Vauxhall Adam review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Vauxhall’s answer to the MINI, Audi A1 and Citroen DS3 may have the looks but falls short on the driving experience

For: 
Stylish looks, perky 1.0-litre turbo engine, lots of personalisation options
Against: 
Very cramped rear space, tiny boot, not as fun to drive as rivals, hard ride

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Vauxhall has seen the success MINI and Audi have had in the premium small car sector and has offered its own competitor since 2013.

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.

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.

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.

Along with the three versions of the Adam, there’s also the Adam Rocks Air with SUV-style looks and the soon-to-be-launched sporty Adam S and Adam cabriolet models. 

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

Styling

4.5

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.

Driving

3.5

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.

Vauxhall Adam rear tracking

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. 

Reliability

3.5

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.

Practicality

3

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.

Vauxhall Adam interior

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. 

Running Costs

3.2

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.

Disqus - noscript

My Astra GTC 1.6t struggles to achieve 30mpg...55mpg is pretty impressive, no matter what car it is. Looks decent & will probably sell very well

Doesn't look decent. That's a decent nose, that's a decent glass house and those are decent fenders but when they come together they don't make a decent looking car.

It did strike me that it was possible to identify styling influences from a number of other vehicles. Levent Taskan is surely right to observe that they don't blend well together

I'm confused. The 'First drive' in the magazine refers to the "well-weighted steering and brakes, which give you the confidence to chuck the Adam around...", which seems to be at odds with this test here?

Back end is a dead ringer for a Ford KA mk1, front looks like an ever uglier version of the latest Micra. Combination makes it look awful. To top it off, they call it the Adam...

AE, you have 3 clearly articulated reasons why this could not possibly be a 4-star car. There is something seriously wrong with your judging/grading system.
Against:
No space, lacks dynamic sparkle, engines are dated.

And all the constructive criticism, and acerbic comments, have been deleted, unless you've run the same article in about 3 issues of the online mag. I, earlier, seriously questioned calling a car a 'Slam'. Its also well known jargon for sticking drugs in your arm. Where do the idiot designer/name-givers have their heads??

This car will sell in its millions.

Its young.

Fairly stylish.

And is aimed at the right market.

The only down side is Vauxhalls list price. Get Real.

Erm, how can you award this car 4.5 stars for styling, when its that same styling/design that really shocks the car down to a 2+2? It may be okay to shamelessly plagiarise the design/style from Audi, but does the A1 suffer the same terrible lack of rear [head-room] space? Does some airhead, at Opel, or Vauxhall, really think a Jam or a Slam is trendy/chic/lookatme?? How completely lacking in imagination. And what's with the nonsense of "oh please dont compare me to a Mini or 500"? Hot air from a handicapped designer?? I seriously hope your Govt has signed-off plans to resurrect the Scrapage Plan, because there are going to be tonnes of dead metal round in about 5 years, and not all Adams

Vauxhall got the looks right with Adam but fitting it with old Corsa engines does this car no favours.

Agree - style-free blob that fails on all counts.

You can tell this car is aimed at the young.
it will sell by the shed load.
As for the reviewers complaint of lack of rear space. Has she driven the fiat 500 or Ford Ka?
The problem with the Brits is we listen to lazy British journos with an axe to grind.If this had only been sold under the Opel badge the reviews would have been far more positive. German=better.Nuff said.

It looks like and old Ford Ka! defo needs a rework, Vauxhall should watch out with this one, it could cost them!

I'll second that, Gross oversight on their part!

Yet more Eurojunk! Why anybody buys any of them I do not know.

Significantly, sales of Silver Cross prams have just shown a sudden significant rise. Could it be that Adam owners see the need to match the style of baby carriage to that of their new car?

Kind of a cross between an old Citroen Pluriel and an even older Mk1 Ford Ka with engines and technology from the same era....Avoid!

It looks even sillier in the flesh than in pictures, and there seem to be very few on the road.

Adam Jam Pram!

Now that would look good on the back,same old Vauxhall new Body/styling with old tech.
Probably shift a few due to the 'Options' list
blind fools,save your money there's much better A seg' cars than this and the new Hyundai i10 to come soon.

The velly siri names let it down! Dam shame.

Looks like an 1960s-era pram and about as desirable, at least to this driver.

Others agree, judging by the numbers I've seen on the roads - just two - and one of those was a logo'd up promo car.

Churnalism.

Get real yourself, nobody pays list price for a Vauxhall.

Its a toss up which is more useless, the review or the car itself

I own one of these as a first-time driver. Noisy slightly from outdoor driving. Very light to drive. Not many on road, but when I've been out the car I've been asked about it so people can look into it. Recently I've seen more when I'm on the road and it seems that they're just picking up later than what everyone expected,
Pricey yes. Petrol - thirty five pound takes it up to 3/4 full. Inside is brilliant.

Last updated: 20 Oct, 2014
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