Review

Vauxhall Adam hatchback

Price  £11,455 - £15,350

Vauxhall Adam hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Stylish design
  • Good quality
  • Affordable and extensive options
Cons
  • Uneconomical engines
  • Poor practicality
  • Firm ride comfort

At a glance

The greenest
JAM 1.0 Turbo 115PS S/S 3dr £13,455
The cheapest
JAM 1.2i 16v VVT 3dr £11,455
The fastest
SLAM 1.0 Turbo 115PS S/S 3dr £15,350
Top of the range
SLAM 1.0 Turbo 115PS S/S 3dr £15,350

"The Vauxhall Adam is a stylish city car, but it needs more economical engines to beat its rivals."

The Vauxhall Adam is a stylish city car designed to compete with the Fiat 500 and Ford Ka, while also taking on upmarket rivals such as the MINI and Audi A1. It's unlike any other Vauxhall, with a huge array of optional extras allowing customers the chance to buy a unique car that appeals to their individual tastes.

Three main trim levels are available: Jam, Glam and Slam. All are well equipped, but they're really just jumping-off points for adding all those extras. Most options are competitively priced, too, with a touchscreen display available for just £275 – far less than you’d pay in an Audi or MINI. There's no diesel engine – instead there's a choice of three petrol engines ranging from a 1.0 to a 1.4-litre. Oddly, the smallest engine is also the most powerful and economical thanks to its clever turbocharger.

While the Adam is certainly desirable, it falls behind its rivals in some areas. Its engines aren’t the most economical – none of them fall below the magic, road-tax-exempt 100g/km CO2 emissions barrier. Plus it has a firm ride and a smaller boot than the Fiat 500 and MINI. Also, come resale time, it won’t hold its value as well as the more upmarket (but also more expensive) MINI Hatch or Audi A1.

MPG, running costs & CO2

3.2 / 5

Average emissions and 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 fastest Adam is also the greenest. The 1.0i ecoFLEX engine returns 57.6mpg and emitting 114g/km of CO2 thanks to its turbocharger and stop-start technology. It will 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 in traffic to save fuel). The 1.4-litre VVT engine will manage between 52.3mpg and 56.4mpg with emissions from 119 to 126g/km. This means standard versions of the 1.2 and 1.4-litre cost £110 in annual road tax, while the ecoFLEX models reduce this to £30.

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

3.2 / 5

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. Unfortunatley, 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. 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 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. New for 2014 is an advanced 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with a turbocharger, which has 113bhp and hits 62mph in just under 10 seconds.

If you want a faster Adam, an S model was announced at the Geneva motor show with 148bhp thanks to a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol, giving it a top speed of 137mph. We also wouldn’t be surprised if an even hotter VXR model arrives later on.

Interior & comfort

2.6 / 5

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.

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.

Practicality & boot space

3 / 5

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

3 / 5

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

3.2 / 5

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.

What the others say

3.3 / 5
based on 3 reviews
4 / 5
“The Adam is a smart and fun-filled city car. It's exciting to drive with a bold image that takes in-car customisation and gadgets to new heights for this market.”
3 / 5
“The Vauxhall Adam has bags of style and luxury equipment, and a classy cabin. However, the versions we’ve driven so far are just too uncomfortable to recommend.”
3 / 5
“Rivals including the MINI and the Audi A1 are all better to drive than the Vauxhall ADAM. Even though the large majority of buyers will love the light steering, the lack of feedback takes all the sense of enjoyment away from the driver.”
Last updated 
19 Aug 2014

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