Vauxhall Adam (2012 – ) expert review
By Andy Pringle
The Adam may not be a petrolhead’s dream – it certainly isn’t the last word in sheer driving pleasure – but its smart looks and the almost infinite possibilities for personalisation make it a genuine alternative to the likes of the Mini and Fiat 500.
Interested in this car?
- Stylish modern looks.
- Huge potential for personalisation.
- Good level of standard equipment.
- Firm ride is uncomfortable in town.
- No version with less than 100g/km CO2 emissions.
- Not as much fun to drive as a Mini.
Unlike the Mini and Fiat 500, the Adam does not look to the past for its inspiration. Instead, the design is consciously modern, with lots of neat little touches, such as the ‘floating’ roof and the Adam badge set onto the side of the car. However, the key to the Adam’s appeal is how much you can adapt that basic shape: the scope for personalisation is huge, with a massive range of body colours, roof colours and alloy wheel designs. Some of the combinations work better than others, and some of the names are rather less sensible than others – James Blonde and Buzz Light Green, for heaven’s sake! – but, with more than a million possible combinations to choose from, there’s a chance that every Adam will be unique.
Our rating: 5
The Adam has a suitably smart cabin and the dash has some neat features, such as the ‘wing’ design, the silver surrounds on the dials and air vents, and the red details on the speedo and rev counter needles. What’s more, the materials are good and everything seems well built, too – certainly a step up from the Fiat 500. However, like the exterior, the cabin is little more than a blank canvas on which to paint your own personality. You can choose from a range of interior colours, seat designs, ambient lighting colours and interior decors, and among the more bizarre options are a cloud-covered roof lining and a set of 60 LEDs to shine in the roof like stars in the sky. What’s more, much of this can be changed, so if you decide you want a different set of inlays at some stage in the future, that’s perfectly possible.
Our rating: 4
In the front seats, there’s plenty of head- and legroom, with a good range of adjustment on the seat and wheel; and, if you choose the Intellilink system (which allows you plug in a smartphone and operate it through a dash-mounted touch-screen), the ergonomics are mostly fine. However, there are a few disappointing details: over-the-shoulder visibility is severely limited by the thick rear pillars; and, some of the more minor switchgear is awkward to reach. Worse still is the rear-seat accommodation, because with a couple of long-legged adults in the front, there’s next to no legroom in the back. The headroom is also very tight – anyone over five and a half feet tall will struggle to sit upright – meaning that the Adam is effectively a two-plus-two, not a full four-seater. Finally, although the boot capacity looks decent enough on paper – it’s bigger than the Mini’s and Fiat 500’s – the high sill and narrow opening make it awkward to load and unload luggage.
Our rating: 2
4. Ride and Handling
For the moment, we can’t pass final judgement on how the Adam will drive in Britain. We have driven European-specification Adams, but the cars that are sold in the UK will have a different steering set-up. We’re yet to experience this, but we hope that it’s an improvement, as the European cars are not great to drive. Their steering has no feel around the straight-ahead position and no weight as you turn in, so you have little idea of what the front wheels are up to. The ride is disappointing as well, feeling too firm at all speeds, and especially so on models with larger wheels. Again, though, we have to temper our criticism, as we have only driven the car with 17- and 18-inch wheels and sports suspension. Lower down the range, Adams have 16-inch wheels and standard suspension, and we suspect they will be the better option. There’s no denying the car has plenty of grip and it handles very capably, but the Adam – in our limited experience – certainly lacks the appeal of the Mini.
Our rating: 3
The Adam will come with a choice of three petrol engines – the company says it has no plans for diesel units, as they would be prohibitively expensive – but we have only driven the mid-range 87PS unit. It’s perfectly happy around town, more than capable of getting from one red light to the next at a decent pace, but once you get out of town, it shows its limitations. It has relatively little torque low down in the rev range, so you need to give it plenty of revs to keep up a good pace across country; and, on the motorway, you sometimes need to drop down a gear to keep up with the ebb and flow of traffic, especially on hills. The refinement is good enough once you settle down at motorway speeds, but the engine is rather noisy when you rev it hard.
Our rating: 3
6. Running costs
Although there are no versions with emissions of less than 100g/km (meaning free road tax and exemption from the London Congestion Charge), the official fuel economy figures don’t look too bad. Every model averages more than 50mpg, with the optional stop-start system improving the figures by between 3 and 4mpg. For even lower running costs, it’s best to wait for the forthcoming 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine, which is due in late 2013. This will have even better fuel economy, as well CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km. Depreciation will the biggest cost for any buyer to bear, but it’s not yet clear how well the Adam will retain its value. Much will depend on the individual car’s specification, so buyers are advised to avoid to going too OTT with the options’ list and to steer clear of some of the more outlandish colour combinations.
Our rating: 3
With such a new car, it’s impossible to comment on its reliability. However, given that the Adam is based on engines and transmissions that are proven in other Vauxhalls, we don’t expect any problems. Other small Vauxhalls, such as the Corsa and Agila, have shown better than average reliability, and we expect the Adam to follow suit.
Our rating: 3
The Adam earned four stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring well in the frontal impact, but providing weak protection of the chest in the side pole test. For all the opportunities to thoroughly personalise the Adam, one thing that every model shares is the list of safety features. Every version comes with six airbags as standard, as well as anti-lock brakes and stability control. On top of that, the car is also fitted with adaptive brake lights: if the driver brakes hard enough to activate the anti-lock brake system, the brake lights flash five times a second to warn drivers behind. The only option is a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
Our rating: 4
In keeping with the car’s ethos, the Adam has a series of unconventionally named trim levels, but the good news is that all are well equipped. Even the most basic – Jam – comes with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, digital radio, Bluetooth and daytime running lights. Step up a level – to Glam – and you upgrade to climate control and LED running lights, as well as adding a glass roof, cruise control, body-coloured door handles and chrome-effect window mouldings and sill covers. At the top of the range – with Slam trim – you get a load of extra styling features (different-colour roof and mirrors, tinted rear windows and larger alloys) and sports suspension. Mind you, the whole point with Adam is what you add beyond the standard equipment, and every trim level offers a host of options and packs that let you tailor the car to your heart’s content. Best of all, most of these options are pretty cheap, costing just a few hundred pounds.
Our rating: 4
10 Why buy?
If you fancy something stylish, but want modern rather than retro, the Adam will certainly appeal. It has such a huge range of personalisation options that you can pretty much guarantee that no two Adams will look the same. It’s true that a Mini is more exciting to drive, but if what your car looks like is more important than what it feels like to drive, then the Adam is worth considering.
Our rating: 3
Expert review 3.4stars
- Ride and handling3
- Running costs3
- Why buy?3
Best on a budget:
Adam Jam 1.2i 16v VVT
Entry-level spec is still packed with style
Adam Glam 1.4i 16v VVT [87PS]
Fine performance in town, with lots of luxury items
Blow the budget:
Adam Slam 1.4i 16v VVT [100PS]
The strongest engine with the most equipment
The cabin is little more than a blank canvas on which to paint your own personality