Vauxhall ADAM review

Vauxhall's little ADAM is a properly trendy little lifestyle-orientated small runabout. Yes, something you could even consider buying over a MINI. June Neary checks it out

Will It Suit Me?

I'm always suspicious when a car maker claims to have produced a car 'especially aimed at someone like me'. After all, how exactly do they know what 'someone like me' might like? They don't of course, the brand in question assuming, in the case of the Vauxhall ADAM I've been looking at this week, that my preferences lie in the bespoke personalisation of my chosen wheels to my exact lifestyle. To be fair, that's not overly far off the mark. I am one of those people who likes their car to reflect them. I'm not overly bothered about 0-60 times and newton metres of torque. And I don't need enough space to accommodate the von Trapp family in the back. I would, on the other hand, very much like a compact runabout that at low cost, I could spec to look like nothing else on the road. So who knows, I may very well be target market for the Griffin brand's trendy little tiddler. On that basis, I was keen to try one.


As long as you accept the compromise here - that you pay supermini (ie. Fiesta and Corsa) money but get a smaller citycar (ie. Ka and Fiat 500) shape, you won't be disappointed. As in a Fiat 500, the high roof gives a spacious feel, something that here is further underlined by the greater width and glass area. But all the smoke and mirrors in the world can't create space where there isn't much and Vauxhall's claim that this design can 'comfortably seat four adults' requires for fulfilment the directive that those in the front should be very short-legged indeed. To be fair, it's virtually impossible for something this short to properly seat two fully-sized people in the back, something most ADAM owners will rarely want to do anyway. But for those occasions when friends do need transport, they'll feel less claustrophobic here than in just about any small lifestyle runabout I can think of. It's certainly much nicer in the back than it would be in a MINI, a car which offers a rear seat position that even kids object to. And at the wheel? Well, as a buyer, you'll have used the enormous trim choice range to complete a decor finish that's either restrained, wilfully extrovert or more likely, as in the case of the car I tried, a feel that's somewhere between the two. This aside, curiously enough, it does feel quite MINI-like, a feeling engendered mainly by provision of the same kind of over-sized chunky steering wheel which actually rather adds to the intended feeling of impending fun.

Behind the Wheel

It's based on a Corsa. Aside from that, I don't need to know very much more. Except for the fact that, as well as only being able to specify three doors, you can't have a diesel engine. Vauxhall says there's no need in this segment - but that doesn't seem to have put MINI and Fiat off from offering one. As for which of the five petrol engines you should choose, I'd probably avoid the old-tech 1.2 in favour of one of the 1.4s, an 87PS unit that manages 62mph in 12.5s on the way to 109mph. And a 100PS engine that improves things further to 11.5s and 115mph. Ask for something a little more hi-tech and the designers will point to the 115PS three cylinder turbo 1.0-litre petrol unit. Those in search of hot hatch performance can also opt for the 150PS 1.4-litre turbo powerplant fitted to the potent 'GRAND SLAM' model. As with most tiny cars of this kind, while you'll be quite comfortable in attempting a motorway trip of a few hours, you will notice at and around the legal limit that refinement isn't quite as good as you first thought. This issue isn't helped on the normally aspirated 1.2 and 1.4-litre models by the absence of a six-speed manual gearbox. All variants are much happier around town where a neat 'CITY' button can lighten the steering for easy wheel-twirling that'll get you into the tightest space. Exactly the kind of thing you'd want from a car like this.

Value For Money

What would you expect to have to pay for a car with more bespoke personalisation opportunities than a Rolls Royce? If I were to tell you that the starting figures - in rough terms, £11,500 to around £17,000 - are about what you'd pay for an ordinary (albeit slightly larger) Corsa supermini, then I think you'd be quite pleased. Of course, Vauxhall are banking on your being tempted to spend quite a lot more than that on the lengthy options list - something you very well might do. There's a choice of 'JAM', 'SLAM', 'GLAM' and 'GRAND SLAM' trim levels but if you take my advice, I'd just get a basic 'JAM' and bespoke add-in your own favoured extras. You start outside with the bodywork and the roof, which can be painted the same way or in contrasting colours, all bearing flamboyant names like 'James Blonde', 'Papa Don't Peach', 'Men in Brown', 'White my fire' or my personal favourite 'I'll be Black'. If you want, you can jazz up the chosen paint colour with special decal packs - 'Splat' for the JAM, 'Fly' for the GLAM and 'Stripes' for the SLAM. Many of these decals are also included in a bold selection of option packs designed to take your fashion statement to the next level - the main choice being between a simple two-tone 'Black' or 'White' approach or the bolder 'Twisted' or 'Extreme' packages. That only leaves wheels, with a wide choice between 16 to 18-inch alloy rims with interchangeable colour clips that you can click on or off as the fancy or the season takes you. And that whole idea of interchangeable fashion is carried on inside. As with the wheel clips, these fascia decor and door surround panels come in a huge range of bold colours (some are even backlit by glowing LEDs) and can be clipped on and off to suit your changing tastes - or those of subsequent owners. So you can go a bit extreme if you like, safe in the knowledge that it won't necessarily leave your car as being completely unsaleable at trade-in time.

Could I Live With One?

I rather think so. The ADAM's look isn't as instantly eye-catching as a MINI or a Fiat 500 but I have to say that it's growing on me. And it's certainly possible to create the car far more to your own personal taste. In other words, were I in the market for a little lifestyle runabout, this Vauxhall might really be my kind of car. And I never thought I'd find myself saying that.