No biz like snow biz: Fuso Can­ter 4x4 re­view

With the cold weather set­tling in to the south­ern states Matt Wood heads for the hills in a Fuso Can­ter 4x4

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

Win­ter does strange things to peo­ple. The Scan­di­na­vians have long been aware of this, that’s why they in­vented saunas, hot tubs and strange things to do with pick­led fish. What­ever gets you through the long, freez­ing nights, eh?

Yet even Vic­to­ri­ans seem to re­act with dis­grun­tled sur­prise when win­ter bares its frosty teeth. It’s like we live in the vain hope that win­ter may get a lit­tle dis­tracted this year and for­get to show up.

COLD SNAP

Well, win­ter had truly ar­rived when I re­cently found my­self stand­ing in an­kle deep snow next to a Fuso Can­ter 4x4 Crew Cab in the Vic­to­rian high coun­try. And I no­ticed an­other strange ef­fect that cold weather has on peo­ple; it makes them shuf­fle on the spot like a dance class in an old peo­ple’s home. Se­ri­ously, watch a bunch of peo­ple stand­ing in the snow from a dis­tance and it looks like they’re all qui­etly get­ting their boo­gie on to “Tie a yel­low rib­bon round the old oak tree.”

The 4x4 Can­ter, how­ever, gets a boo­gie of its own go­ing on when play­ing in the snow. The Fuso uses a 3.0-litre EGR en­gine to shuf­fle in the muck and cre­ates 110kW (148hp) of power and 370Nm of torque.

A five-speed man­ual tranny is used for the swap­ping of cogs and a two-speed trans­fer case is used for off-road du­ties. This lit­tle off-roader is avail­able in light truck 6500kg GVM guise, or can be down-rated to a car li­cence-friendly 4500kg GVM. It’s also avail­able in sin­gle cab or seven-seat crew cab form.

UP THE TRACK

To keep the rear du­als firmly on the ground, and my kid­neys in­tact, we also had 1200kg of pay­load sit­ting in the steel tray of our Can­ter.

With the bush sport­ing a blan­ket of white, most high coun­try tracks were closed. So we headed to the Buck­land Val­ley, in the shadow of Mount Buf­falo, and tack­led Goldie Spur Track. This route fol­lows in the shad­ows of the pow­er­lines that wind their way through the val­ley from Gipp­s­land. Re­ally, it’s the per­fect ter­rain for a truck like the Can­ter. Slip­pery for­est roads, fire trails and snow are the nat­u­ral habi­tat for the 4x4.

The Can­ter in its cur­rent form is re­ally first and fore­most an on-road truck that can be taken off-road to a point. It strad­dles the line be­tween

full-blown off roader and road-go­ing de­liv­ery truck. More of a util­ity ve­hi­cle than multi geared mud mon­ster. Our trip into the moun­tains meant three hours of high­way travel – a good way to as­sess the Can­ter’s open road man­ners.

The Fuso is quite at home on the black­top and will cruise at the le­gal high­way limit with ease. And the 215/75R17.5 rub­ber that it wears on all four feet is rel­a­tively quiet when it comes to road use.

FIRE SER­VICE SPEC

This truck was ac­tu­ally a fire ser­vice spec ve­hi­cle, so it ar­rives sans air bags and elec­tric win­dows. The idea be­ing that, in the ad­vent of a burnover dur­ing a bush fire, the heat can’t det­o­nate air bags and the win­dow wiring can’t melt and dis­able the win­dows.

The in­te­rior is un­apolo­get­i­cally spar­tan and func­tional, yet com­fort­able enough. Ba­sic switchgear is for the most part well placed and gauges easy to read.

The dual cab seats seven; un­for­tu­nately I couldn’t find seven peo­ple to cram into the cab to see how ac­com­mo­dat­ing it is. Ev­ery passer-by I asked to hop in the truck to test the in­te­rior space ran away for some rea­son.

But, given the pric­ing isn’t that much more than a pre­mium 4x4 dual cab ute, it’s fair to say that, in a prac­ti­cal sense, the Can­ter makes a pretty strong value state­ment as a work ve­hi­cle. Just with­out the leather in­te­rior, the cli­mate con­trol and all the other wussy stuff.

The mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem is pretty much the same as you’d find on equiv­a­lent trucks in this class and dis­plays truck-spe­cific nav­i­ga­tion if needed. I’ve also been re­li­ably told the lock­able glove box was de­vel­oped for the US mar­ket and was de­signed to fit a Beretta pis­tol. Must be a tough gig driv­ing a de­liv­ery truck in the States.

The nav­i­ga­tion sur­prised me, ac­tu­ally. Even up in the high coun­try, bush tracks and fire trails were all marked and of­ten named on the dis­play screen.

FREE-WHEEL­ING HUBS

Se­lect­ing four-wheel drive is a mat­ter of press­ing a but­ton on the dash and then jump­ing out to lock the front hubs. Then you can chose from ei­ther high or low range. From there, it’s point the jig­ger at gnarly ob­sta­cle and see how it goes.

The Fuso was sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble off road. Ini­tial im­pres­sions were that the DPF and ex­haust were hang­ing a lit­tle low and would af­fect ramp over

The Fuso feels like a value-for-money off-road ca­pa­ble, pre­dom­i­nantly on­road ve­hi­cle.

an­gles, yet we didn’t drag the ex­haust at all. The for­ward con­trol lay­out also acts as a great pas­sive safety fea­ture.

You only hit an ob­sta­cle go­ing too fast once – af­ter you’ve bounced off the roof a cou­ple of times, you’ll slow the hell down and never do it again. The fac­tory sus­pen­sion seat, in con­junc­tion with the re­tractable fixed po­si­tion seat belt, will also let you know if you’re be­ing a goose in the rough stuff. That com­bi­na­tion will soon have you pinned in the seat like a chimp in the coils of a python. So, in the name of com­fort, it’s best to take a slow and steady ap­proach off-road.

Slip­pery fire trails were han­dled rel­a­tively eas­ily, and even some tougher off-road climbs and de­scents. We used the cleared area un­der the power lines be­low Goldie Spur to see how the Can­ter han­dled some more knotty ob­sta­cles. An­gle of ap­proach was good; an­gle of de­par­ture was not too bad. We cer­tainly didn’t drag the Can­ter’s bum too badly.

GO­ING DOWN

Steep de­scents were made a lot eas­ier by us­ing the Fuso’s ex­haust brake. I’m of­ten fairly scathing of the ef­fec­tive­ness of most Ja­panese ex­haust brakes. It’s usu­ally just a farty sound with­out much ef­fect. Yet with the Fuso, if you keep the revs up to around 3000rpm on an off-road de­scent, it works rather well.

A slid­ing, out-of-con­trol de­scent is bad news in any off-road ve­hi­cle. In fact, most new 4x4s have a de­scent con­trol mode as a part of the elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem to keep all four wheels on the straight and nar­row.

In a truck, the ex­tra weight makes the po­ten­tial for car­nage even worse. Grav­ity and mo­men­tum can see a slid­ing truck slide a long way. Yet, with the Can­ter, I was able to wan­der down to some tight tracks brim­ming with snow, slush and mud with­out any un­scripted side­ways ac­tion. The ex­haust brake kept my foot off the brake pedal and gen­tly grabbed all four wheels on the way down the hill.

Get­ting the Can­ter to the top of a slip­pery slope, how­ever, was a more de­mand­ing task. The lack of a front diff-lock ham­pers climb­ing quite a bit if you lose mo­men­tum. But the rear lim­ited slip diff man­ages to keep things mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion in most cases.

WET FEET

One of the big­ger down­sides for the Fuso is a lack of wad­ing depth. In fac­tory form, the Can­ter 4x4 is rated at a mere 330mm. In other words, don’t sub­merge the diff, trans­fer case or gear­box. If you do hap­pen to get it wet, it’s rec­om­mended that you re­vise the ser­vice sched­ule to en­sure that no wa­ter has en­tered the im­por­tant bits.

As you can see from the pics, I wasn’t aware of this at the time … and … er … well, we didn’t have any is­sues with the truck af­ter ford­ing the Buck­land River a few times. The lit­tle Fuso is com­monly used as a fire truck, how­ever, and I doubt the firies stop and mea­sure the depth of flood­wa­ter on the way to a res­cue; so I’m sur­prised by the shal­low wad­ing depth. Even the av­er­age ute is bet­ter at breath­ing un­der­wa­ter.

One af­ter­mar­ket com­pany has man­aged to get the Fuso’s wad­ing depth up to 1400mm by adding a diff and gear­box breather kit to the Can­ter, as well as re­lo­cat­ing some com­po­nents.

Earthcruiser 4x4 uses the Fuso as an ex­pe­di­tion truck plat­form and, as well as adding breather kits, also gives the Can­ter a sus­pen­sion up­grade with lift and add its own wheel and tyre pack­age.

This makes the Fuso a much more se­ri­ous mud­slinger.

Ul­ti­mately, an in­crease in wad­ing depth and the op­tion of sin­gle rear wheels, rather than du­als, would boost the gutsy Fuso’s off road as­pi­ra­tions com­mer­cially. The Fuso Can­ter 4x4 makes sense for in­fra­struc­ture ap­pli­ca­tions, home on the farm, and would make a good light­weight plat­form for a num­ber of con­struc­tion roles. You don’t have to stretch the imag­i­na­tion too much to see it as a road-railer, gar­den sup­plies tip­per, fire truck or mine ser­vice ve­hi­cle.

At present, the Fuso feels like a value-for-money off-road ca­pa­ble, pre­dom­i­nantly on-road ve­hi­cle. Which, if the bulk of your job in­volves many miles on the road both paved and un­paved, may be just up your al­ley. That said though, in fac­tory form it re­mains a ver­sa­tile truck that is equally at home on the road, build­ing site or soggy pad­dock. And, as I found, even danc­ing in the snow.

The Fuso Can­ter is of­fered with a three-year, 100,000km/2000 hour war­ranty. Dealer sourced pric­ing (cab chas­sis only; ex­cludes on road costs); sin­gle cab 4x4 $60,000; crew cab 4x4 $65,500 less GST.

Grav­ity and mo­men­tum can see a slid­ing truck slide a long way.

1

1. Trac­tion in the slush is the biggest ad­van­tage of the lit­tle 4x4.

2. The Fuso is equally at home on fire trails and bush tracks, it’s also happy on the open road. 3. With a bit of mo­men­tum, the Fuso will go most places where there’s a track.

4. A ba­sic yet func­tional

in­te­rior.

5. The Fuso Can­ter 4x4 is a sur­pris­ingly

ca­pa­ble off-roader.

6. Room for four pas­sen­gers across the back

seats.

7. Wad­ing depth is only 330mm, which I found out af­ter this pic was taken. The good news is that it coped fine, though a stint in wa­ter should be fol­lowed by a visit to the dealer for ser­vice.

8. With a 2-speed trans­fer case, the Can­ter 4x4

is quite a ver­sa­tile unit.

9. I thought the DPF and ex­haust may be a lit­tle vul­ner­a­ble in the rough stuff but we didn’t drag it once.

10. The light­weight off-roader is avail­able in

light truck or car-li­cence friendly spec.

11. The nav unit picked up a sur­pris­ing

num­ber of bush tracks.

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