Vauxhall Adam: Drive Review

12th April 2013

Michael Woodhouse meets the Vauxhall Adam in all its variations

There are people who genuinely enjoy the shopping experience. I’m not one of them. I can't even stand shopping online. Fashion trends are not for me, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to avoid… ‘fashionable’ is now creeping into the car market.

Go on a new car launch nowadays and the people in charge of the development of new vehicles talk less about the need to provide racecar handling and more about the customisation options. Just think of the Mini or the Citroën DS3.

What colour exterior? What shade of beige inside? Metal or wood trim around the instrument cluster?… These are the questions that potential buyers are asking rather than considering the size, power output and torque levels of the engine?

Vauxhall is joining the individualisation crowd with the Adam. The little city car has been developed to give customers more colour choices than a paint swatch.

First, you have to choose between trims – jam (fashionable/colourful), glam (elegant/sophisticated) or slam (racy/ sporty) – and then the door opens to over a million different specification and trim combinations, with the choice of 12 body colours, 15 seat designs, 20 alloy wheel styles, three printed headliners and no less than 18 interior décor panels, to name but a few.

In this array of choices, some work: the colour segments for the alloy wheels which match the paintwork, for example. Others don’t: the cloud formations on the headliner for the inside just look cheap and tacky – especially if you put twinkling lights in too.

But the Adam (ignoring the name), is a cool little car and deserves a chance to be a success. It’s keenly priced from £11,255 for the Adam Jam 1.2-litre, up to £14,000 for the Adam Slam 1.4-litre.

Vauxhall is aiming it squarely at the Fiat 500 with the hope that it can also take sales off the much loved Mini and the Citroën DS3 which has reintroduced plenty of buyers to the brand. People who have chosen those cars like ‘funky’ and buy cars to be an extension of their fashion-conscious personalities – according to the marketers at Vauxhall anyway.

The Adam is funky. In addition to the colour options, inside you can hook up your smartphone – Android and Apple – to a seven-inch screen, and via pre-downloaded apps, benefit from functionality such as satellite navigation.

You can also spec a park assist that automatically parks the car, a blind spot alert and a power steering system which includes a city mode. Hit a button on the dashboard and the steering becomes incredibly light for when you find that tight parking space. It isn’t a function that everyone will love; some drivers will prefer the feel of more heavily weighted steering, but once you get used to it, being able to spin the steering wheel around with your little finger is something that makes urban driving so much easier.

But it isn’t a perfect machine.

Whereas Mini and Citroën have managed to develop vehicles that marry funky individualisation and driveability, Vauxhall – like Fiat, for that matter – has led too much with the fashion side.

The engine range as it currently stands doesn’t give the Adam enough get up and go. Once you move above 30mph everything becomes a little asthmatic.

The 1.2-litre petrol engine with stop-start is the most economical, managing 56.5mpg and pumps out 118g/km CO2. It’s passable for a car that can do 0-62mph in 14.9 seconds and has a top speed of 102mph, but it isn’t a benchmark. Neither is the more powerful 1.4-litre: the 100bhp unit manages 51.4mpg, 129g/km and 115mph.
Vauxhall aren’t stupid though and the Adam will be getting new engines and transmissions that should make the car far more exciting to drive and a lot more economical. Like everyone, it’ll benefit from turbocharged, direct injection technology and a brand new six-speed manual transmission.

When these turn up, the Adam could really be a competitor for the vehicles that Vauxhall is pitting it against. For now, it’s funky, but without the edge. Still, by the time you’ve finished speccing your vehicle, the new engines should have arrived…

Price: from £11,255
Top speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Fuel economy: 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 129g/km

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