It looks for all the world as though you are approaching the edge of a cliff. Bordered by foliage, twigs and the occasional stout tree, the muddy track continues for about 200 yards. Beyond that? Hard to know, really. From where you are, it looks like a plunging void. The good news is that it’s quite scenic. The bad? You’re about to drive into it . . . On most press launches, the road route allows you at least I 00 miles or so to assess whatever vehicle it might be. When Asia Motors, whose British arm is a subsidiary of
Mazda UK, introduced its new Rocsta, total usage of the public highway amounted to around six miles. That was more than enough to establish that the Rocsta has an extraordinarily harsh ride, even by utilitarian standards, though fitment of BF Goodrich off-road tyres with tread the approximate depth of the Pacific Ocean didn’t exactly help. These were fitted to assist with the main purpose of the day, a particularly arduous series of test routes at Longmoor Camp, an army training ground in Hampshire. In addi
tion to the aforementioned precipice, obstacles included steep, rutted, muddy hills, tree-strewn knolls and water troughs ranging in size from large puddle to Lake Michigan.
Despite the apparent severity of the challenge, the Rocsta coped extremely well. There were hiccoughs, entirely forgivable given the terrain, notably when a couple of the 1.8 petrol-engined models suffered something of a water-to-petrol imbalance in the carburettor region whilst traversing some of the deeper, wetter obstacles. The 2.2 diesels proved immune to such aquatic abuse, however.
In ‘low’ four-wheel-drive mode (like most vehicles of this type, the Rocsta features three-way transmission), both versions are possessed of stupendous torque. That in itself is no surprise, but the Rocsta’s flexibility is. Even in third gear, it picks up strongly to squirt you towards muddy summits. It isn’t so much that the Rocsta will do this which is impressive, however, more the stable manner in which it does it. Canted over at around 45 degrees, it feels quite steady. So long as you don’t do anything silly (like touch the brakes or, worse, the clutch) then it will maintain its forward progress in a controlled fashion.
From a dynamic point of view, the crashing ride and ponderous steering are likely to be taken into consideration by typical buyers, who are unlikely ever to drive on terrain such as that at Longmoor, where admiration of the Rocsta’s manoeuvrability tended to outweigh any such drawbacks.
Asia Motors fully accepts that the majority of its customers “may go no further off-road than the grass outside Cleir pub”, but was keen to stress its new import’s tenacious versatility.
In the modem era, the Rocsta may look like a fashion accessory, and its combination of chic appeal and modest price (the cheapest diesel soft top is £9500, the top-of-the-range diesel DX hard top £10,800 and petrol models are £10,300 and £10,600 respectively) mean that it is more likely than not to be sold as such. Inevitable as that may be, it is evident from initial acquaintance that the Rocsta will be far more at home at the top of the Pennines that it will trundling through Sloane Square. S A