Vauxhall Adam review
Vauxhall’s answer to the MINI, Audi A1 and Citroen DS3 may have the looks but falls short on the driving experience
Called the Adam, it trades on small dimensions, classy looks and lots of personalisation options to create a desirable package. And it would seem to have worked with Vauxhall clocking up more than 8,000 sales in 2013 and 100,000 in Europe as a whole.
There are just three trim levels to choose from – Jam, Glam and Slam. But that’s where the simple choice stops as the Adam can be personalised with a total of 30,000 different style combinations making it very easy to create your ideal car.
There are also three choices in the engine department. Initially launched with elderly 1.2- or 1.4-litre petrols, the range now features a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with 113bhp. The latter is easily the choice of the range delivering strong performance and decent running costs.
Those small dimensions really make themselves known on the inside. While there’s plenty of room upfront, rear passengers will find sitting in the back a very tight squeeze. There’s less space in the Adam than there is in the MINI for instance, and the poor rear space is matched to a tiny boot too. With just 170 litres on offer when the seats are up, prospective buyers shouldn’t expect to fit a lot of shopping in.
And another big contrast to the MINI is the driving experience. Sadly the sassy looks do not add up to an involving drive with the Adam suffering from light steering and a hard ride.
Our choice: Adam 1.4 Jam
There seem to be two ways for the modern city car to go on the styling front, they either try to look modern or retro. In the modern camp we have the likes of the Hyundai i10 and the Volkswagen Group triplets (VW up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii), on the retro side it's the Fiat 500.
The Adam is broadly taking the modern approach, featuring the company's latest front-end design language with a prominent Griffin badge and unmissable LED running lights. Having said that, the curves of the roofline and elsewhere on the bodywork do give the Adam something of the cute profile that marks the Fiat 500 out.
Funky bright colours and the option of painting the roof a different shade to the rest of the car give buyers the opportunity to really put a personal stamp on their Adam. We'd always advise buyers to think of the residual values when speccing their car and avoid doing anything too outlandish, though.
For the interior Vauxhall has kept things simple, there’s a two-tone dash, well laid out controls – the £275 seven-inch touchscreen is a must – and leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel. Build quality is pretty decent as well for the most part, but looker further down the dashboard and there are some cheap plastics. Overall the Adam can’t match the more upmarket rivals it’s up against.
The Adam's looks might suggest that it's fun, vibrant and sporty but this isn't borne out when you get behind the wheel. It grips the road well, but the ride quality is too harsh and you get very little feedback from the front wheels through the steering.
The Adam arrived with a choice of dated engines already seen in the last-generation Corsa supermini and these units do little to help matters. Although they will most likely be reliable, on the performance front they don't offer enough power and torque to make the most of the Adam's light chassis.
The recently launched 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine provides a more fitting driving experience, its 113bhp and 170Nm of torque will see you hit 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and on to a 121mph top speed.
Vauxhall has not done well in its ranking in our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey recently. It’s gradual slide from 13th-place manufacturer in 2012 to a 26th place finish in 2013 has continued, with the British brand ranking 29th in 2014.
The Adam itself fared better, finishing 23rd overall in the 2014 Driver Power list, having never previously ranked, although it finished a distinctly average 60th for reliability.
More worrying is the Vauxhall Adam Euro NCAP safety score. The testing body gave it just four out of five stars, rather than the five out of five that has become the norm for modern city cars.
The car didn't exceed 90 per cent in any of the adult protection areas of the test and recorded disappointing scores of 72 per cent and 65 per cent for pedestrian protection.
If you're looking for a spacious family car, you're probably better off with a Corsa or Astra than an Adam with its more compact dimensions. There's plenty of room for the driver and front-seat passenger – as well as numerous storage areas and cup-holders – but people sitting in the back will feel distinctly claustrophobic.
Adults will probably only want to spend short journeys back there, so keep this in mind if you frequently give lifts to friends. Sliding front seats make getting into the rear easy at least, and children should be reasonably happy.
Realistically you’ll probably find yourself using the back for transporting shopping and other baggage, particularly given the wide boot is not very long or deep, and when you fold down the rear seats for more space, there’s a big step in the middle of the load floor.
Another word of warning: don't go for the optional larger stereo system if you need a big boot, as the subwoofer in the back takes up a lot of space – although for many customers in this sector audio enjoyment may well matter more than practicality.
The Vauxhall Adam doesn't quite match its rivals in this area, either. The vast majority of the alternatives on sale offer tax-friendly sub-100g/km models in their line-ups but the best the Adam can manage on the CO2 emissions front is 114g/km.
The best emissions returns are achieved with Vauxhall’s ecoFLEX Start/Stop tech, but the cars lacking it put out closer to 125g/km, which will have more of an impact on your wallet when it comes to paying road tax.
The 1.0-litre, 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol units all offer similar average fuel economy, ranging between roughly 53mpg and 58mpg. There's no diesel engine available, as Vauxhall believes it would make the car too expensive and the typical Adam buyer doesn't want or need a diesel. The low insurance group keeps other running costs under control though.