Variant tested: ADAM Glam 1.4 85hp ecoFLEX Start/Stop
By Wayne Gorrett
✔Stylish looks, honest pricing, huge scope for personalisation ✖ Firm ride, handling could be better, very little space in the back
☀ ☀ ☀
The Vauxhall ADAM is a three-door city hatchback engineered and produced by Opel in Germany and was named after the company’s founder, Herr Adam Opel – which means considerably more in Germany than it does here.
First aired two years ago at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, with UK and Europe sales starting in early 2013, the urban-focused ADAM is manufactured in the Eisenach plant in Germany alongside the Corsa. The ADAM is based on a shortened version of the Corsa’s ‘D’ platform but sits wider than its bread-and-butter sibling. The pensionable Agila aside, the ADAM is Vauxhall’s first and unfashionably late entrant into a segment which has grown by 30 per cent since 2000.
On top of the standard ADAM tested here in Glam trim, there’s also the ADAM Rocks compact crossover launched recently. Early next year, expect the arrival of a hot ADAM VXR (‘Vauxhall Racing’). There’s also a cabriolet/ragtop (à la DS3) in the pipeline, too.
Over the past ten years or so, city cars seem to have gone two ways on the styling front: contemporary or retro. Contemporary with the likes of the all-new Renault Twingo and the VW Group triplets of the VW up!, SEAT’s Mii and Skoda’s Citygo. The retro camp includes the Mini and Fiat 500.
Vauxhall product manager Ian Mitchell said: “Unlike our rivals, we haven’t launched a retro product. Instead of imitating others, the ADAM is unique with technology, quality, equipment and new ideas. But it is also for people who want their cars to express their personalities.”
The first thing to choose for your new Vauxhall ADAM will be one of three spec levels. If the car’s name isn’t jolly enough, Vauxhall’s product planners raided the caffeine jar with the rhyming line-up of entry-level Jam, mid-range Glam and the fully-loaded Slam.
The ADAM features the company’s latest front-end design with a prominent Griffin badge and very noticeable LED running lights. The curves of the roof line and elsewhere on the bodywork give the ADAM something of the cute profile enjoyed by the Fiat 500 and the new Twingo. I particularly like how the ‘C’-pillar appears to float by falling short of the rear hip line. That one seemingly insignificant detail commands attention and makes the car’s design stand apart from others – a stroke of design genius.
With coloured wheel clips, printed roof liners, backlit dash panels, 12 colours with three contrasting roof paints, 20 wheel designs, 15 seat trims and ambient lighting in eight shades, the ADAM takes pole position in the personalisation stakes. It’s also the first in its class to offer a ‘sky at night’ roof lining with stars represented by 64 LED lights.
Funky bright colours with amusing names like Saturday White Fever, Papa Don’t Peach, Dancing Green, I’ll be Black, Let it Blue, James Blond, Purple Fiction and Greenspotting, plus the 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.
For the impressive interior, Vauxhall has kept things simple. The two-tone dash has well laid out controls and a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel. Naturally, the build quality is of high Germanic standard, too.
There’s plenty of room up front 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. Sliding front seats do make getting into the rear easier though and children or ‘in-betweeners’ should be reasonably happy.
Realistically you’ll probably find yourself wanting using the back for transporting shopping and other baggage, but accessibility to it may be an issue due to the ADAM only being available in a three-door body format. The boot, at only 170 litres, is small even by city car standards. The Mini has 211 litres, the Fiat 500 has 185. The rear seats split 50/50 and fold forwards, upping the boot space to 663 litres, but you then get a big step in the middle of the load floor.
Across the three-trim ADAM range, there is a high level of standard kit, including air-con, DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control and trip computer, leather-clad steering wheel with audio controls. On the safety front, ESP-plus, ABS, tyre pressure monitoring system, six airbags and daytime running lights are all standard, too.
The optional £275 for the 7-inch infotainment system must be the bargain of the century. It links smartphones to the car to put internet applications on a large fascia touch screen and is particularly impressive in sat-nav mode.
Safety & security
The full ADAM range comes with stability control and six airbags; two in the front, two at the side and pair of curtain ‘bags at the sides. Surprisingly, an alarm system remains on the options list and is not standard on any variant.
Of some concern is the Vauxhall ADAM’s Euro NCAP safety score of only four out of five stars, rather than the five out of five that has become the standard for modern city cars. Unfortunately, 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.
On the road
The driving experience is a mixed bag but overall the ADAM’s road manners are quite acceptable, offering comfortable ride quality and responsive if overly light steering. The decent chassis set-up delivers excellent grip during those more enthusiastic moments but measurably negates ride comfort over crusty surfaces.
Zippy rather than powerful, the mid-range 1.4-litre 85hp engine shows willing on the open road and provides the best power-price balance of the engine line-up. However, it still needs to be worked to provide a lively personality – with the resulting penalty to fuel consumption. Handling is tidy and out-of-town refinement is good with minimal noise intrusion at speed.
Being the nature of the city car beast, the ADAM has a short wheelbase which commands an intense dislike of speed bumps. No sooner have the front wheels gone over then the back ones follow to create a pitching motion. For those with masochistic tendencies, sports suspension is optional, but that really is best left alone as the ADAM is not designed to be sporty. Besides, it’s firm enough, thank you very much.
The city car market has become extremely competitive in recent years but the Vauxhall ADAM is up to the challenge, passing the 125,000 orders mark in Europe during the summer. This success isn’t merely down to being affordable, compact and inexpensive to run, the three-door urbanite also scores well on in-car tech, personalisation options and that all-important desirability factor.
The ADAM is not perfect. A Mini is more fun to drive and some say the Fiat 500 is cuter, but those two have circumnavigated a few blocks over the years and their respective ‘wows’ have diminished somewhat. The ADAM is new, fresh, different and personable. It drives well, is quite comfortable and does a pretty good job of being a city car – and is well up for the occasional inter-city excursion. As a result, it is easy to recommend.
Fast facts: Vauxhall ADAM Glam 1.4 85hp ecoFLEX Start/Stop