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The truck that started the Japanese off-road invasion has been improved.

The latest Canter 4×4 performs better than its predecessors and has more interior refinements, but the suspension still needs some work.

Back in the Mitsubishi Motors days, the Canter 4×4 was the most successful Japanese off-road light truck in the Australian market. I can well remember being one of the demonstration drivers at its Ross River Homestead (Alice Springs) launch.

Now owned by the global Daimler AG empire the Fuso Canter slots neatly into that corporation’s 4×4 lineup, above the lighter-duty Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 models and below the Unimog.

The Canter FG range consists of three models: two short cab three-seaters and a seven-seat crew cab. The short-cabs sit on either a 2815mm or 3415mm wheelbase and the crew cab is a 3415mm wheelbase model.

Fuso uses a three-litre engine in the Canter 4×4, keeping tare weight below that of the Isuzu NPS 300. There’s a considerable payload advantage for the Canter and at 4495 GVM rating not much performance disadvantage. However, the Isuzu’s greater output and torque gives it the on-road performance edge
at 6500kg GVM rating.

The Canter’s turbo-intercooled engine puts out 110kW at 2840-3500rpm, with peak torque of 370Nm available between 1350rpm and 2840rpm. The main transmission is a five speed with four synchronised ratios and the transfer case is a two speed. Overall reduction in low-range first cog is 60:1.

The Canter comes with a Thornton-type limited-slip rear differential that has positive wet-clutch locking ability.

Our test vehicle was a 3415mm wheelbase short-cab in fire-fighting specification, without central locking and power windows.

In April 2017 Fuso refreshed the Canter interior and left the exterior alone, other than for a silver painted top grille louvre that gives the upgraded model a subtle lift.

The changes found in the cabin are more obvious, with the blue dashboard and seat trim replaced by a darker theme. The dashboard and door panels are a mixture of black and grey.

The seat trim changed from blue to black, with hard-wearing vinyl side bolstering introduced to eliminate the chance of fabric fraying due to driver ingress and egress or seat belt abrasion. Drivers and passengers should also appreciate additional padding.

Other interior improvements include a ceiling-mounted LED room lamp, a sun visor pocket and new floor-mounted bottle tray. Fuso has also reintroduced a clever storage compartment integrated into the middle seat back. The driver can access the hidden compartment by releasing a catch and folding down
the padded front section.

The Canter facelift comes soon after Fuso introduced a class-leading five-year/200,000km/4000 hour warranty on Canter models.

On and off road

Getting into of the Canter was a climb, but well-placed grab handles and steps made it a safe operation. Exiting was also safe, using the same method.

Cabin ergonomics were excellent, with all controls well positioned and eaily operated. Vision through the big windscreen and convex mirrors was unhindered.

A Fuso Multimedia unit was standard, incorporating a navigation system and rear vision camera screen.

Like its Isuzu competitor the Fuso has live front and rear beam axles with leaf spring suspension that offer simplicity and reliability, but at the cost of ride quality on poor-quality road and trail surfaces.

The latest Canter’s suspended driver’s seat gives the pilot some respite, but the crew scores a plain, two-seat bench. Crew cabs have a four-seat rear fixed bench.

A with the NPS 300 the Canter’s ride quality on smooth bitumen and dirt was quite good, but ruts and potholes provoked a nasty suspension reaction. We reckon a part cure might be a decent set of dampers, replacing the bicycle-pump-sized standard offerings.

Off-road ability was very good on loose and rocky surfaces, but we didn’t venture onto soft sand on the Canter’s skinny 215 tyres.

We’ve given up hoping that Fuso will come up with a wide-single-wheel option that would make the Canter more popular with those who have to work on soft-ground sites. Such a package should also have appeal to tradies who want  dual-purpose work and recreational machines.

Our test truck was brand new, so its average fuel consumption of 16.9L/100km should improve with running-in.

A few pictures are worth thousands of words, so check out our test video:


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