The Benchmark

Two years ago, I got a chance to drive and review the Fuso Canter FE71. Many friends actually wondered why I agreed to that, and my answer was simple: because I wanted to.

Unlike the bigger trucks I've tried out like tractor heads and wing vans, vehicles of the Canter's size are important because these vehicles move the economy. More importantly, it gives small and medium enterprises the mobility they need, be it equipment, people, or products. And in that category, the Canter is the benchmark; the standard by which all others are measured. 

The model we're looking at is the eighth generation Canter light-duty truck which features a long list of improvements over its predecessor and all the lessons learned over 58 years. Fun fact: when it comes to model nameplates, the Canter even pre-dates the very popular Toyota Corolla. That car was introduced in 1966, but the Canter was already making deliveries since 1963. You may even spot a few converted examples of the originals still serving as mini-buses over in Cavite.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

Compared to the previous generation, quite a bit has changed. It is true that trucks are about function rather than form, but it doesn't hurt to look fresh and presentable, and that's what Fuso did. They redesigned the front of the cab with a fresh new look, featuring new headlights, a new grille, and an overall pleasing aesthetic for a utility truck. And instead of a sticker to denote the name of the model, this Canter has it in as an emblem. It's an extra mark of pride in the model.

If you notice, I said Fuso Canter and not Mitsubishi Fuso Canter. That may be confusing because the vehicle still has the triple diamond on the front. While the Canter is very much one of the most widely recognized models of Mitsubishi Fuso, they're not using that name as much anymore because the Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Company is now majority-owned by Daimler. Take note of that for later on.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

The cabin itself has likewise been thoroughly revised. The dashboard design has changed and seems to be a higher grade than the predecessor I got to drive two years ago. I like the presence of so many pockets and compartments around the cabin, up to and including dual overhead binnacles for anything you might need on the road.

There's room for three up in front; actually, it's quite spacious. The instrument panel is clear, easy to read, and now has a multi-info display. The seating position is quite upright, but definitely comfortable because there's good cushioning and support. There's a basic 1-DIN audio system that has USB, AUX-in, and even SD card input; audio quality is rudimentary, but that's normal.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

The primary controls are also well thought out and positioned. The steering wheel and shifter look good and have a tactile texture for driving. I like that the wheel is tilt and telescopic. I also like that the shifter is on the dash and still within easy reach while the handbrake is just beside the driver's seat. The pedal placement is also very good. This doesn't demand that big of a learning curve to get going right away; if you're used to driving a van with the engine underneath, you'll feel right at home here.

Of course with the Canter, what's more important is the mechanical aspect. And while this may look like a simple facelift to make it more presentable, this is a truck that's ready and willing to be put to work.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

As with any truck in its class, the engine is just below, and that's where things get interesting. Fuso is still offering the 7th generation FE71 4-wheeler, and that's powered by a 4M42 turbodiesel; if you know your Mitsubishi SUVs, that engine code is very familiar. But for this 8th generation FE73 6-wheeler, Fuso went with a 4P10.

The engine isn't a development of the previous turbodiesel because this engine was sourced by Daimler and is completely unrelated to the 4M42. Still, it's a 3.0-liter, but it does make more power and torque than the older engine. The 4M42 in the FE71 had 125 PS and 294 Nm, but the 4P10-KAT2 in this FE73 has 131 PS and 300 Nm. It's also rated for Euro5 emissions thanks to the filter and other upgrades. 

The 4P10 is also used in the larger 8th generation Canter variants but is tuned for 150 PS and 370 Nm. As before, its gearbox is a rear-wheel-drive unit with 5 forward speeds but let me tell you now that the improvement is huge. If you took the time to see the video above, you'll see what I mean.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

The other major upgrade with the Canter is in terms of safety; specifically the braking system. In light-duty trucks, it's normal to have all drum brakes. They last long, but don't brake as well as modern disc brakes. That is what Fuso upgraded in the FE73: this truck has disc brakes for the front and the back. And when you look at the larger 16-inch wheels and spot discs, then you'll know it's an 8th gen model. The other telltale sign is the 5-stud bolt pattern because the 7th gen is a 6-stud.

We just don't see an all-disc configuration in trucks here; that means the new Canter has good dual circuit disc brakes as the primary, then a parking brake that locks up on a drum on the propeller shaft, as well as the exhaust brake system that significantly slows down the vehicle when you pop into a lower gear. Fuso also went further and added an anti-lock brake system to give the driver steering control under emergency braking maneuvers. It's fantastic that Fuso really put in some essential upgrades to make the Canter 8th generation safer.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

Any Canter that comes out of a Fuso dealership will always come in cab and chassis form, and the variant you get will dictate how much space there is in the back for any kind of body you want to have installed or fabricated. For the FE73 6-wheeler, that means you can bolt on a body that is 14-feet long, 6.5-feet wide, and 6.5-feet tall. By comparison, the FE71 4-wheeler 7th gen (the base model of the Canter line) has room for a 10-foot body in the back.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

Depending on your need, the Canter FE73 can be configured as a Dropside Truck (+PHP 141,000), as a Passenger Van (+PHP 290,000), or as a Refrigerated Van (+PHP 670,000 starting price). The configuration that Fuso Philippines lent to us is the rivetless Aluminum Van body (+PHP 170,000) and it looks very clean and very presentable especially with those 50/50 rear doors that can also hook up to the side panels for safety. This version is ideal for freight forwarders and cargo companies, but if you want something multi-purpose, the Passenger Van (FB-style) body would offer the best versatility.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

Driving the Canter FE73 around is a surprisingly easy proposition, and the improvements can definitely be felt. Power and torque are definitely better, and the engine is quieter; my decibel meter was averaging 3 dB less with the 4P10 compared to the 4M42. 

The braking is much improved; granted we're not hauling any weight around, but that was also true of the FE71 from before. So given that all other things are fairly equal, this has better braking than the predecessor. And yes, I was able to verify that the ABS works because just as I was driving it around, a sudden downpour dampened everything up.

I also like that there's a snorkel just behind the cab; that affords a bit of extra confidence when it rains hard. But either way, the presence of a better braking system means less chances of a collision if driven and maintained properly. That's always a good thing. 

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

The thing I like the most about the Canter FE73 is how the driving experience improved; and by that, I mean a lot. The steering is much better, and the clutch is light and easy, but the big change is the gearbox. If you watch my video of the FE71, the shift lever is obviously clunky. It takes a bit of effort to get the lever in the correct slot; in short, sometimes may sabit. In the new FE73 with the 4P10 engine and the new gearbox, there was none of that. This shifts almost like a passenger car. It's easier to be smooth and drive comfortably with the FE73; that's always a good thing because your drivers and staff wouldn't be as fatigued over long hours on the road.

If you're evaluating any Canter for your business, that's a good sign. It means your business is growing, and you need a reliable working truck to get your enterprise on wheels. And at PHP 1,660,000 and with the strong support of Fuso Philippines and their dealers, you can't go wrong with this option.

2021 Fuso Canter FJ73 6-wheeler image

Still, some are asking why I like driving these trucks. Yes, it's fun but more importantly, most licensed drivers can get behind the wheel of the FE73. The good thing about this variant is that it's the largest Canter you can legally drive as the owner. If you have a license with restriction code 2, that means you can take the wheel of a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of up to 4500 kilograms. The FE73 is rated for 4490 kilograms GVW.

It's a clever rating, but it means you can take over if the professional driver you hired has had to take a day off. But before you do, we recommend getting some specific training into managing something as big as the FE73 and learning how to modulate your right foot for the brakes. This truck still demands proper training, and that should be something you should look into.

One last thing: if you intend to drive this, look at getting the PHP 45,000 A/C upgrade for the cab. Every Canter from Fuso is cab and chassis, and with a blower only. Unless you enjoy sweating in the cabin or the humidity of a sauna when it rains, you may want to look into the A/C upgrade.