Thinking of a MINI or a Fiat 500? Then you also need to be thinking about Vauxhall's trendy little ADAM. Jonathan Crouch drives the brand's little lifestyle citycar.
The ADAM is Vauxhall's refreshingly different take on the small car sector. It tries not to trespass on the territory of the brand's existing citycar and supermini models but does offer a more stylish option that sits somewhere in between for buyers bored by the sight of BMW's reinvented MINI on every drive and unmoved by Fiat's funky 500. Here's a fashionable alternative with an encyclopaedic list of options, bidding for individuality beyond the hatchback herd. The only remaining ADAM body style is the fixed-top three-door hatch and it can now only be had with a 70PS 1.2-litre petrol engine.
The model title's is a nod to Adam Opel, the founder of Vauxhall's European sister company, but is unlikely to start a trend for Biblical car names. The trendy looks disguise the fact that this car is actually quite conventional, running on the underpinnings of Vauxhall's old third generation Corsa. Still, it's the stylish look and feel that will sell this model. True enough, the Griffin brand has brought us some stylish designs in the past, but they've only appealed to a small percentage of the car buying population. Here, we've a Vauxhall with more widespread chic appeal. Let's try it.
So what's it like on the road? Slide into the seat and there's a very different feel from that provided by a Corsa - or any other conventional supermini come to that. The commanding driving position, the big chunky MINI-like wheel, the wide, low glass area. It all makes you eager to tackle the urban jungle, with the promise of secondary road sportiness beyond. Not too much mind. The only engine that Vauxhall now offers in this car is its old 70PS 1.2-litre normally aspirated petrol unit, the 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre turbo petrol units having been discontinued. To be honest, this entry-level powerplant does struggle a little with the task of pushing nearly 1.1-tonnes of ADAM up the road with any real zip, sixty two mph from rest occupying nearly 15s on the way to a top speed only just over 100mph. As with most models of this kind, while you'll be quite comfortable in attempting a motorway trip of a few hours, you will notice at and around the legal limit that refinement isn't quite as good as you first thought. This is partly due to the lack of a six-speed manual gearbox. The ADAM is much happier around town where a neat 'CITY' button can lighten the steering for easy wheel-twirling that'll get you into the tightest space. Exactly the kind of thing you'd want from a car like this.
The only remaining ADAM body style is the fixed-top three-door hatch. At under 3.7m in length, this Vauxhall is actually shorter than many of its citycar rivals and a full 300mm shorter than a Corsa supermini. But there's more to it than that. The tall height and the considerable width - it's actually wider than a Corsa - positions it visually as a bigger car than it actually is. A clever trick, which also pays dividends inside. As in a Fiat 500, the high roof gives a spacious feel, something that here is further underlined by the greater width and glass area. But all the smoke and mirrors in the world can't create space where there isn't much and Vauxhall's claim that this design can 'comfortably seat four adults' requires for fulfilment the directive that those in the front should be very short-legged indeed. And at the wheel? Well, as a buyer you'll have opted for a decor finish that's either restrained, wilfully extrovert or more likely, a feel that's somewhere between the two. Out back, a prod on the rear Griffin badge reveals a 170-litre boot that lies size-wise somewhere between slightly smaller shape of a MINI and the slightly larger one of a Fiat 500.
The ADAM value proposition is based on a pretty simple trade of size against style. The idea is that, just as with a MINI or a Fiat 500, you should get a citycar-sized runabout (think tiny Ford KA or Volkswagen up!) for the cost of something supermini-shaped (think Corsa or Fiesta), with compensation provided by a super-sized helping of style and desirability. Only one engine is offered, a 70PS 1.2-litre normally aspirated petrol unit and there's only now one three-door fixed-top body shape, the 'Roacks Air variant with its electric fabric sunroof top having been discontinued. Prices start at around £14,000 for the base 'Jam' version, but if you want more equipment, there are limited edition 'Energised' and 'Griffin' versions available for a limited time. The 'Jam' variant comes with air conditioning, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-covered steering wheel and a multi-function trip computer, but its 4-speaker audio system lacks a DAB tuner. Key options include rear parking sensors; a 'Driving Assistance' pack that gives you navigation, auto headlamps and wipers and an anti-dazzle rear view mirror; and a 'Winter Pack' that gives you heat for the front seats and steering wheel.
No small car has get by these days without a reasonable set of running cost returns - and this one's no different. The single 1.2-litre 70PS petrol unit manages 44.8mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and an NEDC-rated CO2 return of 128g/km. What else might you need to know? Well, as an owner, you can download a useful 'MyVauxhall' app via which you can take care of your Vauxhall online and book maintenance visits. At point of purchase, you can get a pre-paid 'Vauxhall Care' servicing plan. For a relatively small monthly payment over three years, this will cover you for three services and an MOT, plus it'll give you three years of roadside assistance. Finally, you'll also need to know that Vauxhall includes a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty as standard, a package that can be extended up to five years and 100,000 miles at extra cost. A year's free breakdown cover is also provided, along with a six-year anti-corrosion guarantee.
So the name's unusual. And so, for Vauxhall, is the approach. This most blue-collar of all mass-market makers is here offering us an intriguing little fashion-led citycar. At a price almost anyone can afford. The tiny lifestyle city statement this car represents is a well familiar one of course and most potential buyers tend to pursue it at the wheel of either a Fiat 500, a MINI Hatch or a DS3. The ADAM remains an interesting left-field choice though, at a relatively affordable price. We're disappointed that the scope of the range has been slashed back so much but if you're urban-based, the sole remaining 1.2-litre normally aspirated petrol unit might suit you quite happily anyway. If the price is right, the ADAM still has what it takes to appeal.
|County Motor Works Vauxhall|
|01245 932 703||Directions|
|Doves Vauxhall Southampton|
|02381 630 543||Directions|
|Warrington Motors Fiat, Peugeot and Vauxhall|
|01925 934 123||Directions|
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