The pokiest mainstream version of Vauxhall's little ADAM lifestyle citycar has a 1.4-litre 16v petrol engine with 100PS. Jonathan Crouch tries it.
Ten Second Review
Bored with the sight of the reinvented BMW MINI on every drive? Unmoved by Fiat's funky 500, French designer chic from Citroen's DS3, or designer cool from Audi and their A1? Vauxhall thinks you desire an alternative, so they have a freshly fashionable hatchback called ADAM to tempt you with an encyclopaedic list of options, bidding for individuality beyond the hatchback herd. Let's try the pokey 100PS 1.4-litre petrol version.
Smaller hatchbacks dressed in nostalgic retro themes proved smash hits for BMW with the reincarnation of MINI and Fiat's reborn 500. But what if you don't have a diminutive automotive Golden Oldie to reprise? Well you can do as Audi did with the A1 and create a smaller scale echo of your upscale offerings. For Vauxhall this was not an option. As for Citroen with their popular DS3, Vauxhall invented their own appealing recipe for a chic, compact, hatchback: one that could be profitably personalised with a vast range of options. An approach which has brought us this car, the ADAM. At launch, the quickest version was the 100PS 1.4-litre petrol model that we test here.
Essentially, this is Vauxhall providing a chic lifestyle little car like an Audi A1 at a much more affordable price. The MINI and the Fiat 500 both claim to do that too, but neither can offer the huge level of personalisation available to ADAM customers. So, have Vauxhall succeeded in bringing competitively priced design flair, plus an involving drive, to the cost-conscious masses? Let's find out, at the wheel.
Driving dynamics are the most controversial aspect of ADAM: Vauxhall had to tweak them to suit British roads before the UK launch. With that done, the car now handles competently on its MK3 Corsa-derived underpinnings. It's not Fiesta-frisky but it'll probably be good enough for the target market.
That target market has the option of a 1.2-litre petrol entry-level model, an 87PS petrol 1.4 and the 100PS 1.4 we tried. This variant delivers the benchmark 0-60 routine in 11.5 seconds, coupled to a 115 mph maximum, which is more akin to Fiat's remarkable 0.9 litre Twinair 500 model, which delivers similar fuel economy, lower emissions and a 0-60 mph pace within a tenth of the 1.4-litre Vauxhall. In development, the ADAM's body benefited from a diet, weighing in at 30 kilograms less than a comparably powerful MINI and a substantial 74 kg less than the 1.2 Citroen DS3. Such slighter weight certainly benefits this car's acceleration.
The ride quality depends noticeably on which suspension option is chosen, for the wheel and tyre selection is critical. The ADAM we tried sat at the top of the specification tables in Slam 1.4i format, which means sportier suspension allied to wheels up to 18 inches in diameter. Such wheel sizes were standard equipment on high performance saloons like BMW's M3 not so long ago. They look better to the styling department and showroom salesmen, but such heavy rollers can deliver a jarring ride on a smaller car, generating more road noise.
Design and Build
Naturally every potential customer will have their opinion on the appeal of the ADAM's styling, especially as there are so many choices to dress it up. Without extras, ADAM is a bit of a bland metro-man, but when you hit the option list hard inside and out, his appearance transforms and may appeal more to the female buyers who will be vital to ADAM's commercial success.
The smart layout in the front row of the cabin earns our praise for its innovative attractions, which can be altered at the tick of a box on the options list, but the back seat accommodation is less generous. Conscientiously trimmed it may be - and with a quality feel that is a credit to Vauxhall's social climbing ambitions, but back seat space is as cramped as is the norm for contenders in this sub 4-metre class. Few rivals have standout back seat space, but you might be better opting for less expensive and less pretentious choices from Fiat [Panda], VW's Up or the Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto brothers should less plush padding and plenty of working space in minimalist exterior dimensions by your priorities.
The ADAM is built in Eisenach, the East German town that was home to BMW before the war, but today Eisenach is home to Opel, manufacturing Corsa and ADAM for Vauxhall.
Market and Model
Pricing for the ADAM in this top 1.4i 16v 100PS guise sits in the £12,000 to £14,500 bracket. This is actually the only engine directly shared with Vauxhall's more conventional Corsa supermini. So-equipped though, a Corsa will cost you around £1,000 more.
Should you decide to purchase, Jam, Glam and Slam are three prime trim choices. We tried the top level Slam specification, which is biased toward 'racy/sporty' tendencies. Glam is meant to convey elegance and sophistication and Jam is effectively the entry point, which Vauxhall want us to see as colourful and fashionable. From Jam starter helping upward, all models feature air conditioning and remote control deadlocking: a system that conscientiously extends to the fuel filler flap, defending the increasingly expensive contents.
All ADAMs carry cruise control, while 16-inch alloy wheels add a touch of sporty class and a plump leather-rimmed steering wheel delivers accessible touch controls for audio. In-car entertainment covers DMB digital radio and CD players, though technically aware buyers will supply their own sounds via USB port, also appreciating an auxiliary power socket, trip computer and Bluetooth connectivity.
Ascending the range, Glam specification additionally offers more sophisticated climate control air conditioning, also a fixed glass roof panel with sliding blind. Plus a bit of bling via LED running lights, chrome style highlighters strategically applied to emphasise roofline, door handles and doorsills.
Cost of Ownership
The most powerful 100 PS ADAM 1.4i that we tried manages 51.4mpg on the combined cycle without its extra cost ecoFLEX Stop/Start system - or 55.4 mpg with it. All Stop/Start models assist economic progress with a gearshift indicator and ignition cut out, activated when neutral is selected with clutch out at rest. The CO2 return is 119g/km.
Insurance is not going to be a costly surprise. We expect most owners to pay between £300 and £400 annually. ADAM's official service intervals of 20,000 miles/1 years are inline with current practice and in a 3-year running cost comparison against its Vauxhall Corsa stable-mate, independent figures show substantial savings. Adam also looks good in calculations against Citroen DS3.
The bold 10-year/100,000 mile Vauxhall warranty is not quite so generous as it seems. For it applies only to the first owner, unlike the transferable Hyundai/Kia 5 and 7-year warranties of unlimited mileage. Perhaps of more public concern will be the quality and durability of ADAM as Vauxhall has not been a front-runner in quality surveys. Perhaps the most reassuring fact is that the Eisenach ADAM factory is also home to the Corsa-- and that aging design has proved durable enough to become the default choice for many driving schools.
The ADAM is the sort of refreshing car and lifestyle statement Vauxhall must make, if buyers are to become enthusiastic about its products and is a brave move from the brand in its efforts to catch a more prosperous and open-minded small hatchback customer. One who demands a fresh approach. Those perhaps, who opt for a Samsung or Blackberry products, instead of fashionably expensive Apple produce.
Such people are probably going to want an ADAM variant that can function beyond the city limits - maybe undertake a medium distance motorway trip or two even. The 1.4i 16v 100PS model we tried is best suited to that remit - and was a car we ended up rather liking. Which means that if you're thinking of buying a small lifestyle-oriented little runabout, this one should be on your list.