Vauxhall Adam hatchback
Price £11,455 - £15,350
- Stylish design
- Good quality finish
- Affordable and extensive options
- Uneconomical engines
- Firm ride comfort
- Poor practicality
At a glance
"The Vauxhall Adam is a stylish city car, but it needs more economical engines to beat its rivals."
The Vauxhall Adam is a three-door supermini for those people who really like to personalize their cars. Unlike rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta that offer a modest array of mainly feature-based extras, the Adam lets you choose from any number of trims and colour combinations, enabling you to create a car that's unique to you.
There are three core models – Jam, Slam, Glam – as well as a 'warm-hatch' version called Grand Slam. Two more – a butch-looking crossover called the Rocks Air featuring a fabric roof and a version called the Rocks with a conventional roof – have just been launched.
Whichever version of Adam you choose, it's intended to be the basis for a host of personalisation options, many of them reasonably priced. A touchscreen display is only £275, for example.
Engine-wise, the Jam, Glam, Rocks and Rocks Air are available with a choice of three petrol engines in 1.0, 1.2 and 1.4-litre capacities. The Slam offers a more powerful 1.4-litre, while the Grand Slam has the most powerful engine of all: a 148bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre. The 111bhp 1.0-litre engine is our choice for its low running costs and impressive performance.
On the road, the Adam fails to live up to its fun billing. It doesn't steer or handle as sharply as its major rivals, nor does it ride as well as them. In this respect, it's very sensitive to wheel size. Meanwhile, its boot is even smaller than the Fiat 500's and much smaller than the one in the latest MINI hatch.
Although the Grand Slam shares some of its parts with the Corsa VXR hot hatch, it's not especially convincing, while being only slightly less expensive than the brilliant Ford Fiesta ST. As a result, it's hard to make a case for.
The sting in the tail is that while personalising a new Adam is fun, doing so without spending too much money or putting future used buyers off is tricky. This is because the Adam loses value quicker than many of its rivals – especially the rock-solid Audi A1 and MINI hatch.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Average CO2 emissions and fuel economy can’t compete with most rivals
The Vauxhall Adam isn't the best city car if you want the lowest running costs. No version can manage more than 60mpg. That places the Adam well behind the competitors such as the Fiat 500, which has both petrol and diesel engines capable of more than 70mpg.
The smallest-engined Adam is also the greenest. The 1.0-litre ecoFLEX engine returns 57.6mpg and emits 114g/km of CO2 thanks to its turbocharger and stop-start technology. It'll cost £30 a year in road tax. But economy drops to 55.4mpg if the wheels are increased in size to 17 or 18 inches. CO2 emissions increase to 119g/km, which is still just inside the £30 price bracket.
The 1.2-litre VVT engine returns 53.3mpg and emits 124g/km of CO2 in the standard Adam, or 57.6mpg and 115g/km of CO2 in the ecoFLEX version with stop-start (a system that cuts the engine when you're stopped to save fuel).
The 1.4-litre VVT engine will manage between 52.3 and 56.4mpg, with CO2 emissions from 119 to 126g/km. This means standard versions of the 1.2 and 1.4-litre cost £110 a year in annual road tax, while the ecoFLEX models reduce this to £30.
The top-of-the-range Adam Grand Slam is a performance-oriented model that uses a turbocharged 148bhp petrol engine, returning 47.8mpg and emitting 139g/km of CO2 for annual road tax of £130.
A long 20,000-mile interval between services and low insurance groups from 3E to 9E should help help to reduce the Adam's long-term running costs.
Engines, drive & performance
Lots of grip, but numb steering and a firm ride spoil the fun somewhat
With relatively large wheels for its size, the Adam has lots of grip. Unfortunately, its unresponsive steering means it isn’t as much fun to drive as the MINI, which is still the best-handling car in this class. Fortunately for keen drivers, the Adam Grand Slam features suspension and brake parts from the fast Vauxhall Corsa VXR hot hatch, which considerably sharpen up the handling compared to the standard model.
The Adam also struggles with bumps, making the ride too firm and bouncy, particularly with 17 or 18-inch alloy wheels fitted. The Adam is at its best in town, where it feels agile and nippy and its compact dimensions are particularly useful.
The 1.2-litre 69bhp and 1.4-litre 86bhp engines get from 0-62mph in 14.9 and 12.5 seconds respectively, and they need to be worked hard to make overtaking manoeuvres safely. There’s also a 99bhp version of the 1.4-litre petrol, which takes 11.5 seconds to reach 62mph and has a top speed of 115mph. Our pick of the engine range is the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol with a turbocharger, which has 113bhp and hits 62mph from rest in just under 10 seconds.
If you want a faster Adam, go for the aforementioned Grand Slam, which boasts 148bhp thanks to a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol, giving it a top speed of 124mph and a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds. However, the Grand Slam is only slightly less expensive than the even sportier and more capable Ford Fiesta ST, so it's a hard sell for driving enthusiasts.
Interior & comfort
A step-up for Vauxhall, but still not quite as upmarket as the Audi A1 or MINI
Once inside, you should find a comfortable driving position thanks to a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and height. The Adam has been designed to be far more stylish than any other Vauxhall, so you get a sporty leather steering wheel as standard, as well as attractive and colourful inserts in the dashboard. The materials look and feel better than in other small Vauxhalls, but can’t match the sheer quality you get in a Mini or Audi A1.
Sat nav in the Adam comes in the form of an app you download to your smartphone and then link with the car's infotainment system. We found it a bit clunky to use and prone to freezing up, so we'd recommend a good aftermarket sat nav instead.
The Adam’s numerous customisation options mean you can change the interior to your liking, but sadly you can’t improve the ride quality, which is too firm and bouncy. Avoid the larger alloy wheels and the Adam Slam trim’s sports suspension, as these make the ride even firmer. Visibility can also be a problem, as the stylish curved roofline places thick door pillars at either side of the windscreen and behind your head.
The Grand Slam features the attractive option of Recaro sports seats, which both look great and are very supportive. But at £1,040, they make it seem even poorer value than it already is.
Practicality & boot space
The Adam is great for short hops, but a small boot and rear seats rule out longer adventures
The good news is the front seats offer plenty of space, but just like the MINI Hatch and Fiat 500, the rear seats are short on head and legroom, so they’re only suitable for occasional use, or carrying bags of shopping. While five-door version of the MINI and Audi A1 are available, the Adam is three-door only, so access to the rear seats is tricky.
You’re reasonably well catered for while driving, with usefully sized door pockets that can hold medium-sized bottles of water. There's also a pair of cup-holders and a larger glovebox than you’ll find in a Fiat 500.
At just 170 litres, the Adam's boot is small, even for a city car. The Fiat 500 has 185 litres of luggage space, while the MINI has 211 litres. The Adam also has a high loading lip and a narrow boot opening, making it tricky to load items larger than a rucksack or carry-on suitcase. The rear seats split 50:50 and fold forwards, increasing space to 663 litres. Like its rivals, the Adam is definitely a car designed for nipping around town, not going on holidays.
Reliability & safety
Impressive customer satisfaction, but a disappointing Euro NCAP safety score
The Vauxhall Adam outperformed every other Vauxhall in the 2014 Driver Power survey, ranking 23rd out of 150 models and finishing ahead of the Audi A1 (37th) and Fiat 500 (114th). The Adam was praised for its in-car technology, but was criticised for its practicality. The Adam also placed 52nd and 60th for build quality and reliability respectively, but Vauxhall as a brand only finished 29th out of 32 manufacturers, which could be a concern when it comes to servicing or repairing your Adam at a dealership. The Adam comes with a fairly standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty.
Unfortunately, the Adam only achieved a four-star score in Euro NCAP crash tests, while the Audi A1, Citroen DS3 and Fiat 500 bagged the full five stars. The Adam scored 87% for adult occupant safety, but was marked down for offering only marginal protection against whiplash in a rear impact. Standard safety kit includes six airbags and technology to help prevent skids, as well as hill-hold assistance to make hill starts safer.
Price, value for money & options
Lots of standard kit and well priced options boost the Adam’s appeal
The entry-level Adam Jam is priced between the cheaper Fiat 500 and pricier MINI and comes well equipped with air-con, a DAB digital radio, a Bluetooth phone connection and cruise control. Step up to the Glam trim level and you'll get a fixed glass roof, front drinks holder and LED daytime running lights. The top Slam trim adds sports suspension, climate control and 17-inch alloy wheels.
But these trim levels are just the start. There are also themed special editions, including the Adam Black and Adam White, as well as a huge number of optional extras. The touchscreen infotainment system is good value at £275, particularly as a cheap sat-nav app is available for it. Lots of packs are available, including the Winter Pack with heated seats and steering wheel for £215, a Sight & Light Pack with automatic wipers and lights for £200 and even a VXR Styling Pack for £750.
Despite its stylish looks, the Adam’s Vauxhall badge means it won’t hold onto its value as well as a Fiat 500 come resale time. A MINI or Audi A1 would make an even wiser investment – both have amongst the best residual values of any car.