Vauxhall Adam review
The Vauxhall Adam has the style to compete with the MINI and A1, but it lacks a little driving sparkle
The Vauxhall Adam is prime evidence of how the small car market has grown more competitive in recent years. Cheapness, tiny dimensions and fuel economy are no longer enough to make a success of a modern city car, they've got to be trendy, well-specced and desirable too.
The MINI moved the game on in this regard with its premium retro small car positioning in the supermini segment and Fiat's 500 has done something very similar for the smaller city cars. We now expect pint-sized runabouts like the Volkswagen up!, Smart ForTwo, and Hyundai i10 to deliver big car levels of equipment, sophistication and style. Vauxhall thinks its Adam is up to the job and offers a huge range of personalisation options designed to increase the all-important want-one factor.
The Adam combines fresh modern looks with 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. There's also an Adam cabriolet in the pipeline and a hot Adam VXR is confidently expected.
The Adam's upmarket cabin is impressive but space in the rear seats and boot is in short supply, while the driving experience could be sharper. Although the chassis serves up decent amounts of grip, the ride is firm and the numb steering fails to deliver much in the way of driver involvement.
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's up!, Skoda's Citigo and SEAT's Mii), on the retro side it's Fiat's 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.
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, they don't offer enough power and torque to make the most of the Adam's light chassis. The forthcoming 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol should help bring the Adam driving experience up to date.
Vauxhall has not done well in its ranking in our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey recently. It fell from being 13th-place manufacturer in 2012 to finish 26th in the table in 2013.
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 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. 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. The boot is wide and deep, but not very long, and when you fold down the back seats for more space, you're left with a big step in the middle of the load floor.
Don't got for the optional larger stereo system if you need a big boot, as the subwoofer in the back takes up a lot of space.
The Vauxhall Adam doesn't quite match its rivals in this area, either. The vast majority of the alternatives offer tax-friendly sub-100g/km models in their line-ups but the best the Adam can manage is 117g/km - a product of the elderly engine range.
The 1.2-litre petrol and 1.4-litre petrol units all offer similar average fuel economy of around 50 to 55mpg. 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 keeps other running costs under control though.