Vauxhall Adam review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Vauxhall’s answer to the MINI, Audi A1 and DS 3 may have the looks but falls short on the driving experience

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

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MINI, Audi and DS have all had great success in the supermini sector with posh, fun to drive offerings that have all majored heavily on style.

Vauxhall entered the sector in 2013 and has so far clocked up more than 22,000 sales in the UK with the Adam. The small Vauxhall offers classy looks all backed up with a large range of options allowing owners to personalise their cars to their tastes – there are more than 30,000 different combinations on offer.

Due to its style but also small size, the Adam can count everything from a retro Fiat 500 to a modern-looking Volkswagen up! through to the aforementioned premium cars like the MINI, DS 3 and Audi A1 as rivals.

The Adam can be specified in some fun-sounding trim levels – Jam, Glam and Slam. The range grew in late 2014 with the arrival of the Adam Rocks Air – a pumped-up SUV-style Adam with a fabric sunroof – and in early 2015 with the Grand Slam – a performance version of the Adam packing a 148bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It the fastest and most powerful version of the Adam but also the most expensive, starting from £16,995.

There are three, choices when it comes to engines – a new and punchy 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo and two older 1.2- and 1.4-litre units - all petrol. The aforementioned 1.4-litre turbo is only available in the Grand Slam model.

However, while the small size looks good on the outside and is great for town driving, they 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.

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. This is, however, addressed with the Grand Slam - it has a great chassis, but a firm ride thanks to the standard-fit 18-inch alloy wheels.

Our choice: Adam Jam 1.0 Turbo

Engines, performance and drive


As with the Corsa, quick steering ensures the Adam feels keen and alert on winding roads. Turn-in is sharp and there’s lots of grip, plus top-spec Adam Slam’s stiffer suspension helps reduce roll. However, push harder and the car starts to lose its composure.

The combination of a harsher set-up and large 17-inch alloys on some models also has a negative impact on ride comfort, because the Adam crashes into potholes and fidgets over small bumps. The softer springs and smaller 16-inch rims on the Jam and Glam are much better suited to the UK’s poorly maintained roads.

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. 

Around town, City steering mode makes the wheel light for parking and then disengages at 30mph-plus to deliver a more natural feel. Combined with the Adam’s small dimensions, it makes the car a natural in the urban jungle. Even so, the blend of small rear windows and thick C-pillars means the £275 optional parking sensors are worthwhile.

If fun behind the wheel is your priority, then the performance-based Adam Grand Slam will appeal to you most. It uses a 148bhp 1.4-litre turbo engine, sits on a VXR-tuned chassis as well as borrowing the larger brakes from the Corsa VXR. It's quick for a car of its size and engaging to drive, but the fimrer setup can make it a little rough at slower speeds.  

MPG, CO2 and running costs


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 (or 149g/km in the Grand Slam’s case) which will have more of an impact on your wallet when it comes to paying road tax.

The 1.0-litre, 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and the Grand Slam’s 1.4 turbo 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.

Interior, design and technology


There seems 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.   

As you’d expect, there’s huge scope to customise the car, with graphics, different wheels and various paint finishes. It’s easy to get carried away, though, and some additions can make the Adam look a little garish. We'd always advise buyers to think of the residual values when speccing their car and avoid doing anything too outlandish, though. 

Vauxhall Adam badge

Climb aboard and it’s clear that Vauxhall’s worked hard to create a classy atmosphere. From the slick dashboard to the high-quality materials, the Adam feels a cut above rivals like the DS 3. Highlights include the body-colour trim set into the dash, the chrome-ringed dials and the chunky leather steering wheel.

As with the exterior, the sky’s the limit when it comes to personalisation. There are 18 seat finishes to pick from, plus more than 20 trim insert colours and five rooflining options, including a ‘starlight’ version that uses 64 LEDs to create a ‘sky at night’ ambience.

Even if you keep things simple, there’s plenty of standard kit. You’ll have to pay £275 for the IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system, though. It’s not the most intuitive set-up, but it lets you upload various music and sat-nav apps. Elsewhere, there’s a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment, while the front seats are supremely supportive.

The sporty Grand Slam model gets a unique bodykit and a unique colour combination (red over grey) along with the option to specify figure-hugging Recaro sports seats.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


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. 

Reliability and Safety


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’s been around for nearly two years and it appears to be impressing owners, though, who placed it an excellent 23rd overall in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey. As you’d expect it scored strongly for ease of driving, but a mid-table result for quality proves there’s still work to be done.

However, the baby Vauxhall shares most of its platform with the tried-and-tested Corsa, so buyers shouldn’t have to worry about durability.

A four-star Euro NCAP crash test rating will disappoint Vauxhall, but it was achieved during the much tougher 2013 tests and its individual percentage scores beat the likes of the DS 3. All versions get six airbags, stability control and a speed limiter, although there’s no option to add kit such as autonomous emergency braking.

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.
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.


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: 10 Apr, 2015