First Drive: Vauxhall Adam

First Drive: Vauxhall Adam

Vauxhall's oddly named city car has been hitting the headlines even before anyone has slipped behind the wheel. The almost unlimited combinations of trim options, the daft paint job titles (Papa Don't Peach, anyone?) and the LED-lined roof inlay have all had their fair share of column inches but now it's time to see if it can live up to its funky, boundary-pushing reputation on the road...

What is it?

This is Vauxhall's uncharacteristically fashionable foray into trendy transport. The small city car can be personalised with a brain-boggling four billion trim combinations and hopes to cash in on the lucrative market currently bossed by the likes of the Fiat 500, Mini and upmarket Audi A1.

Vauxhall like to think that the jazzy motor will appeal to style-conscious buyers no matter what their age but upcoming adverts featuring body popping teens and spray can-wielding graffiti types say otherwise. Oh, it's also the first Vauxhall to defy the everything-ends-with-the-letter-'a' naming convention.
What's under the bonnet?

Only two petrol engines will be available when the Adam hits showrooms in March and they both sup petrol. The entry level 1.2 unit produces 68bhp and a 1.4 will be offered in two states of tune: an 84bhp unit and one that produces 96bhp. All engines are mated to a slick 5-speed gearbox and even the most powerful coughs up 119g CO2/km when the stop/start option is ticked. It's 129g CO2/km if you don't.

What's the spec like?

Pretty good, really. Even the most basic models come with air conditioning, single slot CD sound system with Aux in and USB plus bags of standard safety equipment such as hill start assist and ISOFIX points in the rear.

Customers can also add a 7-inch touch screen display dubbed IntelliLink that syncs smartphone features to the intuitive, attractive and incredibly easy-to-navigate display. Unfortunately, buyers will be forced to pay extra for Vauxhall's navigation app for the time being but when pressed, a spokesperson revealed other nav tools like Google Maps should be compatible in the future.

Expect to spend a few hours navigating the options list as everything from front bonnet bars, mirror caps and interior foils can be swapped and changed but surprisingly, most of these options are fairly inexpensive. For example, a set of coloured "blades" for the alloy wheels are just £50 from your local dealer.

Vauxhall Adam
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First Drive: Vauxhall Adam

Any rivals?

Vauxhall is not being shy about mentioning the Fiat 500, it's a direct rival in the firm's eyes and they hope to tackle its sleek styling and nippy characteristic head-on. Stretch the budget and you can have the excellent Mini or for those with cash to burn, there is the Audi A1. Anyone considering the Adam should also take a Ford Ka for a spin - it's not as hip but it is great value for money with roughly the same (if not a bit more) interior space. In fact, nearly all rivals trump the Adam for roominess – the A1 and Mini in particular.

What's it like to drive?

A bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. The 84bhp, 1.4 Adam in "Slam" trim is definitely the sportiest looking model but the 17 and 18 inch alloys that come part of the package mean it rides on the "Sports" chassis and suspension set-up. The ride is just too crashy to justify ticking this option box. Every pothole and blemish in the road surface is felt in the posterior and there is very little reward in the handling department for all this firmness.

The larger engine is also a little pointless, as the 1.2 pretty much matches it for performance at city speeds. But don't think the larger power plant will perform better at higher speeds either, it lacks the grunt needed to overtake and spends an absolute age getting from 60 to 75. Stick with the cheaper, more efficient 1.2 accept the fact the little Adam is more at home around town than it is on long journeys.

The AOL Cars verdict

Vauxhall predict they will only sell around 10,000 Adams in the first year but we have a sneaky suspicion it will be more. For all of its annoying quirkiness and migraine-inducing number of specifications, it's actually a good looking, well made city car. It definitely doesn't offer the sort of engaging driving experience a Fiat 500 or Mini would and it's absolutely tiny in the back but the style-savvy customer probably doesn't care about that.

As long as it is purchased with smaller alloys (and therefore the "comfort" suspension set-up) it proves to be a very easy, fairly pleasing car to navigate around town. Just set aside a few days to pick through the options list.

The Knowledge

Model: Vauxhall Adam 1.2 Jam 16 valve VVT
Price: £11,550
Engine: 1.2 litre petrol
Power: 68bhp
Max speed: 103mph
0-62mph: 14.9 s
MPG: 56.5mpg combined
Emissions: 118 g/km CO2
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