-wheelbase 145hp 7C15 7.5-tonner complete with a tail-lift.


A bit like an overgrown panel van to drive — and that’s certainly not meant as a criticism — it was manoeuvrable and rode and handled well. However, it struggled on steeper sections of the route despite the fact that it was apparently only one-third or thereabouts laden. We quickly concluded that the 175hp engine would be a better bet for anybody who has to tackle hilly territory regularly.


Nor were we enamoured with the stalk-operated engine brake. It failed to slow Canter sufficiently when descending inclines, requiring the rapid and regular use of the service brakes to get the speed down.


After that we sampled a 3,850mm-wheelbase 130hp 3C13 3.5 tonne dropside which we estimated was fully laden and we were instantly a lot happier. As well as riding and handling impressively it turned out to be a lively performer with a much slicker gearchange than the 7.5-tonner we tried. It happily handled all sorts of terrain without breathing hard. What’s more, the engine brake was far more effective than it was in the 7.5-tonner. Both the vehicles we sampled were equipped with the wider of the two cabs; hence the C designation.


Cab access wasn’t a problem with either of the vehicles we drove, but it’s a pity that Mitsubishi Fuso hasn’t decided to include a makeover for the cab interior among the other changes it has made to Canter. It desperately needs restyling.


It’s a pity too that Mitsubishi does not have an automated manual transmission available for use in the UK and Europe, especially at 7.5 tonnes. Apparently one is in the pipeline — so is a 4x4 Canter — but as yet there is no launch date. The new Canter will arrive in Britain during the fourth quarter of this year, with the 175hp engine making its UK debut a few months after the other power options.


Canter is a surprisingly important vehicle for Daimler. A whopping 144,000 were produced worldwide last year across six Continents making it the manufacturer’s biggest-volume truck.

 

Verdict

While we were a little disappointed with the 7.5-tonner we drove, the 3.5-tonner has the makings of being a real winner. Badger your local Mercedes commercial vehicle dealer for a test drive when it appears in the autumn.



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