What is it?
It’s the new Vauxhall Adam – the latest addition to the style-conscious supermini sector. Vauxhall has tried to find some clear air in the class by positioning the Adam between the Fiat 500 and more expensive Mini and Audi A1 in pricing, and also by opting for a brand new rather than retro design.
Sitting on a heavily modified version of the current Corsa's platform, the Adam is a touch wider than a Mini but gets a shorter wheelbase of 2311mm, and a marginally shorter body. It’s powered by three engines: a 69bhp 1.2 petrol and 86 or 99bhp versions of the 1.4-litre petrol. Here we’re testing the mid-range 86bhp 1.4, also finished in mid-range Glam trim, which comes in at just over £13,000 when equipped with the optional (at £295) start-stop system as fitted here.
Read our review of the high-power Vauxhall Adam
Any cars that come with 17 or 18-inch wheels get a firmer sports chassis set-up as standard, as does our test car. It rides on 17-inch alloys and Continental ContiEcoContact rubber.
What is it like?
A little disappointing overall, but initial impressions are good since the cabin is this car’s real strong point. It’s width translates to a surprisingly spacious cabin up front, the driving position is good, and with standard spec on the Glam models including DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, USB input, colour touchscreen and panoramic sunroof, it’s certainly a pleasant place to be.
The colour screen is easy to use and great to look at, and uses a level of smartphone connectivity (which can include sat-nav run from the phone's software via an app rather than installed on the car) that will be a big incentive for technophiles. Elsewhere in the cabin, rear passengers will be a little squeezed and the boot is an awkward size and shape, but that’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker.
Of course there are countless options to make your Adam individual, even if there is a touch of the cringey, dad-on-a-dance-floor about the colour palette names, which include ‘James Blonde’ and ‘White my fire.’ Some of the options are more successful, including a slightly cheap-looking but still quite impressive LED 'star lit' roof.
Sadly, the cabin is where the good stuff ends. The cars we tested didn't come with a UK-tuned steering setup, which we're assured will be "more mechanical in feel" according to the company's dynamics guru. In these European cars the steering is reasonably accurate but completely disconnected and electronically veiled from what is actually going on at the wheels. Ride quality also disappoints, though the chassis setup may alter a little for the UK as well. In these Euro cars it's certainly harsh at all but very low speeds, and with cornering forces involved it will occasionally skip across the Tarmac in a fairly disconcerting way.
It’s not quiet, either. Mated to the five-speed manual gearbox (currently the only transmission option in the range), the 1.4-litre engine will be spinning at more than 3000rpm by the time you reach 70mph, at which point you will be suffering a tinny dirge intruding into the cabin and very little response under your right foot.
There is entertainment to be had with this motor at lower road speeds, simply because it's fun to wring every ounce of potential out of it at entirely legal speeds and without ever troubling the limits of grip on offer in this impressively squat, stable little car. Efficiency figures of 55.4mpg and 119g/km of CO2 are also better than the conventional four-cylinder rivals the Adam faces. They need to be, too, given the lack of a diesel option, and the year it’s going to take for the company to fit its new 1.0-litre turbo’d three-pot petrol, complete with a much-needed new six-speed manual gearbox
Even given the fun to be had in rinsing an underpowered car on public roads, the engine is flat and feels breathless next to its more modern-engined rivals. The 12.5sec 0-62mph time is acceptable, but the claimed 17.8sec 50-75mph in fifth gear says rather more about the Adam’s underwhelming performance.
Should I buy one?
We’d like to say yes, because there is clearly such good intent with the design and creativity that’s gone into the Adam. But it simply isn’t good enough in terms of powertrains or ride comfort. The Adam strives to deliver both a comfortable experience and a fun one, and it actually fails to do either.
The new engine could transform it, but until then the Vauxhall Adam is going to have a real struggle to prove itself against any of the more rounded and more established competition in this class.
Vauxhall Adam Glam 1.4 Ecoflex 86bhp
Price £13,270; Top speed 110mph; 0-62mph 12.5sec; Economy 55.4mpg; Co2 119g/km; Kerbweight 1135kg; Engine 4cyl in-line, 1398cc, petrol; Power 86bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 96lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual