Steve Cropley
3 January 2013

What is it?

When we first drove the new Vauxhall Adam, due in UK showrooms next March, we weren’t happy. The ride seemed lumpy and the engine thrashy and old-tech, but the big mismatch was between electric power steering that seemed at once ponderous and unpredictable, and a sporting ride quality (our Slam-spec test car was on sports suspension and 18-inch wheels) that surely demanded crisp, intuitive steering.

However, Opel-Vauxhall is fast developing a tradition for retuning the electric power assistance of its cars for the UK market (its biggest in Europe). And following our adverse reaction and others, this is what it firmly decided to do.

In co-operation with Opel chassis engineers, Vauxhall chassis guru Gerry Baker conducted some wide-ranging tests to set the car up in a way that would please local customers. The setting was signed off “weeks ago” on some pretty narrow and badly surfaced roads around Vauxhall’s Millbrook proving ground, and Autocar was allowed to try it.

What is it like?

In fact, we tried five different iterations, starting with the original European set-up and ending with the one signed off for the UK. Just the fact that this was possible – simply because Baker’s laptop could ‘talk’ for a few minutes to the car’s computer – shows the great versatility of electronic power steering. In the old days, Baker was quick to point out, it would have taken a couple of hours to swap systems, assuming the right one was available; it took days if it wasn’t. By this time, much of your memory of the original fault would be gone.

We tried the Euro system (by my judgement, dead at the straight-ahead, with an overly quick assistance build-up away from it) plus three systems developed “on the way”. It became clear that the way assistance builds up as you move the wheel away from straight-ahead, the actual amount of assistance supplied at different speeds (the system swaps between 16 levels of assistance) and the shot of extra assistance you can get when you suddenly swing the wheel – think of it as a kind of overboost, designed to kill any feeling of delay – is what governs decent steering. Baker’s settings varied between pretty good and deliberately comically bad.

Then we tried the new UK settings. This was the same steering wheel, in the same car, yet suddenly its responses seemed natural and intuitive. When a looming Transit appeared at a crowded apex, my hands knew exactly what to do. I found myself driving the Adam with comfort and commitment – yet considerably faster than before. It was a little heavier, but mainly it was entirely predictable.

Should I buy one?

The Adam still isn’t the perfect car. It’s pricey for the performance, and its 1.4 engine still feels crude. But now it has nice steering. That’s an essential ingredient and a big step forward.

Vauxhall Adam Slam 1.4i

Price: £13,475; 0-62mph: 12.5sec; Top speed: 110mph; Economy: 51.4mpg (combined); CO2: 129g/km; Kerb weight: 1135kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1398cc, petrol; Power: 86bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 96lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual

Join the debate


Still not sure....

1 year 43 weeks ago

This car really needs a hot hatch halo model along with an equally fun to drive 'warm hatch' for newish drivers.  It would help the Adam develop a fanbase and a bit of a following. 

Missed Opportunity ...

1 year 43 weeks ago

Every keyboard has a "Delete" key ... Perhaps Mr Baker should've done us a great service and hit that to delete this utter joke of a "car" ...

I still don't get it maybe

1 year 43 weeks ago

I still don't get it maybe I'm the wrong demographic.

Jam Glam. No. Thank you, mam!

1 year 43 weeks ago

Adam essentially belongs to a niche class of city cars that take you from point A to B in style.

I presume that Adam is targetted squarely at BMW's Mini, Citroen's DS3 and Fiat's 500.

Why then Vauxhall give its brand new baby the old 1.2L and 1.4L motors from Corsa?

Not a single model dips below the 100g/km mark. Hence no zero VED or congestion charge.

Thanks Vauxhall for offering us a million ways to personalise this car. But no thanks.

Adam's real problem

1 year 43 weeks ago

The Adam's real problem is that the Audi 1 prices start from £13640


Its brilliant.

1 year 43 weeks ago

I really like this car, ok i might be a bit bias, but i think its good value. The base car at £11,200 ( a lot less after vauxhall discounts!) has alloys, air con, ESP cruise control, USB, bluetooth and a DAB radio. Not exactly what you would call poverty spec. The citroen DS3 costs £1,500 more yet doesn't even have alloy wheels.

i would get one but vauxhall are bound to make an advert about how camp you have to be to drive one...

Things I Didn't Know...

1 year 43 weeks ago

1. The U.K. is Vauxhall/Opel's biggest market (I thought it was Germany!)

2. It's that easy to switch between different steering set-ups

3. That Vauxhall/Opel would be arrogant enough to continue with such a stupid name and childish trim level designations

4. How Vauxhall/Opel can keep getting the handling characteristics of their cars so wrong so often

"stylish" hi-tech design.

1 year 43 weeks ago

"stylish" hi-tech design. Highly customisable. ok, fair enough. theres a market for that.

Crap old tech engines.  Terrible brand image.  lack of vintage chic that the mini / 500 have . Hmmmmm.

Really think this car is going to sink, big time. The mini, 500 & DS3 are all "cooler" and more desireable. The youngish people who buy this genre of car tend to have reletively high disposable incomes and want something that looks cool. An iphone on wheels. They wont care that this is cheaper than the competition because they wouldnt be seen dead in it.

Granturismo wrote: Really

1 year 43 weeks ago

Granturismo wrote:

Really think this car is going to sink, big time. The mini, 500 & DS3 are all "cooler" and more desireable. The youngish people who buy this genre of car tend to have reletively high disposable incomes and want something that looks cool.

I disagree with you on that, I think this will be pretty good for Vauxhall. I see lots of young guys and girls driving about in a Corsa 1.2 SXi, so I suspect a lot of them will being trading them in for this, especially if Vauxhall do more free insurance schemes on them.

Granturismo wrote:

An iphone on wheels.

That is exactly what it is, with that new stereo in it, so it will appeal to the younger drivers even more.

 I have said before that I like this car (name aside) and I am glad to hear that the steering has been sorted out. What it needs, as someone else mentioned, is a halo model VXR version and a great engine like the Ford 1.0 and Fiat's twinair, rather than these wheezie 1.2/1.4's.


10 years of Smart ownership over, sensible car mode activated


1 year 43 weeks ago

the fact of the matter is this type of car is aimed at young people who are looking for something a bit different not most of the fuddy duddy anoraks that post on here everyday, thankfully such a person who is interested in this car wont see such stupid remarks


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Our Verdict

Is the Vauxhall Adam special enough to provide an answer to the Fiat 500 and Mini, or merely an exercise in style and marketing?

Driven this week