Adam – ‘powder puff’, or inappropriate Opel?
Motorcars are such emotion-jangling items, about which it is very easy to become highly-charged, but Iain P W Robertson believes that the hype might be somewhat misguided with some makes and models.
Calling a new car by the name of its founder is neither an unusual practice, nor in any way disrespectful. While the name works well in Germany, at Opel, the sister brand to Vauxhall in the UK, it loses some of its original value, when translated into the British market.
Adam Opel remains something of a industrial folk hero in his Rheinland-Pfalzian home zone. A 19th Century locksmith by trade, as with several exponents of the automotive industry, he retrained in Belgium and France to become a sewing machine manufacturer (think of the sometime Singer brand in the UK, as an analogy).
Despite his fascination for many things mechanical and the fact that his fledgling company had commenced producing bicycles (another route for early carmakers), Herr Adam departed his mortal coil in 1895, before he even witnessed Opel’s first horseless carriage rolling off the production lines.
The company had started making an impact but, by around 1930, the Opel family had decided that they could not take their now very successful firm much further and sold it in a series of transactions to the General Motors Corporation, of North America. A not dissimilar story existed for Vauxhall in the UK, which had been snaffled up by the GM ‘hoover’ five years earlier and would be described as a subsidiary of Opel.
Commemorative, or not, calling your car Adam has biblical implications outside of das Vaterland. Whether the concept of original sin has been lost in Vauxhall’s Luton-based marketing department, or it has been forced into playing a subservient role to its Teutonic masters, has never been explained. While the Germans might ‘hail it’, in a case of ‘what’s-in-a-name’, we can either take the Mickey, or just treat it as a bit of a whimsical corporate jest. Whatever, Adam it is and, would you Adam and Eve it, once past the name, it almost makes sense.
The small car sector has been predominated in recent years by an array of customisable, moderately impractical but gamey tiddlers. Some of them are cutesy, while others rely on past glories and delve into retrospection. Of course, BMW’s Mini (which has never been anything other than a comic book cartoon of a car, despite its remarkable worldwide sales success) has been instrumental in energising the market since the turn of the New Millennium. Some of the blame for Adam’s existence lies at its door.
Select the appropriate balance of two-tone exterior colours, with contrasting interior trim, and I am certain that buyers will be more than delighted with their markedly less-costly alternative to the Mini. I have seen several different colourways, including an alloy wheel treatment that adds a splash of body colour to one of the five spokes, to make the Adam look like a trendy, urban gang member possessing a rolled-up trouser-leg. Very ’on scene’, if a tad Masonic.
The test example, in 1.4i Glam specification, was finished in Phantom Grey, with a cream roof and a deep purple interior, complete with contrasting ‘pink’ metallised dashboard (a red version was used for photographic purposes). I should highlight that the deep purple extended to leather wrap around the steering wheel and gearlever gaiter, as well as being carried onto the door cards. Do you want to know something? After a few days of familiarisation and initial ‘yeeugh’ factor, I actually grew to like it, even marvelling at the quality of the stitching and the deep heather, pinstriped-suit fabric, seat upholstery. There is a lesson in there somewhere.
Part of that appreciation was directed at the first-class quality of the presentation. Not a stitch was out of place, which led to an initial fear that the quality would be reflected in a sky-high price tag. However, I was so far off in my baseline guesstimate that I can only regard the Adam as being exceptional value for money, at £12,975. However, factor in the £295 for the contrasting roof, £350 for the purple interior, £600 for the technology pack, £70 for the dashboard finish, £200 for the optional 16-inch alloys, £165 for the extra hide, £450 for parking sensors, £125 for the variable colour interior lights and £525 for the pearlescent paint finish, equalling a total of £15,755, and my opinion might alter slightly.
Mind you, as this vehicle personalisation ‘fad’ is all the rage these days, buyers are generally aware of the perils of overstepping the mark. Yet, as a fully spec’d-up Adam costs considerably less than a Mini, 500, Beetle, or Audi A1, perhaps Ope…sorry, Vauxhall has pitched it correctly.
The Adam, built on a foreshortened Corsa platform, does not exactly win on the cabin space front, although the Mini also falters in that area. It would help if rear seat occupants were devoid of lower limbs. Mind you, those in the front are not presented with an abundance of space either. If you are below five feet ten tall, you will be okay. Incidentally, the deep tunnel instrument dials are almost 1950s Americana in their delightfully garish, red-illuminated display.
Powered by an 87bhp 1.4-litre engine from the Vauxhall family range, its performance is best described as ‘adequate’. Lively enough in the urban sprawl, it might even be ‘languid’ once heading for the hills. Punting about town, the read-out declared a return of 36.7mpg, which suggests that most owners should obtain around 48mpg on a run. Again, adequate, without setting the heather alight. With a CO2 emissions rating of 129g/km, while the first year is VED ‘free’, the tax disc (should it remain) will be £105 in future years.
Adam will reach 60mph from standstill in around 12.3 seconds, topping out at just shy of 110mph. The modest engine seldom lacks torque and it pulls well from low revs in the higher gears. Chucking the car around produces no ill effects and it possesses a grown-up feel to its overall handling envelope, while remaining eminently manoeuvrable around town, and parking it is a doddle. The ride quality is exquisite.
Conclusion: Overall, the Vauxhall Adam is a charming little car that possesses an old-fashioned appeal, an aspect fostered by the colour scheme and its ’floating’ roof design. You can buy your Adam on-line, as well as in funked-up Vauxhall showrooms, where the final and affordable personalisation process takes place.