Accessorise: Vauxhall Adam First Drive

Building cars to be fashion accessories borders on heretical in automotive circles, but it hasn’t stopped models like MINI’s One, the Fiat 500 and – to a lesser extent – Citroën’s DS3 flowing out of dealerships at a fair old rate. Now Vauxhall want in, and in the unashamedly fashion-conscious Adam, they have a competitor.

The Adam – so-called because the name is striking and easy to remember – is new ground for Vauxhall, and whilst it might appear to be a Corsa replacement, a new version of the popular but utilitarian supermini is due out in the not so distant future, leaving the Adam in a niche of its own.

One of the things the Adam has in its favour is an immediately likeable and distinct aesthetic. It’s also one of the few cars to retain its sparkle on dreary British streets that are a far cry from bright motor show lights. Panels are taut, contours crisp and the Adam sits on the road with a stance not unlike that of a self-satisfied Jack Russell. In terms of detail, slim headlights and a clamshell bonnet designed to push the shut-lines as wide as possible contribute to the car’s slightly reptilian front graphic, whilst the floating roof – equally striking in white – gives the Adam a touch of glamour. Features like these, and more, are needed if the Adam is to steal sales of its counterparts.

Three chief levels of trim are available. ‘Jam’, which aims to be fashionable and colourful, sits at the bottom. Next is ‘Glam’, which Vauxhall describe as elegant and sophisticated, whilst ‘Slam’ – the top spec – is sporty and racy. This particular car – L6 VXL – is in Glam trim, and certainly seems to fit the remit. Inside, the challenge was to achieve a premium feel, and although this is extremely difficult in a supermini, the Adam feels more plush than you might expect, with colourful foils, plenty of leather and a reassuring lack of rattles and shakes. From the driver’s seat, telescopic chrome-rimmed instrument binnacles spice up the interior further and, although slightly gimmicky, it’s a welcome break from the monotonous status quo of small car interiors, and that should be applauded.

Headline figures normally concern power, or economy, or compression ratios if your name is Subaru, but not this time. The Adam’s headline figure pertains to the number of personalisation permutations available, and it’s a big one: four billion, or 4,000,000,000 to labour the point. This includes twenty wheel styles, fifteen different cloth interiors, dashboard inserts (the ‘foils’, which you can change throughout the life of your car) that can be backlit with specific colours, and even roof linings that range from blue, cloud-scattered skies to an LED-lit starry night. The scope of personalisation is impressive and ridiculous in equal measure, and here’s a bit of trivia – the only other car to feature an LED-lit headliner is a Rolls-Royce Phantom, on which it is an option costing around same the Adam itself, which starts at £11,255 in ‘Jam’ guise.

The funny thing about the Adam is that although you can customise it to the nth degree, have all sorts of silly headlinings and ultimately ensure than your car is totally unique, it’s the fundamental mechanics of the thing that impress most. There’s a real synergy between the steering feel, chassis and powertrain. The gearstick throw is just right, the suspension mops up speed bumps and potholes without feeling soppy and the steering is direct but light. No, it’s not the last word in communication but to the majority of buyers that won’t matter – being comfortable will. In fact, overall it’s a far nicer car to drive than the 500 and ultimately you just don’t get tired driving around congested urban streets.

The only real place where the Adam falls down is undoubtedly in the ‘green’ stakes. The cleanest engine – the 1.2-petrol ecoFLEX with stop-start – emits 118g/km carbon dioxide, which is poor considering that almost all of its rivals emit less than 100g/km. It’s also 10% more than a BMW 320d EfficientDynamics, which really puts things into perspective. We are, however, reassured that a 3-cyclinder 1-litre turbo engine arriving on Adam specification lists towards the end of the year will be ‘class leading’ and, should that be the case, it will strengthen the Adam’s cause no end. We’ll have to wait and see, but I suspect that when that engine does arrive, Vauxhall can consider the original brief nailed.

Adam Slam 1.2 ecoFLEX Stop/Start

Engine: 1229cc petrol Power: 70PS Top Speed: 103mphmph 0-60mph: 14.9s Economy: 56.5mpg combined (manual) Emissions: 118g/km CO2 Price: £13,445

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