Fuso Fighter 14 truck review

By: Gary Worrall


Fuso trucks have long had a reputation for quiet efficiency; an ability to do the job with minimum fuss. Gary Worrall put a new Fighter 14.0 to the test to see if it retains the family DNA

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A popular and probably overused phrase is to describe someone or something as a ‘quiet achiever’.

It is nevertheless the perfect description for Fuso’s Fighter range. They get in and do the job, without making a huge fuss along the way.

But then the ‘big unknown’ arrived in the shape of ADR 80/02 and everyone began to wonder if the company best known for its ‘not so squeezy’ small trucks would still be able to compete in the big end of town.

To find out just how the Fighter 14.0 works in the real world of route delivery, Toll IPEC offered one of their drivers a day in the passenger seat, allowing ATN to take the Fighter into battle.

What followed was a terrific real-world insight into the pitfalls of daily operations, with a selection of queues, difficult driveways and keeping the customer satisfied, and one which really showed the strengths and weaknesses of the Fighter in a way that only daily driving can.

Yep, it’s another a cabover; more despair for those who long for the bonneted rigid. What’s more, it’s not a particularly attractive one. The frontal appearance lets it down — there are only so many ways you can draw a cab-over before it starts to look like all the other trucks on the road.

Of course Fuso is not the only company facing this dilemma so it is unfair to target it specifically. But it would be nice to see a little variation in cab design, if only to give the aerodynamicists a chance to prove themselves.

Having said that, the Fuso designers have done their bit to personalise the Fighter. They’ve gone for a new headlight design, incorporating an expanded quadrilateral shape in place of the previous horizontal lamps, topped by rectangular clear-lens indicators.

There is also a family resemblance to other Fuso trucks thanks to the ‘happy face’ grille and two-piece air intake in the all-steel front bumper.

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Engine

The Fuso Fighter has a 7.5-litre six-cylinder engine that lays down 199kW of power at 2,600rpm and 785Nm of torque at 1,400rpm.

Transmission

The Fuso’s powertrain is controlled by an Eaton FS8209 9-speed synchromesh transmission.

Cab and Controls

There is a degree of sameness about the exterior view, but inside the cab it is a different proposition altogether. There are plenty of unique touches establishing the Fighter’s identity.

The doors open a full 90-degrees, which is a nice change after some acute offerings from other trucks in recent times.

Then of course there are the three points of contact while entering and exiting the cab. The Fighter has a couple of well-placed grab handles, while the two steps are staggered to take away the feel of climbing a ladder. They are a reasonable step up from ground level.

The driver’s seat is wide and supportive. Regular readers will be aware of my physical dimensions, which require a seat with plenty of rearwards adjustment as well as a height and reach adjustable steering wheel. All of these are present in the Fighter.

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Once set behind the wheel the next thing the driver notices is the roominess of the cab. There’s plenty of head and shoulder room, while the day cab option offers plenty of storage spaces for the accoutrements of the pick-up driver, including labels, pens and dockets.

Despite plenty of highlights there are downers. The lack of a passenger-side sun visor is a definite oversight when it comes to driving into the sun, and there was only one grab-handle for the left door making it more of a chore to enter and exit from the passenger side.

In terms of the driving position, all the major controls are in easy reach. The dash shapes around the driver to create a console-like feel, with a large speedo and tacho, flanked by temperature, fuel gauge and brake pressures, with warning lights for everything else.

Off to the left are the less important items: air-conditioning and the AM/FM/CD stereo, the air-suspension dump control and overhead lights.

It is the cab that reveals more about the Fighter’s true character than anything else. While the interior is far from bare, there is just enough to ensure the driver is comfortable, rather than being cosseted. There is no doubt the Fighter was designed to be a work truck, not a plaything.

Adding to cab’s spaciousness is the middle ‘jump’ seat, which serves as a work table when folded down as well as providing an extra pair of drink holders.

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Performance

When it is time to take the Fighter into the fray with other road users, the high levels of attention to detail is appreciated. The appreciation begins with the control position: the relationship between steering wheel, gearshift and park brake are such that each falls to hand as needed and they work together intuitively for smooth vehicle operation.

The clutch is light, and while the familiar broad shifter of the Eaton synchro nine-speed felt a little notchy it should get smoother with more kilometres under the wheels.

The range change is simple and works as expected. As long as the driver does not attempt to ‘race’ the gearshifts everything goes exactly as expected.

The cab offers excellent sound-proofing. Even with 199kW (269hp) looking to go to ground there is never a problem with the driver — or passenger — getting drowned out by the engine.

For those unfamiliar with the Fuso, the first drive is usually a series of small, pleasant surprises, with the truck doing exactly what is asked of it without fuss or bother, although that is not to say it is faultless.

The biggest annoyance is the overly large turning circle. Instead of being able to spin around in a tight space, three-point (and even five-point) turns are the norm.

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One quick solution could be to reverse the rim offset, but that may cause suspension geometry issues so it’s probably best left to the Fuso engineers to come up with a solution.

Other than that, the steering is good, with plenty of feel and no dead spots. Even the smallest turn of the tiller is enough to get the wheels moving, aided by excellent power assistance that eases the burden.

Despite the missing driver-side spotter mirror the Fighter is a simple truck to reverse; the left-hand side spotter mirror is enough, particularly when teamed with an after-market colour reversing-camera that makes backing into docks a breeze. It gives over 150-degrees of vision.

As is the norm for delivery trucks, some tricky reversing is required out of a crowded dock, around a parked car and through the gates. But this was accomplished without breaking into a sweat, thanks to the good rear vision and helped by the camera.

However it is not always reversing where spotter mirrors are needed. Entering a main road with fast approaching traffic, including a motorcycle in the right lane, it led to an uncomfortable 30 seconds or so while trying to work out where the motorcyclist had gone until he re-appeared in the exit lane, having switched lanes in the driver’s blind spot.

While our test truck was never really heavily laden, sitting at around 18 tonne gross late in the day, the engine was never stressed when it came to getting going, with a selection of gear ratios that are well matched to the power output for around-town driving.

If there is a complaint to be made it is that the final drive is a bit short. While the truck would do 100km/h, to remain economical it is geared for a maximum of around 80km/h.

A high point was the lack of noise. Not only is the cabin well insulated, the engine is a smooth unit that manages to work hard without sounding raucous, even when the exhaust brake was pulling relatively high revs.

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Verdict

It is not perfect but the Fighter 14.0 is a reasonable performer that can be relied on to put in an honest day’s work. It offers good levels of comfort matched to a hard-working mechanical configuration that allows the operator to achieve a lot in their day.

All that is required to make it a top performer are to improve the steering angle to eliminate the five-point turns, and a little more attention to detail in areas such as the passenger’s sun visor and grab handles.

So, with thanks to Toll IPEC for their generous support, Fuso fans can rest easy — the Fighter remains a strong contender for the crown of heavyweight pick-up and delivery champion.

 

Likes:

  • Smooth power delivery
  • Spacious cab
  • Comfortable seats
  • Good entry and exit
  • Low noise-levels
  • Good vision

Dislikes:

  • No driver’s side spotter mirror
  • Needs more steering angle to eliminate multi-point turns

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Fuso Fighter FN 63 6x2 rigid truck

GVM/GCM: 23.2 tonnes / 32 tonnes

Engine: 6M60 7.5 litre six-cylinder, air-to-air intercooled

Emission Control: ADR 80/02 with EGR

Power/Torque: 199kW @ 2,600rpm/785Nm @ 1,400rpm

Transmission: Eaton FS8209 9-speed synchromesh with dual range

Brakes: Front: 410x150mm; Rear: 410x200mm plus exhaust brake

Wheelbase: 6,530mm

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