The name comes from the Japanese word, "Asuka", which is the old name of the Asuka Village in the Nara Prefecture of Japan. Because the name "Asuka" may be pronounced `Ashuka` in European as well as foreign countries, the `U` was taken away from the name, presenting the model as the "Aska".
The original Aska was developed as a part of GM's J-car program and was a welcome replacement for Isuzu's sorely dated Florian. Contrary to fellow J-cars from other GM divisions, the Aska only came in one body style, a 4-door sedan (the station wagon body style on the Florian proved to be relatively unpopular and was discontinued back in the early 1970s). The Isuzu J car variant differed most notably in the rear styling from other J-car variants. From 1983 to 1984, the Aska was known as the "Florian Aska", before being renamed in 1985 as the "Aska".
The car was launched in March 1983 with 1.8 and 2.0 L gasoline engines and a diesel. In 1985, a turbocharged version of the 2.0 L engine, which developed 150 PS, joined the lineup. Branded by the German tuner Irmscher (specializing in GM cars and cooperated with Isuzu on some other models too), this version featured a distinictive body kit and became somewhat of a cult object among some car fans in Japan.
The Aska was exported to southeast Asia, where it was known as the Isuzu JJ, and to New Zealand as the Holden Camira (JJ) between 1984 and 1987, in lieu of the JD Camira, manufactured in Australia, because the previous Australian-sourced JB Camira fared badly in the New Zealand market (nonetheless, the JD wagon was imported concurrently from Australia).
The Aska was also assembled in Arica, Chile from CKD kits from 1984 and sold as Chevrolet Aska in the domestic market
and in Ecuador.
The first generation Aska was discontinued in 1989; production totaled 108,512 cars.
With the exception of the American market, the J platform did not continue into the 1990s. Not having resources to develop a mid-size car on their own, Isuzu forged a short-lived alliance with Subaru. This provided for Isuzu to supply Subaru with Isuzu Bighorns (rebadged as the Subaru Bighorn), while Isuzu rebadged Subaru's mid-size Legacy sedan as the Isuzu Aska. Both rebadged models were sold only in the Japanese market.