The Mazda-Powered Asia Rocsta Is The Amazing Kia 'Jeep' You've Never Heard Of

Illustration for article titled The Mazda-Powered Asia Rocsta Is The Amazing Kia Jeep Youve Never Heard Of
Photo: David Tracy
Truck YeahThe trucks are good!

It’s not every day that I find a Jeep-like off-road vehicle that I’ve never heard of, which is why I need to tell you all about the Asia Rocsta that I found in a German parking garage a few weeks back. It’s incredible.

Advertisement

I can’t wait to tell you about the visit I had with a man named Tizian, a young German from Aachen whose love for Chrysler minivans knows no bounds. His story is amazing. But until I have time to edit that video/write that article, I’ll bide time by showing you the fake Jeep that Tizian’s friend owns. It’s called the Asia Rocsta, and it looks very much like a Jeep Wrangler YJ with a more CJ-ish face. Behold:

There are so many fake Jeeps out there between the Mitsubishi J58, Ssangyong Korando, Mahindra Thar, various Jeepneys, and on and on. I thought I knew them all, but then I spotted this yellow and black machine on the bottom floor of a parking garage. After initially mistaking it for the Ssangyong, I then realized that this wasn’t anything I’d ever seen.

Advertisement

I looked closer.

undefined
Photo: David Tracy

Under the hood, I saw a Mazda F8 gasoline inline-four engine. Strange, as this clearly isn’t a Mazda. On the center of the front manual-locking hobs read “Asia.” I wasn’t sure what this meant:

undefined
Photo: David Tracy
Advertisement

Tizian later texted me that his buddy’s car was called an Asia Rocsta. Some cursory research shows that it was a 1990s-era South Korean automobile derived from a military machine and also badged as a Kia (Asia was a subsidiary of Kia).

undefined
Photo: David Tracy
Advertisement
undefined
Photo: David Tracy

Per the brochure below, the 1.8-liter gas Rocsta only made about 94 horsepower and 117 lb-ft of torque, which it sent through a five-speed manual transmission. The 2.2-liter diesel got the same transmission, though horsepower and torque are lower at 71 ponies and 105 lb-ft.

Advertisement
undefined
Photo: Asia via eBay (Other)

Before we move on, I need to highlight something from this brochure, namely this:

undefined
Photo: Asia via eBay (Other)
Advertisement

Hot damn. In this brochure, Asia writes the vehicle’s gradeability rating as the tangent of the maximum angle of incline the vehicle can climb. This is so incredibly nerdy that I just figured I’d point it out.

What most off-road vehicle makers use in their literature is the maximum percent incline that a vehicle can traverse, with the percentage calculated as the rise divided by the run multiplied by 100. So if a car can go up a grade that’s three meters high and four meters long, that’s a 3/4 = 0.75 x 100 = 75 percent incline. If the slope is four meters high and four meters long, it’s a 100 percent grade (and 45 degrees).

Advertisement

What Asia is showing here is essentially just a different way to write percent incline (except in decimal form, not as a percentage), since tangent is equal to opposite over adjacent (i.e. rise over run). So if the tangent of the angle is 0.97—as is the case on the diesel model—that’s the same as a slope that’s 97 meters tall and 100 meters long, or a 97 percent grade. The gas can apparently climb a 129 percent slope.

If you want to know the angle of those maximum slopes, you can just take the arctangent of 0.97 and 1.29, and arrive at a maximum slope of 44.13 degrees for the diesel model and 52.22 degrees for the lighter, more powerful gas.

Advertisement

For reference, the new Land Rover Defender is rated to climb a 45-degree slope — same with the new Mercedes G-Wagon (Mercedes calls this a 100 percent grade, but it’s the same thing. It’s definitely less fun than if the company had used tan(theta)=1).

undefined
Photo: Asia via eBay (Other)
Advertisement

Another spec sheet for the Rocsta has horsepower at 85 and torque down to 97 lb-ft. I’m assuming something changed on that engine during the vehicle’s production run, though I’m not sure exactly what (both spec sheets mention that the motor is carbureted—surprising given that this machine came out right around the beginning of the 1990s).

You’ll also notice that the previous spec sheet mentions an optional limited-slip differential, while the one below mentions available lockers front and rear. That’s just awesome.

Advertisement

Interestingly, you can see in the image below that the gas model has a shorter axle ratio at 4.875, and it also has a gear reduction in the transfer case but not just in low range. The high range ratio is 1.50, meaning the engine’s torque is always multiplied by at least the gear ratio of whatever gear you’re in, 1.5, and 4.875.

In low range, the transfer case reduction is 2.2. Add first gear (the ratio is 3.563), and you wind up with a maximum crawl ratio of 38:1, which is actually quite decent.

Advertisement
undefined
Photo: Asia via eBay (Other)

I can’t say I know much about the Rocsta, but multiple sources online say it’s a descendent of the Korean KM410 military Jeep, which, as I understand, drew from the Willys M38A1 military vehicle.

Kia sold the Rocsta in various countries in Asia, Europe, and South America, as I understand, which is why it’s a bit bizarre that I’m only now hearing about it.

Advertisement
Asia
Photo: David Tracy

Just look at this thing off-road. Thanks to its body-on-frame construction, leaf-sprung solid axles, and low range gearbox, the little Jeep is, unsurprisingly, unstoppable:

The Rocsta died off in the late ’90s, and was replaced by the cuter, significantly less rugged-looking Kia Retona:

undefined
Photo: Kia via oldcarmanualproject (Other)
Advertisement
undefined
Photo: Kia via oldcarmanualproject (Other)

Anyway, now, thanks to this article, Jalopnik has the Asia Rocsta and Kia Retona somewhere on the website. An injustice has been reversed.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

I’d heard about the Rocsta, but what the heck is a Retona? That’s an uncanny valley car if ever I’ve seen one.