Driving towards the sunrise on a bitterly cold January morning, with the French Alps silhouetted against the orange and pink morning sky, this could have been the beginnings of a dark romantic novel or spy thriller. If it had been, I would have likely been nestled comfortably in an Alfa Romeo, enjoying the sweeping bends that the foothills had to offer, heading down to meet my yacht in the French Riviera.
Alas, it wasn’t.
I was actually exploring this gorgeous part of Europe in something quite different; A Vauxhall ADAM. And before we go much further, I’ll tell you now that I had a big smile on my face.
When you first see an ADAM, you don’t get the impression that smiles-per-mile was necessarily high on the list of essentials written out by the Vauxhall engineers. For starters, its tiny. Really tiny. It is almost identical in size to a Fiat 500, which is clearly it’s main competitor. You could be excused for thinking they were designed and built by the same people, such are the similarities! And like the 500, the ADAM is fun to look at. It is quirky and cute and will definitely appeal to the same market that the 500 has thus far had cornered. With various colour packages, roof contrasts and decals available, you can order an ADAM with a totally unique and individual livery. Again, like Fiat, obscure and irrational colour naming conventions have made their way in to the sales bumf, with ‘I’ll be Black’, ‘Papa don’t Peach’, ‘Purple Fiction’, ‘James Blonde’, ‘Saturday White Fever’ and ‘Buzz Lightgreen’ being your options.
Inside, the similarities between the ADAM and 500 continue. A large swathe of body-coloured plastic stretches across the dashboard, with a minimal amount of interruptions, save for heater controls and a 7” touchscreen (which you definitely want to spec!). The interior coloured panels are interchangeable, so if you are the sort of person that grows weary of the same interior day in, day out, they can be swapped out whenever it takes your fancy. The dials are perfectly placed and easily readable with the briefest of glances, although the screen backlighting can be fiddly if the sun is behind you. It is controlled on the same dial as the instruments and you can find yourself having to adjust that more than you like. Cabin space is generous in the front, both for leg and head room but being a small city car, rear space is limited. Probably only really intended for children, adults will be uncomfortable on the two-seat rear bench even with the front seats all the way forward. The boot, again, is typical of a city car. You won’t be fitting any large suitcases in there, but a few bags of shopping would be fine.
So the ADAM puts a smile on your face as you walk up to it, and one when you take a seat (in the front at least). But how does it drive?
Very, very well.
The ADAM is one of those quirky little cars that is just as much fun to drive at it is to look at. It has a chassis that can only be described as playful, and an engine that can only be described as spritely. Neither of them have performance pedigree, but the combination of a high revving, sub-1500cc engines, manual gearboxes and a short wheelbase means you get a drive similar to the original Mini. Of course, cars offering this combination of engine and chassis are plentiful, but the ADAM manages to play ball with just a little more enthusiasm then most. The front end inspires so much confidence that even your granny will have the car darting around like a spaniel. You have to be very much in a determined mindset to induce a whiff of understeer, and when it comes, its progressive and barely noticeable. The back of the car stays strictly within bounds, following the front wherever you point it, and not once did it misbehave on me despite some enthusiastic provocation. This is a car that anyone can get in, and drive in a spirited way. It is a car that will dance around town, jumping in and out of traffic, and generally keeping a smile on your face.
“the ADAM manages to play ball with just a little more enthusiasm then most”
The ADAM carries that enthusiasm and stability well as I drove it in to the Alps. Usually a car like this would feel out of place on twisty ribbons of tarmac, but the ADAM never put a foot wrong. It gives tremendous feedback on where all four wheels are on the road surface, it feels small and nimble, and most importantly, it doesn’t scare you. Sure, a Ferrari or Aston Martin would have been the poetic choice for a blast in the Alps, but the ADAM meant I wasn’t wincing every time I had to pass someone coming the other way. I wasn’t creeping around corners for fear of it wagging its tail.
The ADAM is a car that ticks a lot of boxes. Perfect as a first car, perfect as a second family car. If you look past the quirky looks and small luggage space, it is a certainly a car that will keep you smiling. At home in the alps, and at home in Aldershot, the ADAM just sort of… works.
|Price||Starting at £12,880||As tested, £19,675|
|Fuel Economy||56.5mpg||As tested, 49.9mpg|
|Exterior||Quirky, fun, divisive. True to the city car form, bulbous bumpers and a love-it/hate-it face will appeal to some, but not all.||****|
|Interior||A little crowded in the back, but the front seats are comfy, well positioned and a nice place to sit.||***|
|Performance||Don’t expect too much from the engine, but the chassis|
encourages fun and inspires confidence.
|Comfort||Absorbs potholes and speed bumps well, and roll in the twisty stuff is well constrained for a car of its class.||****|
|Value||Well priced for smiles-per-mile, the pokier engines are worth the premium, and you can always.||****|
|Overall||A fantastic little city car, perfect as a second car or as something for your 17 year-old. Well priced, good fun, cool and quirky, this ticks a lot of boxes.||****|