Setting out your stall to sell vans or light trucks on the other side of the world certainly gets a boost if you build locally. Daimler’s Fuso brand retails mainly through Mercedes commercial dealers in Western Europe, so to establish that local footprint and to save shipping costs, the company uses a factory in Tramagal, Portugal.
Fuso is a big name in Far Eastern markets, with a heavy truck portfolio that we never see. The modest Canter, of which 852 were sold in the UK last year, has a global sales figure of 140,000, outselling all other models in Daimler’s truck portfolio.
The 3.5-7.5 tonne Canter range has taken on EGR (exhaust gas recirculation), an oxidation catalyst and a particulate trap to achieve Euro 6 below 6.0-tonne GVW. Above that, SCR (selective catalytic reduction) and AdBlue are added to clean up emissions.
Test drives of various Euro 6 models gave the impression of being quieter, while longer axle ratios, higher injection pressures, a stop/start system and an electromagnetic fan clutch are among developments that lead to a claimed 9% fuel economy gain over Euro 5 models.
Cab shells remain unchanged, but seat adjustment gives a six foot driver enough headroom and more legroom than required, unusual in this style of vehicle. Fuso claimed a first in commercial vehicles when it introduced the Duonic AMT (automated manual transmission) that uses two clutches to manage shifting. It works well, with manual intervention being easy. Drivers would be best advised to leave it in auto mode for town work and resort to manual on hilly routes.
Canter is not a vehicle we would have expected to perform particularly well as a 4×4. But the performance of the 6.5-tonne 6C18(D) was very impressive. A slippery off-road test route in the Sintra mountains was managed with road tyres and we gave it full marks. A bumpy ride is to be had unless you keep the speed down, but the five-speed manual box, with a reduction gear to give a low range, does a good job. If you’re in forestry, light construction or utilities, you could give one a go.
We also tried out the Eco Hybrid 7C15. A 150hp diesel and a 40kW electric motor are set up as a parallel hybrid with regenerative braking. The truck drives well and Fuso says that 5% of Canter production is now hybrids, although only 25 have hit the road in the UK since launch three years ago.
Pushing the envelope even further, we also glimpsed an all-electric 7.5-tonne E Cell Canter. Despite boasting a raft of batteries and a 110 kW (150hp) electric motor, there was hardly any technical detail on offer. Suffice to say that range and electricity charging costs will no doubt be major concerns.
What we think
The Canter light truck still has a Japanese flavour, whichever way you slice it, but it continues to improve. The Duonic twin clutch transmission and the 4×4 version should help increase sales.