Back to the garden with Vauxhall’s Adam
Seeking forgiveness for his apparent ‘sin’ of sampling two versions of the same car in close succession, Iain Robertson believes it to be a cathartic experience that ALL car testers should undertake to affirm their beliefs.
Hot on the heels of the Adam Rocks Air that I sampled a matter of a few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to replicate the exercise with an all but visually identical model (even in paint colour), albeit not one bearing a price tag of £20,335. Interestingly, the almost-regular Adam, in Jam trim, powered by an identical, turbocharged, 1.0-litre, three cylinder, 112bhp petrol engine, tips the financial scales in the opposite direction with a bottom-line price tag of £13,455, bolstered by the current fascination for personalised optional extras, to £15,270.
For anyone keen to reduce their vehicle costs, a notional saving of over £5k makes this version of the Adam something to savour. After all, the utterly brilliant, superbly frugal, sweet sounding, effortlessly smooth and delightfully crisp 1.0-litre Vauxhall engine is at its heart. I am firm in my belief that there is simply no better engine available today, at the capacity (and at greater displacements too).
Driven on my customary 50-miles test route through town and up hills and down dales (yes, they do have them in Lincolnshire!), carried out at road legal speeds, I attained a peak of 53.3mpg, which is only 4.3mpg shy of the posted Official Combined economy figure for the model, which I am sure can be beaten by any half decent mile-miser. Frugality at this level is admirable and makes absolutely zero case for the diesel alternative, especially if a private buyer were footing the bill. Naturally, this would be slightly different, were it to be a company car policy and vehicle depreciation were not considered as a vital part of the acquisition package.
Even the CO2 exhaust emissions, at 114g/km, which determine the VED on the car, equating to a zero cost in year one and just £30 annually thereafter, place the little ‘coupe’ in the affordable bracket. Yet, there is little trade off, a factor which also serves to hike the Adam onto a higher plane, certainly as far as I am concerned. Its top speed of 121mph and a 0-60mph acceleration benchmark time of 9.9 seconds, which to remind you is not far off that of a Lotus Cortina a few years back, ensures that 99% of owners will neither need, nor desire, much more.
You might note that I have taken to calling the Adam a ‘coupe’. I have started to think of it as a strictly three-door version of the Corsa, which, of course, is available in more grown-up sizes…with up to five doors. Its overall styling is a source of great delight. Okay. I could come over all ‘Clarkson’ (if you will pardon the expression) and suggest that it is a ‘girl’s car’ and that no self-respecting bloke would ever be seen dead in, or near, an example. However, adopting that attitude might lead to ‘under-employment’ (even though my amassed millions might just grow accordingly).
As a reviewer, I think that the Adam is stylish, quite well-proportioned for a tiddler and that it would not look out of place parked in front of The Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, because it presents the impression of a determinedly up-market small car, which can be no bad thing at all. However, away from all the neat trim and fixtures, virtually repeating my week with the Rocks Air version, the Adam Jam (daft name, for sure) did reveal some aspects about which I became not entirely happy.
I realise that I am being pernickety but there are some interesting features about the Adam and some issues that really need to be addressed. Naturally, standing two metres tall in my stocking-soles does place me at a bit of a disadvantage when testing small cars. The truth is, it should not do so, as living with a Skoda Citigo for the past 18 months is proving, as I am immensely comfortable in that car and recently took it on a week-long tour of the Champagne region of France, with neither the car, nor me, missing a beat, as I was accommodated supremely comfortably on a lengthy continental jaunt.
For me to attempt the same in the Adam would be agonising, as my throttle foot, well the ankle, at least, would be twisted into irreparable contortions and I know that my back would tell the tale for many months thereafter. It could be resolved by increasing the rearward range of the driver’s seat rails but, as that would rob even more of the negligible space behind it, Vauxhall obviously feels that it is one compromise too far, when it boasts of the Adam’s total carrying capacity. Put simply, the Adam suits purpose as a ‘city car’ for me, although somebody a bit less than six feet tall might be eminently contented in its cabin…a girl, perhaps (sorry, Clarkson, I am emphatically NOT stealing your mantle but reality does bite occasionally!).
One of the downsides of carmakers having to meet EC exhaust emissions legislation, which tends to rear its head more on small capacity, turbo-engines, is something that transmutes into what feels like a sharp intake of air every time the right foot is lifted off the throttle and re-applied. It can become annoying, when attempting speedy gearchanges and, when the shift quality is as slick as it is on the latest 6-speed Adam ’box, trust me, it is bloody annoying. You can overcome it but that involves slipping the clutch, which is anathema to me.
While I consider that the Adam is a fine example of modern car design, I am aware that all car stylists fear the conjunction of A-pillar to door and bonnet line but that the Adam has taken this to new levels of uncertainty. The result is a mish-mash of odd angles, strange fillets of plastic trim and a totally unrelated triangle of body-coloured plastic that seeks to connect window-line to front fender in a fussy and contrived manner. It just does not work. It is ugly. I realise that it is a tough area to design but, even on a budget model, it stands out like a sore thumb that bugged me a bit on the Rocks Air but upon which I am focussing on the Adam Jam.
Yet, as I stated earlier, there is still plenty to admire on this multifarious Vauxhall model of otherwise first-rate character. The simple fact that it raises the game considerably in the lower budget sector of the small car market is much to its credit. One cannot become bored by it. It is colourful and zesty and cheeky. In fact, I particularly love the ‘cracked ice’ finish to the ‘soft-touch’ upper dashboard surface. It is so much better than the pseudo-skin look of most similar items of trim from other carmakers. It isn’t skin. Therefore, to make better use of its tactility, a technical finish is by far the best option and I applaud Vauxhall for it.
The body colour appliqué across the face of the dashboard and on the lower edges of the door armrests adds an essential splash of brilliance to a cockpit that might otherwise be dull and 20 shades of dirty greys. However cheap the chrome rings around the instrument dials look (and surely cost), they add some essential ‘bling’ to the interior that never goes amiss and they are countered by the sporty red needles and markings on the dial faces.
Yet, in a direct comparison with the costlier variant, this Adam sits lower and more squarely to the road surface. The gloss black alloy wheels aid the impression of being hunkered down, or ‘slammed’ in customiser’s parlance, which might easily turn this model into the Adam Jam Slam, which is probably one step too far. The obvious lower ride height also makes this model feel more glued to the tarmac. I praised the Rocks Air for its phenomenal ride and handling potential…well, the Adam Jam is every bit as good and perhaps even a soupcon more directionally stable into the bargain, even though urban and car park speed humps can cause some minor graunching noises and demand a less casual approach, due to its lower look.
Conclusion: Do not squander your ackers on a potentially crackers Rocks Air version of the Vauxhall Adam. The former might be marginally upwards-hiked and feature some useful plastic fender protectors, as part of its non-4×4, urban off-roader appeal. It might feature an electric fold-back canvas sunroof. It might even have heated seats and steering wheel rim, as well as the useful, optional sat-nav. However, the Adam Jam is all the £15k supermini you will ever need. It represents far better value for money and features better practicality than a sodding BMW Mini and it might last longer too. Fashionistas of the world should unite and acquire Adams by the score. You know it makes sense!