TEST DRIVE: Vauxhall Adam Jam

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Steve Sharpe drives Vauxhall’s ADAM, a city car to really make your own

Vauxhall’s Adam is part of what the company calls its rapid product offensive, which sees four big new arrivals in just 18 months – Ampera, Mokka, Cascada and ADAM.

It’s Vauxhall’s first foray onto the small supermini market, a sector which has been growing steadily since the turn of the century.

Pitted against the likes of the ever-popular Fiat 500, the Mini, the Audi A1 and the like, the ADAM will have a fight on its hands to take a piece of the market, but what the company is marketing heavily is the capacity for personalisation.

Indeed, there are so many variations of all kinds available that it’s possible that your particular ADAM may be unique.

It’s obvious from the outset that the ADAM is aimed at a young, fashion-conscious, urban driver.

And although the car is named, a little strangely, ADAM – after the founder of Vauxhall’s parent company, Adam Opel – it’s aimed at the female end of the market

There is a choice of three trim levels with suitably trendy names – ADAM JAM (fashionable/colourful) – ADAM GLAM (elegant/sophisticated) and ADAM SLAM (racy/sporty).

“Grandma’s got a new car for picking up her pension and taking Grandad to hospital – it’s an ADAM SLAM.” Unlikely.

But that’s only the start – the next level of customisation comes with the addition of option packs, and from there the possibilities are virtually endless, with the choice of 12 body colours, 15 seat designs, 20 alloy wheel styles, three printed headliners and no less than 18 interior décor panels, to mention just a few.

Even the colour names are fancy – body colours include I’ll Be Black, Papa Don’t Peach, Purple Fiction, James Blonde, Saturday White Fever and Buzz Lightgreen – while contrasting roof choices features White My Fire or Men in Brown.

“I’ll have a lager, Dave – did I see a Papa Don’t Peach roof on your new ADAM?” Very doubtful.

All in all, Vauxhall reckon there are over a million different combinations available.

Whereas many rivals have gone for the retro look, like the 500 and the Audi A1, Vauxhall say they’ve gone for a fresh look, modern look.

And it’s a cute looking car, which seems to cherry-pick elements of the opposition – general outline of the 500, the “floating” roof of Citroen’s DS line – and give a different spin on it, including the Vauxhall family’s new front end, prominent badge and daytime-running LED lights.

The funky colour schemes are going to make it popular amongst younger drivers, too.

Ignoring all the customisation opportunities, the interior is smart, stylish and well put-together.

Following the current trend for city cars, the dash is constructed partly of the same metal as the body, which means an eye-popping colour scheme is possible, but even in relatively sedate colours it looks snappy.

The materials are good quality – the console has a distinctive textured look and feel – and the switches, dials and gauges are all well placed and look good.

For a small car there is plenty of headroom and legroom in the front, but things are more cramped in the rear, and larger adults are going to feel a little cramped on longer journeys.

The boot is small but there’s enough space for a trip to the supermarket, and there are handy cubbyholes dotted around inside, too.

These small hatchbacks are going to spend the vast majority of their working lives travelling in an urban environment, and as such need to feature a combination of manoeuvrability, practicality and economy.

Around town the ADAM handles as a city car should. The steering is light, the turning circle is tight and acceleration is swift off the mark.

There are a couple of things, though – visibility is affected by the thick rear pillars, making reversing more arduous than you might expect – and the ride is jittery at low speeds, picking up a lot of the bumps and holes on the city run.

There are three petrol engines to choose from - a 1.2 and a couple of 1.4s.

I drove the 1.2 JAM ... (fashionable / colourful, if you remember) ... which pulled well off the mark.

The wheel-at-each-corner ADAM handles corners decently, with good grip on the tarmac, and body lean has been well controlled. But you don’t get the meaty acceleration out of corners that the sporty feel of the car lends you to expect.

But keep the revs high and the ADAM acquits itself well, with a few lags at higher speeds, hence the 0-60mph stats of nearly 15 seconds.

The ADAM isn’t built for the motorway but it will do what’s asked of it, and although the engine noise rises it’s not too intrusive, and road noise and wind noise are kept to decent levels

But this is a car for the city and in a burgeoning market it has to be adept in many categories.

It’s got to out-cute the 500, out-style the mini and out perform the A1. Plus it’s got to make sound financial sense, too, being good value for money and good economically. It’s priced competitivey enough – the entry-level ADAM comes in at £11, 255, rising through scores of options to £15,290.

That compares to the Fiat 500 starting price of £10,000, while the Mini starts at nearly £15,000. A decent value option, then.

All the customisation packs come at various prices but the ADAM’s well stocked with standard equipment – all versions come with air-con, Bluetooth and a DAB radio.

And there are a load of hi-tech goodies available, including a state-of-the-art entertainment system that syncs with your phone and does all kinds of exciting things.

Running costs are OK with the mid-50s mpgs but perhaps surprisingly, unlike many rivals, there is no road-tax exempt model available.

It’s a canny move from Vauxhall to appeal to young, urban types with this kind of opportunity to make their car even more personal.

The fashionable urban hatchback market is dominated by perennially popular models like the Mini and the Fiat 500, so the ADAM has got a tough job ahead of it.

But it’s a cute, well-priced city car that will pick up many fans as it becomes a more familiar sight on the UK’s roads.

Fact file

Vauxhall Adam Jam

Engine: 1.2litre petrol

Transmission: Six-speed auto

0-62: 14.9 seconds

Top Speed: 103mph.

Economy: 56.5mpg

Price: £11,550.