£12,420 - £17,935 Price range
47 - 60 MPG
It’s bizarre name and range of similarly odd trim levels (Jam, Glam and Slam) make the Vauxhall Adam seem like the world’s most twee marketing exercise as it attempts to take on the likes of the Mini hatchback, DS 3, and Fiat 500. A premium small Vauxhall? Can it work?
Well yes, it can. The Adam headed up a new range of Vauxhalls that have so far culminated in the excellent new Vauxhall Astra. That means it is surprisingly fun to drive with meaty steering and suspension that does a good job of balancing comfort with agility.
A perfect match for the handling is the new 1.0-litre petrol engine, which blends decent performance with cheap running costs, a nice sound, and a weight reduction that makes the car feel even more nimble. In fact, it’s more than a match for the engines found in the excellent Mini.
And the Adam’s huge range of personalisation kit – which means you can have a car that’s completely unique – proves this is exactly the car Vauxhall is targeting. Even if you avoid putting pen to paper on the option’s list, standard equipment includes all the essentials such as air-con, a digital radio, electric windows and alloy wheels.
The Adam’s interior could reasonably be described as it’s best feature. It’s big on colour and personality, there are 20 different trim inserts and 18 upholstery variations to choose from – personalisation that was until recently reserved for expensive cars from the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce. And, while we’re on the subject, the Adam is available with a £325 headliner that uses 64 LEDs to mimic the sky at night – an option originally conceived in the Rolls Royce Phantom.
The IntelliLink infotainment system is a £495 option across the range, but we highly recommend speccing it. It’s one of the most advanced systems among supermini rivals and comes – along with the usual Bluetooth phone connectivity, USB slot, CD player and DAB digital radio – with a function that mirrors your phone’s display on the infotainment touchscreen. You can also use a multitude of apps for things like sat-nav and music streaming. IntelliLink comes as part of the Technical Pack, which also includes an upgraded six-speaker stereo and rear parking sensors.
Vauxhall Adam passenger space
And you’d need the parking assist, because rearward visibility is quite poor compared to the excellent view you get out the front.
It’s the same story with passenger space – you get decent room in the front with seats that have enough bolstering to keep you in place – but the back will be tight for anyone bigger than an unusually small teenager.
Vauxhall Adam boot space
Nobody expects a small car to be particularly practical, but with its 170-litre boot, the Adam luggage capacity falls short of smaller rivals such as the VW Up. It has a 251-litre capacity and a handy adjustable boot floor that makes loading easy.
To an extent, this is where the Adam falls apart. While many testers admit that it’s the looks and the options which will draw in the punters, the Adam’s humble Corsa underpinnings do it no favours out on the road. Early tests were critical of the steering, though later drives (January 2013 onwards) on UK soil said this improved – Vauxhall re-tuned it to UK tastes.
It’s easy to drive in town, and some say the Adam is fun to chuck about, but others suggest it rolls too much. Several testers note that it’s an improvement on the Fiat 500, but all say the MINI has it licked for thrills. Ride quality is nothing special either – on larger wheel options particularly, the Adam can hop and jiggle on rough roads. Many reviews say the ride quality is downright uncomfortable. Best to choose wheels of 16-inches and below to improve it a little.
Kicking off the range is a 69hp 1.2-litre engine. Above that there are two modern 1.4-litre petrols with 86hp and 98hp. Both offer mpg fuel efficiency in the mid-50s and decent performance.
The new 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol was launched a little later in the Adam’s life. Critics have a lot of praise for this engine with one even saying it ‘matches the Mini for refinement and performance’ – a high accolade indeed.
Only available in the expensive Adam Rocks S is the turbocharged version of the 1.4-litre. It produces 150hp for spirited acceleration of 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds. That would be fine if it didn’t cost more than the brilliant Ford Fiesta ST, which gets from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds.
Reviewers’ descriptions include “short on character”, “tinny”, “crude”, “slow” and “raucous”. Some do say it’s fun to thrash it as you’re unlikely to reach license-losing speeds when you do, but most imply it’s among the Adam’s weaker characteristics. At least, with 55.4 mpg combined economy and CO2 emissions of 119g/km it shouldn’t be too expensive to run. If these concern you more than performance or fun - and until newer options arrive, you’ve got little choice - then it may do the job.
The Adam is fairly well-equipped, with air-con, digital radio, electric windows and alloy wheels, all coming as standard
The option prices are reasonable, too – a contrasting white roof on the ‘Jam’ is only £200, for example, and two-tone graphics on the dashboard and wheels only £400.
Vauxhall Adam Unlimited and Rocks Unlimited
Unlimited and Rocks Unlimited trims are new to the range. They add a selection of new body and roof colour paint colours, new 16-inch alloy wheels and the option of wireless charging features for your phone or tablet. Vauxhall’s OnStar assistance system is also fitted at no extra cost. These two models are priced at £12,260 and £15,875 respectively.
Vauxhall Adam Rocks S
Marketed as a supermini with the ruggedness of a crossover, the Rocks S comes with huge 18-inch alloy wheels, ‘Halfords special’ painted brake callipers, sporty front and rear bumpers and a generous helping of plastic cladding. Inside, there are sports pedals, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control and a folding-fabric roof. Whether that’s enough to pull you away from a Ford Fiesta ST – which is cheaper, quicker and better to drive – is anyone’s guess.
The Adam is a characterful, well-styled and well-equipped little car, let down almost entirely by the way it drives. Aside from the new three-cylinder, the engines are too old compared to rivals and even with the UK’s steering tweaks, most are nonplussed by the way it corners and rides.
The Adam is still sure to find many fans, if only for its customisation options, but it isn’t close to the best premium supermini on sale. On this basis it’s very difficult to recommend.