"There so many ways to tailor Vauxhall's cute city car to suit you that it makes the MINI feel old-fashioned."
If you like the MINI and Fiat 500, then the Vauxhall Adam could be for you. Vauxhall has taken a slightly more modern approach, with the supermini Adam closer to the Audi A1 than the more retro MINIs – but crucially, it's cheaper than both. Key to this type of car is personalisation, and there are up to 30,000 different options to choose from on the Adam. It's a small car with little space inside, and it's not the most exciting car to drive, with sluggish engines and a firm ride. Economy and emissions figures are a bit disappointing, too. But it's appealing nonetheless, especially when it's tailored precisely to your own tastes.
Vauxhall has tweaked the Adam specifically for the UK, giving it better steering and more comfortable suspension. Still, the ride is quite firm over bumps (although a Fiat 500 is worse) and the steering could do with giving a bit more feedback to the driver. On the plus side, it's very light and responds quickly to even the smallest inputs. That may make it feel a bit sporty, but the engines don’t live up to it – acceleration is merely adequate.
Getting into the Vauxhall Adam is easy – the doors swing open wide, yet aren’t too heavy. And the seat will adjust easily for a comfortable driving position – even the steering wheel can be adjusted up and down, or in and out. Initially, the seat base feels a little short, without much support under the thigh, but, after a long drive, it wasn’t a problem, with the pedals and other controls ideally placed for ease of use. Comfort in the back isn’t great for adults, thanks to a lack of head and knee room. But then you wouldn't be any better off in a MINI or a Fiat 500.
Vauxhall has made great strides in Auto Express' Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, with customers ranking the cars and dealers reasonably highly. It now ranks alongside some established names for satisfaction and reliability. Also, Vauxhall's lifetime warranty shows the confidence the company has in its cars. The Adam is built well, with quality materials inside – it's certainly as good as a MINI or an Audi A1 – while the mechanicals are well proven in other models in the Vauxhall range, too.
If you’re buying a style-led supermini like a Fiat 500 or Mini, practicality is unlikely to be high on your list of priorities. That's a good job with the Vauxhall Adam, as it's only really suitable for two kids in the back, although getting in there is okay, with front seats that slide quite far forward. The boot's not huge, either – you’ll get more space in a Citroen DS3, but that's also a bigger car. The rear seats fold easily but leave a big step on the boot floor. However, there are plenty of cup holders and lots of storage in door bins and by the gear lever.
Value for money
The Vauxhall Adam is surprisingly affordable, sitting between the Fiat 500 and MINI on list price. Even more impressive is the cost of options – the infotainment screen costs under £300, while the app you have to download for navigation is only about £40. Other options are affordable, although the temptation is to spend more and more, so it will be easy to order quite a pricey Adam. Vauxhall offers a range of affordable, low-rate finance packages, though, which will make the car, and all those tempting extras, even more appealing.
Where economy mpg figures in the 60s and 70s are the norm among superminis these days (with CO2 emissions under 100g/km), running costs of the Adam are a little disappointing. A few years ago, we’d be praising a range of three engines that averaged around 55mpg, but that's not particularly special these days. Emissions, and therefore road tax, are similarly average. There's no diesel Adam, as Vauxhall couldn’t see the value in the extra cost, but more efficient small engines should arrive late in 2013. At least Vauxhall's excellent lifetime warranty means there’ll be no unexpected costs.