Time for our weekly trawl through the filthsome deposits at the bottom of the swamp of motoring history. Put on your drysuit and plug your nostrils, it’s The Carchive and we’re going in. From last week’s Volvo we’re heading forward in time to the mid ’90s, but diverting to the Pacific Rim, as we check out the South Korean car that R Kelly and Kid Rock had in mind when they sang “I’m a Rocsta, baby”.
Click the images for a chance to consult the small print
“Rocsta brings out the individual in you. It’s exciting and exuberant, the stylish 4×4 that brings a sense of fun to every journey” The Asia Rocsta was marketed along a similar premise to every other small open-top 4×4 since just after the war, when it was realised that such vehicle could be used for leisure rather than just military trips between one killing field and another. It had another advantage over more well known machines of the type; the Asia Rocsta and the even less expensive Indian-built Mahindra both usefully undercut anything else that could realistically be called a rival. Of course, neither of the above could have any possible claim to cutting edge technology; the Asia and the Mahindra both being essentially de-militarized versions of their respective nation’s domestic all-terrain army vehicles, both of which presumably had their roots in copied Willys technology. The Asia, though, was dressed up in some very ’90s tape stripes and blessed with pretty looking alloy wheels and whitewall tyres. “Built to take on the toughest terrain, the Rocsta commercial is a rugged, durable and amazingly reliable 4×4” I have never, ever seen one of these commercial variants on the road, and wonder what small business would see the Rocsta as a sensible choice. I can understand farmers wanting a cheap, field-capable machine of reasonable civility for all-weather cross-country rapid-response duties, but they would also have had the Suzuki SJ413 and Daihatsu Fourtrak to choose from. Mind you, this brochure is so slim and vague it doesn’t actually go into detail as to what determines the differenced between the Standard, DX and Commercial models. It does show a hardtop as well as a convertible being offered; oddly the commercials all appear to have soft-tops. “The Rocsta’s high performance engine (2.2 diesel or 1.8 petrol) means it’s equally home on the road, too” This brochure refers to the first version of the Rocsta, with its Jeep CJ aping nose, before the R2 version arrived bearing a facial resemblance to the Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin. In truth, neither of the Mazda-descended engines gave the machine anything approaching refinement or, in truth, much in the way of useful performance. They were functional, sure, but crude in a way that the Korean army could probably excuse a lot more readily than the European consumer. In April ’93, Top Gear magazine ran a road test of Rocsta. A sample paragraph: “the Rocsta, frankly, is pretty lousy on the road. Although its driving position and controls can’t be faulted, it has such a bouncy ride and is so slow and noisy that anything other than short journeys are positively painful. Having said that, it is way ahead of the Mahindra. And it has a stereo” “Rocsta offers an exciting range of approved accessories, from the highly practical to the supremely stylish” It was all about lifestyle, at the end of the day, and for a while the Asia Rocsta was a credible fashion accessory. Today, howmanyleft tells us that there are 41 of them still licensed on British roads, which, if I’m honest, is a far greater number than I expected. (All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of, by the looks of things, Kia. Well, it was inevitable really