The Vauxhall ADAM's late to the boutique hatchback party, but if you hanker after a bit of individuality, your car has arrived. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Vauxhall ADAM is a fascinating vehicle that aims to draw sales from 'boutique' small cars like the Citroen DS3, the Fiat 500 and the MINI hatch. If you like the look of it, choose one with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. It instantly consigns the old 1.2 and 1.4-litre engines to history.
Vauxhall is normally a company that's happy to chat. Ask them about Corsa sales figures and they'll give you all day. Likewise, they'll happily expound at length on the subject of future plans for the Astra. But ask them about sales figures for their ADAM boutique supermini and the subject very quickly swings back to Corsa sales figures. The company targeted sales of 8,000 units in 2013, its first year on sale and, at present, I'm none the wiser as to whether that target was met. I'm not optimistic. In order to get registrations sparking, Vauxhall has really given the ADAM the big push. They've also introduced a 150PS 1.4-litre turbocharged Grand Slam range-topper and the engine we take a look at here, the economical 1.0-litre petrol turbo unit.
When the ADAM first appeared, buyers got the choice of 1.2 and 1.4-litre normally aspirated engines. Both were mediocre. 'Tried and tested' was a kind way of describing them; many would have settled with 'ancient'. If the car was to fulfil its market positioning, it needed something a bit more modern under the bonnet. Something like this three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo unit, in fact. Still, better late than never. This three-pot engine makes 115PS of power and a healthy 170Nm of torque and while that clearly won't propel it into the ranks of the punchier performers, it's enough to get it to 62mph in a very respectable 9.9 seconds. But speed isn't the biggest advance this engine delivers. Refinement most certainly is. That might not be what you'd expect when effectively 'losing' a cylinder, but this is a whole generation ahead in terms of technology and delivers the sort of flexibility, response and reduced NVH that the ADAM was always crying out for. The rest of the car is unchanged, which means light steering with little in the way of feedback, firmish ride quality and a generally sunny and relaxed demeanour.
Design and Build
This is a car that's going to sell largely on whether the styling chimes with new car buyers and Vauxhall certainly can't be accused of going at it half-cocked. There's a lot going on, the design work attributed to Brit, Mark Adams' team in Europe. The ADAM incorporates a 'floating' roof which is visually disconnected from the body, which works particularly well with two-tone colour schemes. It looks like no other Vauxhall but still incorporates a bunch of existing styling cues such as the Astra's wing-shaped chrome grille bar and the blade shape in the lower doors. Like MINI, Vauxhall is looking to appeal to the customer's sense of individuality in the sheer amount of colour combinations and materials. Wheels range from 16 inches in size for entry-level cars and there are 17-inch options further up the range. Unlike many cars which offer striking exterior designs but an interior that betrays a sudden curtailment of development budget, the cabin of the ADAM is, if anything, even bolder than the exterior. There's extensive use of body coloured trim inserts not only on the dashboard but also reaching along the centre console and onto the steering wheel can give the interior a real riotous personality. You can even swap them out for a different colour or finish if you get bored. A seven-inch touch screen interface is the big point of interest from a technological perspective. It's both iPhone and Android compatible, and can access internet-downloaded apps in the same manner as the latest Renault Clio and Peugeot 208. Where specified, the navigation and infotainment controls are all marshalled by the touch screen. There's even a choice of headlining, including an LED-lit starlight roof trim. The exterior colours include 'I'll be Black', 'Papa don't Peach', 'Purple Fiction', 'James Blonde', 'Saturday White Fever' and 'Buzz Lightgreen'.
Market and Model
You'll pay a premium of around £2,000 to own an ADAM model with this engine over a comparably-specified one with the older, feebler, less economic 70PS 1.2-litre petrol engine. If you can afford the extra cash - or get a good deal offered - then the upgrade is well worth having. Pricing for the 1.0i models starts at around £13,500 for the entry-level ADAM JAM, which is a strong offering when you consider that the equivalent Citroen DS3, the 120PS DStyle VTi, asks UK buyers to cough up nearly £1,000 more. The JAM is the most youth-oriented of the four ADAM trim levels, with the GLAM offering a more elegant and sophisticated interior feel, while the SLAM is a bit sportier. Vauxhall have launched a range-topping GRAND SLAM which is a bit of an oddity. The ADAM is named after the founder of Opel, a German, and the Grand Slam is known to many as the British WWII bomb that flattened German rail infrastructure. Unfortunately, you can't pair the GRAND SAM with the 1.0-litre engine. The JAM opens with air conditioning, a DAB radio with USB, AUX-in & Bluetooth, a leather trimmed steering wheel with deco elements, cruise control & infotainment control. Go for the GLAM and there's electronic climate control, front & rear LED lights, a fixed glazed sunroof and an exterior chrome pack. SLAM weighs in with 17-inch alloy wheels, Morrocana sports seats, and a two tone roof & darkened rear glass.
Cost of Ownership
The 1.0-litre engine makes some decent economy figures, recording 57.6mpg on the combined cycle, which is a good deal better than the 1.4-litre units. Carbon dioxide emissions drop to 114g/km, which isn't at all bad for a petrol-engined car that can dip below ten seconds for the sprint to 62mph. Compare these returns to those of the feebler 70PS 1.2-litre petrol ADAM model. That car delivers only 53.3mpg and 124g/km. Enough said. Residual values for the ADAM are hard to nail down, largely because it's a car that sells on the basis of its personalisation. Most of the options are quite reasonably priced but get a bit enthusiastic with the choices and you can rack up quite a bill, harming typical residual figures. The contrasting roof colours and alternative alloy wheel designs pick up plenty of buyers but you can also give the interior a lift with body coloured inserts for the dash and gearlever surround.
One of the motoring industry's toughest gigs is to make Vauxhall stylish. Think about it. Can you recall a must-have Vauxhall? It becomes a self-defeating circle in that the harder Vauxhall tries, the less cool it appears. The ADAM does smack of trying a bit too hard with the wacky names and colour schemes, but all of the marketing flim-flam hides one unexpected fact. The ADAM is a pretty good car. It's likeable and works well as a cheap city scoot that you can personalise to your own specification. The 1.0-litre engine breathes a bit of much-needed vitality into the model and adds substance to Vauxhall's rather craven attempts at style. As long as you don't take yourself - or your car - too seriously, there's quite a lot to like here.