What is it?
The Vauxhall Adam, a curiously named front-wheel-drive city car that puts style and vast personalisation options at the top of its agenda. It battles the Fiat 500, Mini and Citroen DS3 head on.
Vauxhall is most keen to talk about the scope for making your Adam unique, and the array of colour, trim, mirror, roof, wheel and interior combinations is bordering on ridiculous. As are their names – ‘Men in Brown’ and ‘Saturday White Fever’ are just two of your colour choices.
Under the skin, things are a little less interesting. The Adam uses a shortened Corsa platform, the front suspension MacPherson struts, with a torsion beam at the rear. There are ‘base’ and ‘sport’ options; the latter is stiffer and gets a quicker steering rack.
There are three engine choices, and they’re all petrol four-cylinders – a 69bhp 1.2-litre, and two 1.4-litre options, with 86 or 98bhp. The 1.4s have identical 55.4mpg and 119g/km CO2 emissions figures if you specify stop/start (a £295 option) while the 1.2 is a mere 1.2mpg and 1g/km better off. Just £850 separates the lowest and highest powered engines, too, so the most powerful version looks to be the best value. All get five-speed manual gearboxes.
What’s it like to drive?
Good fun. It’s a neutral handler, and resists understeer and body roll well. We were only able to try sport chassis-equipped cars; in town the setup can be crashy over particularly rutted roads (especially on the 18in alloys you’re able to specify), but out on smoother, more flowing tarmac the Adam’s body control is largely impressive. Heftier mid-corner bumps can unsettle things, though this is something a car with the standard chassis setup might fix. Overall, it’s a pleasant car to hustle along, with quick steering and keen responses.
The sticking point at the moment is those powertrains. Only the 86bhp 1.4-litre was available on our launch event; it’s an engine that’s not particularly fresh, and it doesn’t have enough gusto to fully utilise the Adam’s capable chassis – its power feels as thin as the performance figures suggest. Keeping the little four-pot on the boil can still prove satisfying, though, as its delivery is so linear and predictable. It’s just not the engine to make the Adam truly sparkle; hopefully the 12bhp-healthier (and just £525 pricier) 1.4 can be. Either way, there’s plenty of dynamic promise for when a pair of 1-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo engines and the almost-certain VXR version arrive further down the line.
How does it compare?
The Adam’s not quite as playful as a Mini, but it’s more dynamically adept than a Fiat 500 or Citroen DS3. Its £11,255 starting price puts it in the middle ground on cost, too; the 500 starts at £9960, the Mini One £11,870 and the larger DS3 £12,850. Style-centric cars like this battle most aggressively on looks, though, and many sales will be decided by personal preference. The Adam’s almost infinite individualisation options could prove a big sway.
Anything else I need to know?
UK-spec Adams will get their own, weightier steering setup, tailored for our more challenging road surfaces, which apparently demand more sudden steering inputs thanks to unpredictable camber and surface changes.