Vauxhall Adam Rocks hatchback (2014-2018)
"The Vauxhall Adam Rocks is an intriguing proposition, combining crossover looks with a semi-convertible roof in a city-car package"
- Innovative folding fabric roof
- Low running costs
- Distinctive design
- Tiny boot
- Some rivals are better to drive
- Not much space in the back seats
The Vauxhall Adam Rocks adds a certain amount of rugged style to the already classy Vauxhall Adam city car. It’s an unusual proposition, as few of the Adam’s rivals combine city-car dimensions with raised suspension and tough black plastic cladding, save perhaps the Fiat Panda Trekking.
There are four trim levels. The standard Adam Rocks comes with an underwhelming 69bhp 1.2-litre engine or a peppier turbocharged 1.0-litre engine, the Adam Rocks Unlimited offers (as the name suggests) near-limitless personalisation options, while the Adam Rocks Air adds a full-length sliding fabric roof. Unlike the Mini Convertible’s, this doesn’t impinge on boot space – but there isn’t an awful lot of that in the first place.
The Adam Rocks S, meanwhile, has a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine that boosts performance slightly, but raises the price significantly. If you want a diesel option, you’ll have to look elsewhere: like the standard Adam, the Adam Rocks is petrol only.
Room in the back of the Adam is tight, too, due to the car’s sloping roofline. We think the Adam Rocks’ best feature is its turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which strikes a brilliant balance between performance, fuel economy and refinement.
There’s a decent amount of standard equipment, too, including alloy wheels and air-conditioning – but the Adam is all about personalisation, so there’s an exceptionally long options list to choose from.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Fitting the Vauxhall Adam with a tiny 1.0-litre petrol engine means it's cheap to run. It’s capable of 55.4mpg fuel economy and has low CO2 emissions of 119g/km, so road tax costs just £30 per year. However, on a mixture of motorways, city streets and country roads, we managed just over 40mpg, which isn't great. It's worth mentioning that the Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost is even more cost-effective, as it's free to tax and can return as much as 65.7mpg. The turbocharged 1.4-litre engine of the Adam Rocks S causes economy to drop to 47.9mpg, while road tax rises to £130 a year with this model.
Vauxhall boasts one of the biggest dealer networks in the country, which means servicing won't be a hassle. The brand's fixed-price services start from £129, while every Adam has a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which is about par for the course in this class.
It's too soon to say how well the Adam Rocks will hold its value, but the standard car retains between 36 and 40% of its purchase price after three years or 36,000 miles, depending on the exact model, so you can expect the Vauxhall Adam Rocks to be in the same ballpark.
Engines, drive & performance
The 1.0-litre engine isn't just extremely quiet, it's also usefully quick. The engine's 113bhp doesn't sound like much on paper, but it's enough to get the little Vauxhall from 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds, while a top speed of 121mph means there's enough in reserve for faster motorway driving. There's no disguising the fact that it's still a small engine, though, and needs to be treated as such when planning overtakes. Avoid the 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines, as they feel sluggish and don't suit the Adam's youthful nature.
The Adam Rocks S gets a different, turbocharged 148bhp 1.4-litre engine, which sees the 0-62mph time fall to 8.5 seconds. While the Rocks S is billed as a performance model, the underwhelming steering and the slight body lean in corners mean it’s some way off the pace when it comes to outright handling. At almost £20,000, the Rocks S is also seriously expensive; you’d be better off spending £1,500 less on the Ford Fiesta ST, or £2,500 more on the Ford Focus ST if you’re after a hot hatch.
To drive, the Vauxhall Adam Rocks feels much like the standard Adam. It's good fun to scoot around quick corners, but the steering isn't as responsive as the MINI hatchback's and the Adam can't match that car for driver involvement. Raising the ride height means the Rocks' body leans in bends more than the normal Adam (but not by much) and the huge 18-inch wheels are unlikely to run out of grip unless you turn into corners too fast.
Interior & comfort
Open the driver's door of the Vauxhall Adam Rocks and you'll see its interior has been carried over from the standard car. That's a good thing, because it feels well made and is much nicer than the old Vauxhall Corsa's bland effort.
The controls are easy to use, too, with the optional centrally mounted touchscreen operating the majority of the car's systems. There's no sat nav, but it can be downloaded to your phone and mirrored on to the screen – though some of the controls are a little fiddly. In all honesty, most people will prefer to buy on an aftermarket TomTom system, which can be fitted to the inside of the car's windscreen.
Flashes of body-coloured plastic add youthful appeal, while the grab handle next to the gearstick is unique to the more rugged Adam Rocks. Poke around the lower parts of the interior and you'll find some hard plastics, but overall it's a vast improvement on the old Corsa. The only notable omission is a one-touch button for the sunroof – meaning the driver has to control the car one-handed to operate it while on the move.
The new 1.0-litre engine does nothing to dampen the appeal of the interior, either. In fact, Vauxhall's gone back to the drawing board with the mechanicals and the result is an engine that is one of the quietest in its class, feeling relaxed even when pushed.
Sadly, the smooth nature of the engine isn't matched by the car's ride, which suffers particularly when the optional 18-inch alloy wheels are fitted. They crash over road imperfections that would go unnoticed in smaller-wheeled models and also transmit a substantial amount of road noise into the cabin.
Practicality & boot space
The Vauxhall Adam is a small car, but when similarly tiny models like the Volkswagen up! can comfortably fit four people, we'd expect the Adam to manage the same feat. It can't, though, and while there’s plenty of room up front for adults, they won't thank you for a prolonged backseat ride due to the limited legroom. That said, the doors are big and light, so getting in and out shouldn't be an issue. Another bonus is that the folding fabric roof doesn’t eat into headroom.
The roof doesn't cost the Adam any boot space, either, but the standard 170-litre capacity isn't very impressive. The smaller VW up! can hold 251 litres and even the compact MINI hatchback offers 211 litres. The Vauxhall's 50:50 split/folding rear seats mean you can extend the boot while carrying a second passenger, or drop both seats for a total capacity of 633 litres – but don't go thinking you'll be able to transport all your wordly possessions. There's a high load lip, too, which despite the wide opening, makes loading a bit tricky.
As with the standard car, there's useful storage around the cabin, including a place for your smartphone and cup-holders for drinks. There's enough space in the doorbins for a two-litre bottle of water, but the glovebox has been pushed back into the dashboard for improved kneeroom, meaning there's not an awful lot of room inside.
Reliability & safety
Vauxhall's reputation for reliability has been far from glowing in the past, but the Adam looks to have turned that around. It was the top-scoring Vauxhall in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey – the first time it featured in the results – coming 23rd out of 150 cars. Our 2016 poll saw the Adam fall to 64th place, but owners continue to rate it well for handling and in-car technology, while reliability continues to be reasonably solid, too.
The Vauxhall Adam Rocks is based on the standard Adam hatchback, so it's unlikely to be individually tested for safety by Euro NCAP. In a world where most new models seem to achieve five stars, we didn't expect the Adam to score just four when it was tested back in 2013. Despite this, it still gets six airbags, stability control and a seatbelt reminder buzzer for the front and rear-seats occupants.
Optional safety equipment includes blind-spot monitoring and parking assistance. These come part of a pack, and will set you back around £450.
Price, value for money & options
The Vauxhall Adam Rocks costs roughly £1,500 more than the Fiat 500C, which is arguably a better car, but it does come loaded with kit. For now there’s only one trim level – the Air – and it has remote central locking, air-conditioning, a DAB digital radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights front and rear and, of course, the fabric folding roof.
There are plenty of attractive options to choose from, too, including a leather interior and rear parking sensors, but we’d be tempted by the Itellilink infotainment system. It’s reasonably priced at £275 and means you can use smartphone apps (for example sat nav) through the Adam’s centrally mounted touchscreen.
Customisation is very much the in thing at the moment, and Vauxhall offers a variety of wheel designs, stickers and contrasting colours to make your car more (or potentially less) appealing.