Vauxhall ADAM Rocks Air review

Odd name, interesting car. The Vauxhall ADAM is a city car with attitude. Jonathan Crouch reports.

Ten Second Review

The Vauxhall ADAM Rocks Air is a car that doesn't take itself too seriously and is the perfect antidote to the usual boring superminis. With jacked-up body styling and a sliding soft top roof, this car is at its best with the turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine.

Background

It's genuinely hard to know where to start with this one, but we really ought to get the name out of the way first. The Vauxhall ADAM Rocks Air must go down as one of the strangest car names since the Japanese discovered Google Translate and stopped sending us Pantry Boy Supremes and Giga Light Dumps. But what is this thing? If you hadn't noticed, Vauxhall has tried to claim a share of the niche small car market occupied by the likes of the Fiat 500 or the Citroen DS3. The trouble is, the ADAM is somewhat hampered by a badge that smacks of Luton rather than Turin and sales have been slow. The ADAM Rocks Air is a soft-top version styled with offroad-style design cues. We're still trying to get our heads round that one too.

Driving Experience

The ADAM Rocks Air is available with a choice of three engines. The 70PS 1.2-litre engine and the 87PS 1.4-litre engine we've seen before and very serviceable units they are. Of more interest is the introduction of a 1.0-litre three-cylinder powerplant, good for 115PS thanks to its turbocharger. It's the first Vauxhall to get this engine, which is the mainstay of the fourth generation Corsa range. When plumbed into the open-topped ADAM, it's capable of getting to 62mph in under 10 seconds. Unlike most three-cylinder units, it's been designed to offer excellent refinement, with the characteristic warble of a three-pot only really audible when you mash the throttle. With 170Nm available at just 1,800rpm, it's a more relaxing engine than you'd imagine, albeit with a slightly elastic feel to the throttle response. The Rocks Air model adds another 15mm to the stock ADAM's ride height. This isn't going to equip you to tackle the Dakar Rally, as underneath it's still the same front-wheel drive chassis architecture, but Vauxhall has done a thorough job in retuning the springs, shocks and roll bars. Therefore this Rocks Air version still corners well and ride quality isn't bad either. In fact, you'd be hard pushed to feel much in the way of difference. Ease of use on urban roads is enhanced by a CITY mode, which increases the electronic power steering system's assistance at lower speeds.

Design and Build

Believe the press bumf and you might get excited that Vauxhall has created something genuinely good and original. Read between the lines a little and you might suspect that the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original aren't that good. Does the market need a soft-top faux-by-four? Didn't automotive evolution kill this genre off at least ten years ago, with most of us hoping it would never be resurrected? That said, Mark Adams' team has done a good job in the styling of this car. What sounds utterly ludicrous on paper works surprisingly well in the metal, with strong lines and a lovely chutzpah to its design. The allroad-style wheelarches work well with the 'floating' roof which is visually disconnected from the body. The electric folding canvas roof is operated via a button located in the front area of the headliner and folds back neatly on to the C-pillars in just seven seconds. The roof can be opened or closed while the car is moving at up to 85mph. The boot keeps the full opening of a hatchback and loading volume remains untouched. The entire roof module is acoustically tuned for noise insulation inside the cabin and the robust, three-layer fabric has a neoprene centre for weatherproofing and durability. The folding canvas roof is available in a choice of two exterior colours - Black or Sweet Coffee.

Market and Model

The ADAM Rocks Air ensures that it's not going to freeze you on cold winter mornings. It's the only vehicle in its class to offer the comfort of a heated steering wheel, driver and front passenger seats. Other interesting items of standard equipment include a Hill Start Assist which maintains the brake function for about two seconds after the driver has taken his/her foot off the brake pedal. This prevents ROCKS AIR from rolling back when starting on a slope or, when driving off from traffic lights or a parking spot on a hill. The standard infotainment equipment is a CD 3.0 BT system, with radio and a MP3/WMA compatible CD player featuring Bluetooth and USB connections, as well as a hands-free function. The tuner can be combined with DAB digital radio, offered as standard, for a broad choice of listening options. There is an Infinity sound system that's sure to be a popular upgrade for £300. This features eight speakers and a total of 315 watts with two tweeters, two front subwoofers, two rear wide band speakers, one mid-frequency range speaker and the sub-woofer box located in the trunk. An IntelliLink infotainment system is priced from £275, allowing seamless integration of Android as well as Apple iOS smartphone functionalities into the car. And yes, it does work with Siri.

Cost of Ownership

Go for the 1.2-litre petrol engine and you'll see economy figures of 53.3mpg with emissions of 125g/km. The 1.4-litre powerplant offers up another 17PS with very little efficiency penalty, netting 52.3mpg and 126g/km. The star of the show is the 1.0-litre turbo unit which gets the best economy at 55.4mpg, the lowest emissions at 119g/km and is comfortably the quickest and most refined to boot. A 38-litre fuel tank rather caps the range a little, but the ADAM was never designed to be a GT car.

Summary

As car enthusiasts, we tend to be drawn towards all that is authentic and worthy and have a healthy scepticism for anything that looks like marketing puff. On that basis, we ought to abhor the Vauxhall ADAM Rocks Air. Nobody needs a convertible that plays at being a 4x4 supermini. It appears to be the work of a rather desperate marketing department playing catch up. Despite these initial suspicions, the car emerges as something surprisingly likeable. Don't take it too seriously and it's a vehicle that has a lot going for it. It looks interesting, it's well equipped and that 1.0-litre engine is a belter. Perhaps at times we're guilty of overanalysing; taking things a little too seriously. The Vauxhall ADAM Rocks Air is the perfect antidote to this tendency. It's a car that wryly pokes fun of the typical car anorak. Life's serious enough as it is. If we all bought on rational grounds, we'd probably all be driving Golfs. Here's a car that celebrates a little irrationality. More power to it.