Vauxhall Adam review
The Vauxhall Adam has the style to compete with the MINI and A1, but it lacks a little driving sparkle
The small car market has become extremely competitive in recent years but the Vauxhall Adam is up to the challenge, passing the 100,000 orders mark in Europe.
This success isn’t merely down to being affordable, compact and cheap to run, the three-door city car also scores well on in-car tech, personalisation options, and that all-important desirability factor.
In attempting to follow the lead set by MINI in this sector, the Adam finds itself up against everything from the Volkswagen up! and Ford Ka city cars to premium superminis like the Citroen DS3 and Audi A1.
Helping the Vauxhall Adam stand out then are fresh modern looks, a classy interior and good-value pricing that's usually supported by a range of finance deals.
Trim levels run from entry level Jam through Glam to the fully-loaded Slam, with power coming from a largely dated petrol engine range that recently benefited from the arrival of Vauxhall’s all-new 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo.
For all its visual appeal, the Adam’s interior is let down by very cramped rear seats and a boot that’s little more than a glorified rear glovebox. The driving experience is a bit of a mixed bag, too: as good as the light steering is around town, it feels numb and doesn’t offer much in terms of driver involvement, while the decent chassis set-up is good for grip but short on ride comfort.
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 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, although the Adam can’t match the more upmarket rivals it’ll find itself 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 he 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 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.
Service from dealers and a 'lifetime' warranty to the first owner of any of its cars are still good points for Vauxhall ownership, however. As long as you service your Adam within the Vauxhall dealer network and don't exceed 100,000 miles, you'll be covered for any faults as long as you own the car.
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 long-term warranty and a low insurance group keep other running costs under control though.