Vauxhall Adam S first drive

Vauxhall Adam S

Vauxhall Adam SKeeping the product fresh with additional or revised specification in the small car sectors is as important as the price and the low cost monthly finance options to buy one.

Take the Vauxhall Adam family of City Car models. There is the Adam priced from £11,360 with its offspring the Adam Jam and Adam Slam. Next up the family tree is Adam Rocks at £13,995 and now head of the family is the £16,995 Adam S which has deposed the Adam Grand Slam, same sporty car but a different name due to Pan European marketing reasons. 

Vauxhall’s current marketing theme for the Adam family is ‘everyone’s an original’. The range is mostly about must-have ‘image’ using the same core three door small City Car hatchback body design with 2+2 seating with the choice of 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.4 Turbo petrol engines depending on which level of style and spec is chosen. 

Fiat with their 500 family and Mini created the fashion for personalisation options rather than just accessories and most other manufactures have followed the trend. In addition to the core models Adam customers can choose from 19 body colours, seven roof and mirror casing colours and 25 different designs of alloy wheels. As they say there is no end of combinations of exterior and interior accessories and trims and high-tech gizmos. Three accessories that caught my attention were stylish valve caps to enhance those alloy wheels, centre console organisers for bits and pieces of clutter and for those owners without a garage how about an Adam branded outdoor cover for your pride-an-joy? 

The Adam family was launched in 2013 and has been a relatively good success story for Vauxhall with over 22,000 units sold in the UK but still only half of those achieved last year by the Fiat 500 and Mini ranges. The Adam is the smallest member of the current Vauxhall car range sitting below the Corsa, which sold over 80,000 units last year. In the near future the Adam and Corsa ranges will be joined by the Viva City Car, a five door hatchback which is slightly larger than the Adam but cheaper with prices starting from £7,995. 

The Adam S has the same technical specification as the outgoing Grand Slam model. This latest ‘hot’ Adam has a 1.4-litre, four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 150hp and 220Nm of torque from 2,750rpm with drive to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is a spirited 130mph and zero to 62mph takes 8.5-seconds. Officially this model will return 47.9mpg in the Combined Cycle and my week long test driving figure was 39.3mpg and most of that was done in its ECO setting which didn’t seem to harm the performance very much – if at all. The CO2 emissions are 139g/km so VED road tax is £130. Although 90% of Adam users are retail customers a company car driver will pay 22% in Benefit-in-Kind tax. Insurance is rated in group 15E. 

Other technical and cosmetics enhancements for the sportiest member of the Adam family include 18-inch alloy wheels, red painted brake callipers, more powerful brakes, widened tracks, a performance tweaked chassis, lowered and stiffer sports suspension, an enhanced stability control system, the Vauxhall VXR body styling pack which includes side sill extensions, an extended rear bumper and diffuser and what looks like an add-on roof mounted spoiler. 

Inside there are aluminium sports pedals, tinted rear windows, electronic climate control, digital radio, Bluetooth, IntelliLink smartphone and tablet connectivity, leather seats, cruise control, trip computer and six airbags. Unfortunately for this hefty price sat-nav is not included although it has a large touch-screen to accommodate it. My test car had the very attractive and surprisingly comfortable leather heated Recaro sports seats which add another £1,610 to the price making the Adam S a small car with a big price-tag. Leg room in the rear is tiny and access is not that easy. At the rear is a 170-litre boot which thankfully can be enlarged by folding down the sculptured rear seats to 663-litres. A rear mounted cycle rack is also an option for those energetic youthful customers. 

Vauxhall Adam S Vauxhall Adam S Vauxhall Adam S

The feisty Adam S, priced at £16,995, competes for sales against the Fiat 500 Abarth 1.4T priced at £14,255 and Mini Cooper 1.5 turbo three door priced at £15,300. There is also the choice of the larger Ford Fiesta ST 1.6T 180hp three door at £17,395 and the new VW Polo GTi 1.8-litre 192hp three door at £18,850 but these two are a class above in size, performance and sports handling refinement. 

The 1.4-litre 150hp turbo petrol engine of the Adam S is a peaky performer. It thrives on engine revs and needs to be driven that way by keeping the engine, through copious amounts of gearchanging, in its power band. With 220Nm of torque delivered from a relatively high 2,750rpm it lacks responsiveness and low down grunt if the revs fall away. 

The ride is very much on the firm side with its lowered sports suspension and large 18-inch wheels when the car is driven quickly over country roads or slowly on potholed town road surfaces. There is plenty of cornering grip and the steering with its UK specific settings gives a reasonable amount of feedback to the driver and it was precise during cornering. The uprated brakes from the Corsa VXR were powerful and fade-free. Of course some torque-steer was evident during hard acceleration from standstill. However driven more slowly on out-of-town roads the ride comfort improved but at the loss of driving fun. 

In short this particular Adam is aimed at relatively affluent customers, young or young-at-heart that only require a small car but still want a high level of equipment, which enjoy sporty driving and all wrapped up in an individual look. 

MILESTONES: Vauxhall Adam S 1.4 Turbo 150hp 3-door City Car. Price: £16,995. Engine/transmission: 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged petrol, 150hp, 220Nm of torque from 2,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 130mph, 0-62mph 8.5-seconds, 47.9mpg Combined Cycle (39.3mpg on test), CO2 139g/km, VED road tax £130, BIK company car tax 22%. Insurance group: 15E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Boot space 170-litres. For: Good looks, sports styling inside and out, wide range of personalisation options and accessories, lively engine if kept within its power-band. Against: Expensive to buy, very firm ride, very limited rear seat space, tiny boot, lacks low down torque delivery, sat-nav costs extra.  Miles Better News Agency

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