Thank Mini and Fiat, but today's small cars are aimed squarely at urban fashionistas. In a market where image is everything, it’s a fine line between funky and failure. Impressively, the best of breed are able break out of this narrowed and clichéd demographic, too.
Prior to the introduction of the Vauxhall Adam, it was a market unknown to Vauxhall, especially as the model represents an effort to climb from the volume to semi-premium market.
On paper, the Adam shows promise. It is certainly eye-catching, although perhaps not cute or attractive enough to bother Fiat or Mini’s stylists. It also offers huge scope for customisation. That’s important, because a couple of thousand pounds’ worth of stickers, wheels and trim substantially increases profit margins.
But is its styling is too wide of the mark to give it enough visual punch to steal many sales from the Fiat 500? Does it offer enough dynamic flair to bother the DS 3? And does it have the all-round driveway appeal of the Mini?
Before we get to any of that, there’s that name to deal with. It is so-called in homage to the founder of Opel, Vauxhall’s sister company, Adam Opel. That works with the Ferrari Enzo, but here it sounds a little odd. Even more unusual are the three core trim levels: Jam, Glam and Slam. Each, predictably, come with their own party pieces, but loosely the Jam is the base model, Glam has a little more glitz, while Slam sits at the sporty end.
Where the Adam scores well is with a range of customisation options that make it entirely possible that you’ll never see two identical models. In spring 2016, Vauxhall hit the peak of personalisation with the Unlimited model, available with any combination of roof and body colours, wheel styles and sizes, interior trims, and technology options.
There is also an Adam Rocks, a supposed urban crossover featuring plastic bumpers and wheelarches, while the chassis is given a supposed rugged makeover, as well as the ride height being jacked up 15mm.
The Rocks, proving that the basic name could be made even more ridiculous, is completed by a large retracting cloth roof on the Rocks Air, and is a pricey and slightly unnecessary addition when it joined the range in 2014.
There’s bags of space in the cabin and its economical, too – no model in the range drops beneath 50mpg on the combined cycle.
But in a market that is overwhelmed with unique subtleties, objective ability doesn’t necessarily equal appeal. Read on for our full verdict.