There was a time when bespoke interior and exterior trim was confined to supercars and luxury limousines for the super-rich, but cars like the Vauxhall Adam have changed that. Along with rivals like the Fiat 500, MINI and Renault Clio, it's following the trend for personalisation favoured by today's young car buyers.
It's certainly appealing in the showroom, but you need to be careful not to go overboard, as you could either spend a lot more than you intended, or create a car so ‘unique’ that no-one will want to buy it secondhand – or both!
Turning to more conventional matters, the Adam offers a choice of 1.0, 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol power, while there's also an Adam S ‘warm hatchback’ with a more powerful 1.4-litre. If you want a diesel, you’re out of luck, but the 111bhp 1.0-litre petrol is both economical and cheap to tax. It's the most expensive engine in the range, though, so you have to weigh the running costs savings against the higher list price compared to the 1.0 and 1.2-litre engines.
Handling is adequate but not great, the steering isn’t the most sensitive and ride quality can be quite harsh – simply put, there are both more comfortable and more fun-to-drive cars out there. Practicality isn’t particularly impressive, either, due to cramped back seats and a smaller boot than even the Fiat 500. The cabin is attractive and high-quality, though – something you can’t say for all the Adam's rivals in this class.
To start off with, Adam buyers pick from one of three core trim leves: Jam, Glam and Slam. All get a pretty decent amount of standard kit, including alloys, air-con, Bluetooth, a CD player, a USB port for your MP3 player and cruise control, plus a stereo with steering-wheel-mounted controls and built-in DAB digital radio. The Slam adds larger alloy wheels and sports suspension, making the car a bit more involving to drive.
But the choice of trim level is just the start – the Adam's options list includes things like styling and equipment packs, a fancy touchscreen infotainment system and numerous interior and exterior colour choices. If it's all too overwhelming, the Vauxhall website can show you some popular combinations that look smart without going overboard.
Vauxhall also offers the Adam in Unlimited and Rocks Unlimited trims. Unlimited adds 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, a leather steering wheel and the option of specifying wireless phone charging. Rocks Unlimited, meanwhile, brings a host of styling tweaks that Vauxhall hopes will make the Adam more of an urban crossover. A raised ride height, together with 18-inch alloy wheels and more pronounced bumpers certainly make the Adam look tougher, but they don’t actually add any off-road ability. Considering it costs about £4,000 more than an entry-level Jam model, the Adam Rocks Unlimited seems expensive. You do, at least, get an electrically folding canvas roof, as well as some extra chrome trim and LED daytime running lights thrown into the deal.
The Adam has a solid reliability record and feels well built. It scored four out of five stars when crash-tested by Euro NCAP – not perfect but by no means a disgrace when you consider many small cars are similarly rated by the testing body's very stringent procedures. Standard safety equipment is impressive all the same: you get hill-start assistance, electronic stability control and six airbargs.