The Vauxhall Adam is a city car with a stylish, modern design that offers a neat alternative to popular retro-styled city cars like the MINI and Fiat 500. It's also competitively priced. But while it's steered clear of a retro design, it offers all the personalisation options that have helped make the MINI and Fiat so popular. In fact, there are an incredible 30,000 options to make your Adam unique. Beyond that, though, the Adam is a small car of tiny dimensions that has hardly any space inside it. You won’t find much excitement behind the wheel (the engines are underpowered and sluggish), it's not particularly comfortable either, and it doesn't offer great fuel economy or emission figures either. But there is still something undeniably appealing about the Adam, especially when you’ve accessorised it to your liking. And a new three-cylinder engine will be available in 2014, which should significantly boost the Adam's economy credentials.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
This is where the Adam is a bit perplexing – we’ve grown accustomed to superminis regularly returning fuel economy in the 60s, 70s and even 80s mpg, all while keeping CO2 emissions beneath the tax-free 100g/km threshold), but the Adam only averages 55mpg for fuel economy – so it lags well behind rivals here. Emissions, and road tax, are therefore similarly ho-hum. Plus, you can only get the Adam with a petrol engine, as Vauxhall didn’t see the value in shelling out to add some diesel engines, but more efficient small engines should be on their way soon, thankfully. At least Vauxhall's excellent lifetime warranty means there shouldn’t be any unexpected costs.
Interior & comfort
Access to the Adam is easy as the doors are light, easy to move and swing open nice and wide. The driver's seat, meanwhile, has plenty of adjustment, as does the steering wheel (for reach and height), so you should be able to find a comfortable driving position with a good view. The seat bases do at first seem to be a bit shallow, not offering much thigh support, but fortunately this isn't too much of an issue as the the well-placed pedals and controls ensure your legs don't ever feel strained. However, the rear is a different story, with virtually no room for adults – or at least adults who want to preserve their dignity or sit comfortably – thanks to almost no knee or headroom. Having said that, it's the same situation inside a Fiat 500 or a MINI.
Practicality & boot space
You’re not going to fit much in such a small package, so practicality always takes a hit in a supermini – especially stylish ones like the MINI or Fiat 500. So it is with the Adam, too – the back seat is realistically only usable by children. Adults will get in, but only if the front seats are slid (too far) forward. The boot is also small, with more luggage capacity available in a Citroen DS3 – but that has bigger dimensions, too. And in a classic case of giving with one hand but taking away with the other, the rears seats fold down easily but leave a big step that makes moving loads around really tricky. However, there are loads of cup holders and plenty of storage available in door bins and by the gear lever.
Reliability & safety
The Adam was too new to feature in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and it will be interesting to see where it places in the list of top 100 cars when it does make its debut. Vauxhall itself may have made significant improvements in recent years, but it only ranked 26th out of 32 in the 2013 survey's manufacturer rankings, which is disappointing. Luckily for Vauxhall, its major mainstream rival, Ford, is only three places ahead of it at 23. However, Vauxhall's lifetime warranty does show that it has confidence in its cars, regardless, and it's worth remembering that major change is a long process. We found the Adam to be well built, with high-quality materials used for the interior and definitely of the same standard as an Audi A1 or MINI. Plus, the parts and components have all been tried and tested across the Vauxhall range. And it's pretty safe for such a small car, securing four out of five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, which isn’t quite up to par with some of its rivals but is certainly not unusual for a car of this size with limited space for safety equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
The Adam has been tuned by Vauxhall to suit the UK's uneven road network, so the steering is more responsive and the suspension softer and more comfortable. However, it is still a little too hard over some large bumps, but it's definitely easier on the bottom than the Fiat 500, while the steering would be better if it gave a little extra feedback to the driver. But it is very light and nimble around town, responding promptly to even small driver inputs. If you’re worried that could make it feel sporty and twitchy, don’t, because the engines simply don’t offer enough performance to get you into any sticky situations.
Price, value for money & options
Not bad, as it happens, with the Adam sat between the Fiat 500 and MINI in terms of list price. But even better for a car so focused towards personalisation, the optional extras aren’t that expensive – the infotainment screen costs less than £300, while the app you have to download for sat-nav is only about £40. Just resist the urge to get trigger-happy just because they’re affordable, because it is really easy to order an expensive Adam before you know it. Vauxhall does offer a range of affordable, low-rate finance packages, which will make the car – and all those tempting extras – even more attractive. Resale values are unproven so far, but if other Vauxhalls are anything to go by don’t expect anything anywhere as near as strong as the MINI or Fiat on the used car market.