The Vauxhall Adam is a car that is aimed squarely at the city dweller. Compact, yet cool, it’s loaded with tech and complete with an economic engine that will not only save you money but also do less harm to the planet. It's ideal for younger drivers or people who need a runaround more than a long-distance vehicle.
The small car is a very British thing, we've been flinging ourselves around in tiny little cars for years now, and while that went away a bit in the 90s and the 2000s, it's coming back again, with cars like the Adam at the forefront of the resurgence.
Famous for a million or more finish options - literally, there are countless combinations of trim options that you can change - the Adam is certainly an interesting car. And a car that didn't win us over in our first drive at all, which was as much a reason for wanting to loan one for an extended period to see whether it could turn our minds around. Did the Vauxhall Adam convince us of its merits in the end?
From the outside, we think Vauxhall has got the Adam pretty close to perfect for what most buyers will want. It's a small car, but it has been well styled, and the various external options make for a really customisable look. Ours came in bright yellow - how youthful - and we loved it. Bright colours won't suit everyone, of course, but it's a real breath of fresh air from the usual boring black and white that seem to be all the rage these days.
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But it's also got a level of detail that we thought was impressive. The wheels, for example, can have coloured inserts that can be changed by your dealer. On ours, they were yellow and the black wheels worked brilliantly with them. This is something you don't get to the same extent on the Fiat 500 or the Mini, although both of those cars have oodles of customisation options too.
Because the Adam isn't really a budget car, Vauxhall has gone out of its way to make everything feel solid and premium. Inside is utterly fantastic with more highlights on the handbrake lever, seats and steering wheel that mirrored the yellow of the car. But it's about the quality too: there’s soft-touch plastic and the wheel has a premium feel to it. Add into this the features the car comes with, and you have an interior and equipment level that beats an Audi A3 Sport.
But then it’s not cheap in light of some of the budget competition out there. The car we drove would cost £13,770 to buy with all the reviewed extras. The much-loved Fiesta EcoBoost costs less than that - at least the entry model does. The truth is that the Adam is part of a different family. It's aimed at the same people who are snapping up the Fiat 500 and the Mini.
On the plus side, you get a 100,000-mile warranty if you buy the Adam from new, and if you're planning to keep it for a while this could be quite a useful addition - it's certainly a big bonus as far as we're concerned, although modern cars are reliable enough for them to provide trouble-free motoring for many years.
Vauxhall made a bit of a fuss about integrating Apple’s Siri into the Adam, and to be fair, it's right to do so, because it's a very clever idea. What's more, it's done with the co-operation of Apple, which is a bit of a rarity in itself. The idea here is that you're able to control your iPhone, iPod or iPad through the car using just your voice. While hands-free control isn't all that rare, it's usually pretty hopeless so while we’re more than aware that Siri has its problems, it's still a more accurate system than most competing versions you’ll find in cars.
Plus, you get the much nicer speech engine that comes with Siri, over those mostly horrible things that tend to come in cars. This is a smart move, and Vauxhall is also saying that the functionality can be upgraded over time. This is impressive, because cars do not usually get upgrades in this manner.
The Siri system comes as part of the package when you opt for Vauxhall's Bluetooth stereo system. This is an optional extra, priced at £275, but no matter what, you should buy it. For one, it will enhance the resale value of the car - so don't buy an Adam without one second-hand either. For the money what you get is a really amazing audio system that sounds good - not great, but decent for most use - but with an amazing interface that's easy to use when you're driving and presents your album art in a brilliant way.
Satnav can be provided via an app on your iPhone or Android device. It's worth remembering that iPhones need to be connected via USB for this to work, while Android phones can use Bluetooth. The service is provided by BringGo which is a paid app. For all of Western Europe, it costs £0.83 for the app and you get a 30-day trial of turn-by-turn included. From there, maps and traffic cost £60 and you get three years of live traffic, app updates and maps updates semi-regularly at once a year after the first year.
It's not a free solution for navigation, but it's not that expensive either - certainly comparable to TomTom, say. You can opt not to pay beyond the initial app purchase price, and then you lose turn-by-turn directions and traffic, but that may be enough for some people to get by.
You also get climate control - yes, proper climate control - as standard, and goodness what a brilliant system that is. We have found our Audi A3 to be weak in the cold air department. No such trouble with the Adam: it blasts cold air out, which is just the recipe on a hot summer day. Not that we’ve seen one of those for a while.
Driving and handling
The Adam feels like a city car, and over the time we had it that became something we really liked. While we don't live in a big city - although we’re not far from the hectic traffic of central London - there are still enough parked cars and traffic around to make the city optimisation and small size of the Adam’s design very pleasant indeed.
It's a smooth ride, too, and can be parked more easily than anything with traditional power steering, thanks to its city mode which lightens the steering via the press of a button on the dash. When you're pootling about town, it's impossible not to love this feature. When it came down to driving around our local area, the pulling in to let cars through, and getting into tiny gaps was really fantastic.
The thing we don't like about the driving experience really comes down to the car's gear ratios, which are a little bit odd. When we drove it, we felt we were always in the wrong gear - it sounds like it wants to change up pretty much the whole time. Which, in fact, is true because it sort of does encourage you to get up to higher gears as quickly as possible.
The problem is more that the engine noise is loud, and you find yourself approaching the rev limiter very quickly. Happily, though, on the motorway it’s quite the opposite: the Adam whips along nicely, and doesn't seem too loud or unruly.
Ultimately, our realisation was that although we were never going to love the Adam for its speed, most of the time that doesn't mean a damn thing anyway. The car won us over from a driving point of view, because it gave us what we needed and delivered on its design.
When Vauxhall first told us about the Adam, we weren't convinced. Our first drive wasn't inspiring either, because the car is so oddly geared. But the fact is, once you drive it for a bit, get to know how it works, then you start to understand the point of it. It’s a city car.
Is it cool? Well, we think so, mid 30-somethings with two kids. As much as the Adam can cater just enough space for said family of four, that’s not really who it’s aimed at. This is for young drivers looking for customisation, something a bit trendy while remaining affordable and economic enough to warrant purchase and insurance decisions.
Our feeling is that Vauxhall has nailed it. The customisation, electronics and style of the car make this a terrific runaround for someone who has just landed their first job, and who needs something to drive to their nearest town. It's economical, and has equipment levels that make our Audi A3 look like a Model T Ford.
Will the Adam sell? You'd have to ask a 20-year-old, but we think it's a terrific car and advise you test drive one if you're even just contemplating a purchase. It might not grab you at first, as it didn’t us, but eventually it sticks.