From £11,2557
Ruggedised city car doesn’t bring much to the table, except an engine that makes the Adam newly appealing

What is it?

The new Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air – which belongs in its own little niche of the already niche-filled ‘fashion’ city car segment, apparently.

This, says Vauxhall, is a premium A-segment crossover hatchback with a folding cloth roof, and as such it doesn’t have a single natural rival. 

Shows you how much marketing twaddle actually counts for. Unwrapped of all the brochure-speak, this is an Adam with plastic bumpers and wheelarches, an ‘allroad’ chassis makeover and a big sunroof – but no four-wheel drive option, nor even any clever torque-vectoring ESP functionality.

What's it like?

Not a particularly special or interesting car, to be honest. But far from a bad one, mostly thanks to a new engine.

The Adam Rocks is the first Vauxhall to use the new 1.0-litre turbo petrol triple, which is also headed into the new Corsa.

Good for 113bhp and 125lb ft, it makes the car capable of dipping under the 10-sec-to-62mph marker, and simultaneously a sub-120g/km, 50mpg plus ownership proposition. Which sounds a bit more like the stuff that premium superminis should be made of.

The new engine is most striking for its refinement. Whisper-quiet and smooth at idle, it’ll issue a characteristic three-cylinder warble when pressed into a sweat – but only then.

Accelerator response isn’t as crisp as it might be, but the turbo still serves plenty of torque from under 2000rpm, and performance is accessible and elastic.

The engine isn’t quite as willing at very high revs as Ford’s Ecoboost three-pot, but Vauxhall would argue that low- and mid-range torque matters more. For all but keen drivers, they’d be right.

Adding 15mm to the Adam’s ride height and recommissioning the springs, shocks and roll bars hasn’t harmed its handling. The ‘Rocks’ corners flat and grips keenly, thanks in part to a slightly wider rear track than the standard car gets. But the Adam still suffers with shortness of feedback in its steering just off-centre.

The Rocks’ ride is a bit more pitchy and abrupt than the standard Adam’s, but it’s neither irritating nor intrusive.

Should I buy one?

When all’s said and done, we’d recommend the engine first and the ‘Rocks’ crossover makeover a distant second. 

A £13.5k Adam Jam with this powerplant suddenly seems a competitive offering next to a Fiat 500 TwinAir or a Citroën DS3. But the argument for spending almost £17k on the limited extra capability of the ‘Rocks’ is sketchy at best. 

If you’re what the Vauxhall marketing department would describe as a ‘postmodern urbanite’ and you’re in love with the looks of this city car in walking boots, you won’t find much to dislike here. But you also won’t find a great deal of substance to set the car apart either.

Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air 1.0 DIT

Price £16,695; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 55.4mpg; CO2 119g/km; Kerb weight 1088kg; Engine 3cyls, 998cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 113bhp at 5000-6000rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 1800-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Add a comment…
Dark Isle 3 September 2014

Not Sure About Rocks

I can't really see the appeal of cars like this, but to be fair to Rover the Streetwise looked pretty good and was very spacious. Can't say the Same about space for the Adam, though - silly name, too! And a Jam trim level? Really? :-/
Shrub 3 September 2014

Bring back the little mpvs

Cars like this add very little to the essential high hip point required by some older drivers, but not only older drivers, people who like a raised seating position, don't want to bend over to pop a child seat in a car etc etc. They are lowish cars to start with and adding one or two centimetres is neither here nor there. Walking passed a row of old folks' bungalows on my way into town recently I noticed two Vauxhall Agilas, a Suzuki Splash and a Kia Venga. These are now ageing designs and I wonder where these customers are going to turn when they look for a replacement in a few years, certainly not to this daft conveyance.
Moparman 3 September 2014

It's okay...

I think it is better put-together and presented than the Rover Streetwise. I could see older people liking it for its slightly-higher hip point but it does nothing I require of a city car. I am glad the new engine is decent even if, as noted, the Ford triple offers more power for similar CO2.