The Vauxhall Adam isn't a car, it's a crime scene. Vauxhall had the bare-faced gall to take on the trendy premium supermini elite. It deployed a crack team of designers to cherry-pick the best cues of anything from the Mk1 Ford Ka to the Fiat 500. It came up with a funky cabin, tactile and ergonomic enough to give Minis nightmares. It even went to the trouble of offering more individualisation options than a human fingerprint. An open goal gaped.
And then Vauxhall hamstrung the whole Opel founder-named kaboodle with a notchy gearshift, lifeless steering, and outdated engines even Brunel would've thought a little wheezy. It is indeed criminal.
In that case, why revisit the Vauxhall Adam?
Because after trying the top-spec 1.4-litre model on the launch and back in Blighty, it's high time we discovered if the 1.2 is any better. There are no diesel Adams, so the 1.2 is as wallet (or purse)-friendly as Vauxhall's baby gets. At least, for now…
What are the numbers?
The 1.2-litre engine produces 69bhp and 85lb ft – the same power and a dribble more torque than CAR’s long-term VW Up. However, the Adam is more than 150kg heavier, and it shows. The meagre figures drag the 1086kg Adam to 62mph in a yawning 14.9sec, and some poor soul has discovered the top speed to be 103mph.
The 1.4-litre version gets to 62mph in 12.5sec and stretches to 110mph, and is actually more efficient – 55.4mpg and 119g/km plays the 1.2’s 55.3mpg and 124g/km. That’s an outdated engine for you.
Our test car averaged a resolute 42.1mpg. Not a bad result, considering the flogging it needs to get up and go.
So it’s slow then?
Unremittingly, frustratingly so. The 1.0-litre turbo triple due in the Adam this autumn can’t come quickly enough for this torque-lite tyke. And a revamped gearshift with six speeds instead of five and a slicker cross-gate action wouldn’t go amiss either. A car that looks this cool and boasts such a deeply likeable cockpit deserves a higher class of drivetrain.
So why would I even consider the 1.2-litre engine?
Mostly because it kicks the range off, and is therefore the cheapest version, at £11,255. Our test car, complete with some outlandish colours and the quick-thinking ‘Intellilink’ touchscreen interface, costs a heftier £13,465. The cheapest 1.4-litre Adam is £11,730, and the less tardy 99bhp version a full £12,255.
Being a lowly Adam ‘Jam’ rather than the sportier ‘Slam’ we drove last year, our Adam does without sports suspension and wears 16in wheels. That’s a world of good news for the ride comfort, which is palpably better than the stiffer, wannabe warm hatch set-up. It handles British roads with aplomb and it’s slightly faster across them to boot.
Oh, and despite how pretty it looks in the brochure shots, try to resist the charms of the £325 ‘Illuminated headliner’, which tries to riff off the ‘starry sky’ looks of a Rolls-Royce’s ceiling. Though you can dim the lights, they always reflect badly in the rear view mirror. Check the view out of the rear window after dark and you’ll find it’s dotted with spots, as if it’s suffered an outbreak of smallpox. How was that flaw signed off?
At least the Adam's cabin itself remains a standout delight. Unlike say, a Citroen DS3, the Adam's interior doesn't feel like a normal supermini that's been tarted up with a splash of coloured trim and some sexy dials. Though there are pieces of Corsa switchgear here and there, the overall design is a triumph, the materials high-quality, and the build quality (as in every Adam we've tested) exceptional. It may be Vauxhall's cheapest car, but by a country mile, the Adam enjoys Vauxhall's most successful interior.
The 1.2-litre engine is the cheapest way to get into an Adam, but that’s all we can recommend about this thrashy powertrain. Vauxhall’s baby remains a neatly styled, beautifully made and imaginatively optioned machine that can’t compete dynamically with anything else in its class. Until fresher, fizzier engines weigh in, it’s case closed on this crime scene.