If the slightly stubby, four-square proportions of the Vauxhall Adam seem unusual, it’s because they are. The car is 25mm shorter than the Mini, but nearly 80mm taller. It apes the Fiat 500, a car that was itself revised in late 2015, quite faithfully. But its width and length mean there’s considerably more to the Adam than the Fiat. At 1720mm without mirrors, it’s wider even than the fourth-generation Vauxhall Corsa.

The Adam’s relationship with the Corsa is critical. The two are built in the same German factory and the Adam shares the Corsa’s platform. Fairly early in the Adam’s gestation Russelsheim took the decision not to use GM’s global ‘Gamma-II’ small-car platform as originally intended, which serves under the Mokka compact SUV and Chevrolet Aveo.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
Oddly, the inside of the filler cap contains no information about what fuel to put in the car

That didn’t alter the car’s mechanical layout: engines go in transversely under the bonnet and drive the front wheels, as is universal law for small cars, and suspension is via struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. The question is, do warmed-over mechanical ingredients designed for a supermini launched in 2006 belong on a ‘premium’ small car years later?

Engine choice was previously limited to a 1.4-litre petrol unit producing 86bhp and 99bhp, or a 69bhp 1.2-litre engine, all mated to a five-speed manual. Early 2015, saw a new three-cylinder engine come along and transform the Adam. The 1.0 turbocharged unit offers 113bhp, but more importantly offers a refinement level in particular that shoves the other units firmly to the sideline. 

Vauxhall would argue that Adam buyers are more likely to be interested in the car’s extensive colour palette. There are 12 body colours here, with contrasting roof colours, and seven different alloy wheel designs to choose from, and then optional exterior trim and decal packs on top. But, for the time being at least, those same buyers may be hard pressed to find as much substance as style here.

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