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Road Tests

Vauxhall Adam 1.4

Vauxhall's gone heavy on the personalisation with its new Adam

Price: From £11,580
Engine: 1,398cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, 87bhp at 6,000rpm
Transmission: Five-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 110mph, 0-62 in 12.5sec, 55.4mpg, CO2 119g/km

Would you Adam and Eve it? Here's the sparky new motor from Vauxhall and, blimey, it's got a cabin like a stretch limo's little sister. What's more, you can even hook up the old dog and bone and watch its screen on the telly.

It gets stranger. Your Adam can be a Jam, a Glam or a Slam. And the colours, well… how about Purple Fiction? Or James Blonde? You can have a different-coloured roof, too, in I'll Be Black, White My Fire or Men in Brown. Never mind the graphics packs: Fly, Splat and Stripes. Seldom has the serpent of temptation laid so many car cosmetics on the automotive dressing table. All that's missing is the apple, although Apple's iPhone (or an Android alternative) is vital to optimum Adamisation.

As for the name? It comes from the fact that Opel, whose badge adorns GM's European products everywhere but the UK, was founded by Adam Opel.

This is what happens when Vauxhall joins the coterie of small, fashion-object cars such as the Mini, Citroën DS3 and Fiat 500. Cheeky looks, rampant accessorisation and "connectivity" are what buyers now want.

If the car is good fun to drive and refined, so much the better, but that's not so important to the generation at which the Adam is aimed. They know most new cars are good enough for them not to need worry about that aspect. For these buyers, portrayed in the brochure with a saturation-point ache of trendiness, cars are now seen in the same way as phones and tablets: status-loaded commodities.

The limo allusion might seem to be stretching a point, but among the décors offered for the roof lining is one in which clouds printed on a sky-blue background are pin-pricked with 64 white LEDs, which glow at night like stars. More LEDs can stud the dashboard's variously finished panels, while ambient lights can cycle through eight colours. You can also turn the whole lot off, which is a relief. The underlying interior quality is very good, with rich-feeling surfaces and dials resembling the watches that punctuate every-other page in lifestyle magazines.

Under all this is a car. It's bigger than a 500, more mini than a Mini, and not at all roomy either in the back or boot. The front has a goofy grin and the wheels can be had with one spoke in the colour of the bodywork. And – back to phones, screens and apps – there is an optional IntelliLink system which links phone to car. It uses the phone's apps, including Vauxhall's downloadable satnav, though the latter isn't quite finished; in the one I tried, the route looked drawn on with a felt pen.

The Adam has an engine and a suspension system, of course. You can have a 70bhp 1.2 and a choice of 1.4s with 87 or 100bhp. All are petrol-fuelled; a turbocharged three-cylinder, 1.0-litre unit is on the way, but no diesels or automatics. I tried the 87bhp engine, which felt sufficiently unenthusiastic to make me recommend the 100bhp one, even though it was unavailable for test. Nor is the 87bhp engine particularly smooth or quiet. It is merely adequate.

Handling? Ride comfort? The former is tidy without actually encouraging a good time. The suspension is too firm over bumps; more suppleness would make the whole car flow better.

As a marketing concept, the Adam is right on target for its time, with the chicken-and-egg proviso that Vauxhall isn't yet a "cool brand". But, as a motoring reporter, I'd like to think that buyers' appreciation of automotive attributes runs a little deeper than Slam-Splat-Purple.