Driving to Geneva has never been so fun; Renault's Laurens van den Acker proves why he's the best; Brundle decides F1 predictions
Steve Cropley Autocar
11 March 2015

SATURDAY/SUNDAY - Not every Saturday starts with a flight across Europe to Monaco, to pick up a bunch of interesting cars and help drive them over the Alps in time for the opening of the Geneva show, but this one did.

This was Vauxhall’s ‘Griffin Greats’ tour, run for the past few years and designed to alert hacks to the excellence of current Vauxhalls (notably the Adam Grand Slam and the Mokka with its new 1.6-litre Whisper diesel) and also to their ancestors (three Cavaliers, a Chevette HS and a Viva GT).

I’ve rarely learned so much on so many fronts in a couple of days’ driving. The Adam turned out to be one of those nippy, firm-suspended little cars that’s comfortable for hours. The Mokka diesel is refined, as much so as the 2.0-litre Insignia diesel in which photographer Stan Papior and I circled Europe a fortnight ago.

But the big surprises were the old cars. The Chevette’s handling was, even in modern terms, superb. The Cavaliers were much more modern and easy to drive than I expected. The Viva GT’s ride was so supple that I’m seriously considering launching a ‘Bring Back the 13in Wheel’ campaign. 

It all served to make the point – without a syllable of blarney – that Vauxhall needs us to understand: these are good cars and have been for many years.     

MONDAY - Into Geneva just in time to see Volkswagen’s Passat be voted 2015 Car of the Year. This is the third year the decision has been announced in Geneva, and the wisdom of the move was obvious: you can tell an event’s going well when the TV cameramen start fighting one another for good locations.

Some were disappointed about the Passat’s win, but it’s an excellent car, and the man from VW made a heart-warming speech. It was obvious he and his colleagues knew this was the award that counted, out of the ever-expanding clutter of car-gongery, and it is.

TUESDAY - Snatched 15 minutes at the show with Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker, who has masterminded such a huge change in Renault’s designs across the board, concentrating on human forms, that they now eclipse everyone in Europe (my opinion).

I’ve often wondered what Mercedes-Benz’s cars would look like by now had Daimler hired this inspired Dutchman half a dozen years ago. LvdA gave me a phone pic he’d grabbed of a Captur parked in a Paris street to show the enormous influence of correct colours and light-grabbing forms on modern cars.

WEDNESDAY - The wisdom of editor Jim Holder’s decision to anchor our F1 season preview to an interview with Sky’s expert summariser, Martin Brundle, was proved when I met the man in London. I’ve interviewed him a few times before, over the years, and the delight of it is always that when you pose a question, Brundle treats it with a seriousness that persuades you it’s something he’s never been asked to answer before. 

It was such a pleasure to talk for 87 minutes (on my watch) that Stan Papior stayed to the end after his shutter-pushing was complete after 20 minutes or so. You can read the full preview here.

FRIDAY - My latest cock-eyed idea to find a cheap car to attack sprints and hillclimbs involves buying and improving a Mazda RX-8, the ingeniously packaged four-door coupé, powered by a 231bhp rotary engine, that you see in places like eBay at prices below £1000. 

I’ve consulted Wankel engine experts and found that – as with all Mazdas – the cars themselves are bulletproof, but the low prices result from the engine’s propensity to break down. This does not have to be, say my advisors, if you treat them right. Much more on this (including their identities) when I’ve gathered the required info.

Our Verdict

Vauxhall Adam

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

Join the debate

Comments
6

11 March 2015
£500 a year road tax has put me right off :o(

I think I'll go for an early mk3 MX-5 instead.

"Why is http://www.nanoflowcell.com not getting more media attention? It could be the future... Now!"

11 March 2015
" excellence of current Vauxhalls"

And then you go on to mention the "Adam", a slow selling MINI wannabe, and a "Mokka" one of these "me too!" crossover items that every manufacturer is foisting upon us.

Bring back the eras of mk3 Cavalier, Calibra, Manta, Carlton, Royale. INTERESTING cars!

11 March 2015
Steve - feel free to put your own money into a Vauxhall if they are that good. Personally I cannot think of any GME model that is class-leading (and none are genuinely desirable). Therefore, I'd avoid these 'good' cars and buy something better.

11 March 2015
The trouble with Vauxhall it has been a perpetual underdog for decades. It gets knocked for not being innovative and being not-quite-as-good or not better than the competition by many magazines. I cannot remember the last time a journalist recommended a Vauxhall without some caveat that implied you would rather have something else even if it is more expensive. The Adam may have been half-baked to start with thanks to its decrepit power train but that seems to have been sorted. Honestly, I think the badge snobbery that is so common nowadays begins at the keyboard in a lot of cases and filters down. I wish there was a way that you could literally do a blind test of a car to go by only the other senses to see what the results would be.

11 March 2015
Moparman wrote:

The trouble with Vauxhall it has been a perpetual underdog for decades. It gets knocked for not being innovative and being not-quite-as-good or not better than the competition by many magazines. I cannot remember the last time a journalist recommended a Vauxhall without some caveat that implied you would rather have something else even if it is more expensive. The Adam may have been half-baked to start with thanks to its decrepit power train but that seems to have been sorted. Honestly, I think the badge snobbery that is so common nowadays begins at the keyboard in a lot of cases and filters down. I wish there was a way that you could literally do a blind test of a car to go by only the other senses to see what the results would be.

I had a Corsa courtesy car for 2 weeks last year and it was hateful. Bad driving position, bad ride, ugly inside and out, poor drivetrain. And I like small cars normally.

They've replaced with a heavy facelift, not an all-new model. It might be good enough for some but not for me.

As for the rest, why would you buy an Astra, Insignia, Mokka etc unless it was way cheaper than the opposition. Adam or a Mini? Not even close.

11 March 2015
scrap wrote:
Moparman wrote:

The trouble with Vauxhall it has been a perpetual underdog for decades. It gets knocked for not being innovative and being not-quite-as-good or not better than the competition by many magazines. I cannot remember the last time a journalist recommended a Vauxhall without some caveat that implied you would rather have something else even if it is more expensive. The Adam may have been half-baked to start with thanks to its decrepit power train but that seems to have been sorted. Honestly, I think the badge snobbery that is so common nowadays begins at the keyboard in a lot of cases and filters down. I wish there was a way that you could literally do a blind test of a car to go by only the other senses to see what the results would be.

I had a Corsa courtesy car for 2 weeks last year and it was hateful. Bad driving position, bad ride, ugly inside and out, poor drivetrain. And I like small cars normally.

They've replaced with a heavy facelift, not an all-new model. It might be good enough for some but not for me.

As for the rest, why would you buy an Astra, Insignia, Mokka etc unless it was way cheaper than the opposition. Adam or a Mini? Not even close.

Why buy an Astra or Insignia? Why not?

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