Mitsubishi Fuso Canter FG 4x4 truck video review

By: Steve Skinner


The Fuso Canter FG 4x4 is the reintroduction of the important low range four-wheel-drive.

 

 

Fuso in Japan stopped offering the low range version of the Fuso Canter FG to Australia over the past couple of years because of relatively low demand for such extreme climbing ability elsewhere around the globe.

That brief absence of low range meant Fuso in Australia didn’t even tender for what has been the main role of the 4WD FG Canter for more than two decades — as a go-anywhere rural fire truck.

There are stacks of Canter bushfire trucks in service in Australia, and as far as we know they have a reputation as a tough and reliable little unit.

The low range cog at the back of the gearbox gives 100 per cent reduction, meaning first gear is a crawler. It’s this low range 4WD mode that should make the Canter extremely competitive again in the Australian off-road market.

Over the years, the 4WD Canter has also been used as a mining truck and bus; unusual tourist coach for adventure-seekers who want to get about as far away from it all as you can; and campervan.

Engine

The 4WD Canter FG was introduced to Australia way back in 1989, with a GVM of just 4.5 tonnes.

The 3.3-litre engine had only 92hp (68kW) and 223Nm of torque.

That compares with the modern day version’s 3-litre engine pushing out 150hp (112kW) and 370Nm of torque (against the Isuzu equivalent’s 419Nm).

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Improvements

Split rim wheels and tube tyres have been replaced with what is regarded as the safer option when it comes to changing flats — standard six-stud disc wheels, and tubeless tyres. (The review unit had on/off road tyres.)

For any operator wanting to maximise payload, the new model FG has a GVM of 6.5 tonnes, as opposed to 6 tonnes, previously.

Fuso boasts that combined with its lower tare weight, the Canter can now carry 200kg more payload than the Isuzu.

Other attractive features include the important hill start system; a high air snorkel; pull-in mirrors with smaller housings for those particularly tight spots to get through; and the gear lever is on the dash, which allows nice freedom of movement compared with a gearstick in the floor.

Interestingly, although there is strong customer demand these days for automatic transmissions, neither Fuso nor Isuzu offer one in these little off-roaders.

An advantage of autos in steep country is you don’t need to know how to do a ‘stall recovery’.

But a disadvantage is they are harder to slow up going down a steep hill, compared with a manual.

For the whole quarter-century, the FG has had a unique drop chassis, which is high at the front and lower at the rear.

In the crew cab version the drop starts at the back of the cab, giving higher clearance at the front; lowering the centre of gravity for the body and payload; and allowing the rear springs to be attached to the axle where they should be — without compromising rear clearance, Fuso says.

There is no sway bar at the back, for freer axle movement.

Meanwhile, the new model FG retains the traditional drum brakes, rather than the 4x2’s discs.

Nevertheless there is ABS and the newer electronic brake distribution (EBD) technology.

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Cab and Controls

A move forward is the introduction of a mechanical suspension seat as standard, in both single and crew cab versions. It involves adjustable dual springs and shock absorber damping, and lumbar support.

We have a quibble with the low range button on the dash, which rather than clicking into place definitively as the 4WD button does, has to be held down before it activates. Rather than a light showing up on the dash — as when the truck is in high range 4WD mode — a tiny green light comes on in the middle of the low range button itself.

This might seem like small beer, but a driver hopping into the Canter for the first time may not be able to work out whether they are in low range or not, if the instruction manual is missing from the glove box. That would be unnerving before going down a steep hill.

Another quibble is with the new mechanical suspension seat, which should be welcomed by drivers.

You have to expect a lot of bouncing around both on the freeway and off-road when you have tough spring suspension and no weight on the back.

However, even with the new seat on the softest adjustment setting, there still seemed to be almost no give. The cushioning on the rigid passenger side seems pretty good though.

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Performance

Sitting high up above the freeway, you have great vision all around and feel like you’re king of the road.

Cruising at 100 km/h with your foot hardly touching the throttle; very little road noise; suspended seat underneath — you could almost be piloting a big interstate prime mover. But there a few differences compared with the usual highway haulers.

One is that according to the rev counter, you’re way out of the green band, doing 2,900rpm instead of the usual 1,500 or so.

Second, you’re bouncing around like a rag doll when you hit any rough patches — no air bag suspension under the chassis or 40 tonnes payload here.

Third, there are there are only five manual gears, coming out of the dash.

What’s going on? The answer is we’re tootling along the freeway between Sydney and Newcastle in a baby four-wheel drive, the new model Fuso Canter FG.

Over the years 4WDs have certainly come a long way in their performance on the highway, but our interest is off the bitumen, on some rough bush tracks where the bread and butter work of this little unit is really done.

It’s high off the ground to clear the dirt track obstacles; it revs high on the open road because it’s geared low; and while it might have only five gears in the box, it’s got both high and low range 4WD mode.

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Verdict

ATN found the Canter a good little unit to drive, without testing it to anywhere near its full capabilities because we didn’t have a backup vehicle on the day.

Approach and departure angles are amazing and the low range is fantastic. You can crawl down an extremely steep slope in first or reverse gear without touching the brakes; and crawl up a steep pinch without touching the accelerator.

 

Specifications

Make/model: Fuso Canter FG 4WD cab-chassis

Engine: 3-litre, variable geometry turbo, diesel particulate filter (DPF) emissions control

Outputs: 150hp (112kW); 370Nm @ 1,350 to 2,840rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual, in-dash lever

Rear axle ratio: 5.285:1

GVM: 6.5 tonnes. Tare weight 2.8 tonnes

 

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