, and its European counterpart Opel, have clearly been watching the sales success of superminis like the Mini
and the Fiat
500 and thinking long and hard about how they could grab a slice of the action.
Unlike Fiat and Mini, they did not have an iconic small car that they could give the retro treatment (somehow I don’t see a retro Vauxhall Viva or Opel Kadett exciting buyers). So they had to find a new way in and, here it is, the Vauxhall Adam. Even the name is quirky.
My test car was the Vauxhall Adam Jam 1.2. There are three versions to consider Jam, Glam and Slam – I kid you not!
As with the name, you will either love or hate the looks of the Adam. It is short and dumpy (shorter than a Mini in fact) and it tries very hard to be different. Its cheeky looks are given an added touch of distinction on some models with a very 60’s-style two-tone paint job. There are even some elements of the design, inside and out, that did remind me of some of the design cues from cars like the Vauxhall Cresta.
So, a lot of hard work has gone into creating a fun image for the Adam. It is also clear that a lot of care has gone into the details, like the materials used in the interior trim with interesting textures and designs.
The end result is both distinctive and, at least to my eye, pleasing. Clearly Vauxhall has picked up that small car buyers want to build in character and fun into their cars. For example, you can have your Adam with decals that look like the roof paint has run in drips onto the front and rear wings, with “splats” on the mirrors.
Some of these features come with the various packs that give you the chance to customise your Adam to suit your tastes. In all there are some 12 body colours (with contrasting roof colours), 20 wheel designs, 18 changeable fascia decor panels and four colours, 15 seat trims, plus a choice of headlinings to make your Adam your own.
The £995 “Jam Extreme” pack, for example, offers a white roof and grille bar, dark tinted glass in the rear, the textured dash, those “splat” graphics and interior leather. As we head into autumn, the £215 winter pack will become popular with its heated seats and, most unusually in a car in this class, a heated steering wheel (great on a cold morning!).
Guaranteed to get a smile from your passengers is the £100 painted headlining which brings a touch of Sistine Chapel to your Adam, giving it a painted ceiling featuring a blue sky and clouds!
For the buyer, these extras can help make your Adam feel more personal. For the manufacturer, of course, selling a couple of packs will increase the profit margin quite handsomely.
Space in the Adam is good in the front, but the rear-seat passengers are not so generously catered-for. Fine for kids, the rear seat is a bit of a squeeze for adults. The 170-litre boot, while small would take a reasonable weekly supermarket shop, although there is a fairly high sill to lift loads over.
The driving position is good, although I noted that the steering wheel seemed a bit high.
With the 70PS 1.2-litre that I tested, you do sometimes feel a bit down on power as the 0-62 mph time of 14.9 seconds might suggest. Where this really shows up is when you try to get up speed on long inclines, although on flat dual carriageways, the Adam will cruise happily at the legal limit. The top speed is 103 mph.
But, in reality, driving this car in its natural environment, the city, you don’t really feel the lack of power to the same extent. If you want more, however, there are two 1.4-litre models as the obvious step-up. The 87PS version shaves 2.4 seconds off the 0-62 mph at 12.5 seconds, while the 100PS achieves 62mph in 11.5 seconds. There is no diesel option. In an era of six-speed gearboxes, the Adam sticks with a five-speed.
If power and acceleration are not an issue, then the Adam should please you at the pumps. The combined fuel consumption figure is 53.3 mpg and I found my real-life figure hovering around 40mpg even pedalling quite hard on city and country roads. Carbon dioxide emissions are 124 g/km which puts the Vauxhall Adam 1.2i into band D for UK tax.
Other than feeling the occasional lack of power, the Vauxhall Adam proved itself to be an enjoyable companion in the range of roads that I experienced during my time with it.
Around town you have the option of a special setting on the steering that makes it lighter for parking and manoeuvring. Perhaps it is just as well that I found the steering light enough to make this button redundant, as it is positioned for left-hand-drive cars and is much handier for the passenger than the driver.
The ride on the test car felt a little restless on some surfaces. I have heard suggestions that this is a case of “form-over-function”. While the big wheels look good, the ride on standard wheels and tyres is reported to be better. Staying with refinement, noise levels are a little on the high side.
It’s always encouraging when you see how hard a manufacturer has worked to make their car not only technically good, but also appealing. Vauxhall must have faced a very tough internal brief when it came to designing a car that could stand up alongside the established chic offerings from Mini and Fiat.
In the cold light of dawn, the Vauxhall Adam does not set new standards in terms of its dynamics. But, a car is a subjective choice and, in this sector of the market it is governed by personal style and taste.
Vauxhall must be hoping that the very obvious efforts they have put into making a distinctive, fun and stylish addition to the small car choices, will pay off in strong sales for their ‘different’ newcomer.