You'll soon know Vauxhall's new car from Adam
Wednesday 07 November 2012
Price: £11,875 (range from £11,255)
Engine capacity: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power output (PS @ rpm): 87 @ 6,000
Top speed (mph): 110
0-62mph (secs): 12.5
Fuel economy (mpg): 55
CO2 emissions (g/km): 119
"What's yours called?" That was the theme of a long-running advertising campaign for the Renault 5 back in the Eighties. One of the more memorable suggestions made by the ads was "Kevin, because it's good at taking corners", a reference to a certain Mr Keegan; giving cars names humanises them and strengthens the bond of ownership, a lesson Renault itself took to heart by giving the 5's successor, the Clio, a name not a number.
But could you love a car called Adam, the name that General Motors has chosen for its new urban runabout? "Vauxhall Adam" probably sounds better than "Vauxhall Kevin", but it's still a badge that has British car-buyers scratching their heads. On the Continent, the cars we call Vauxhalls are Opels and the German arm of GM is still called Adam Opel AG after its founder, an association that is lost in rebadging the Adam as a Vauxhall, although I don't think that matters much.
GM's UK arm is a relative success, popular with big fleets and the police, but like all mainstream car-makers, it's being squeezed between the emerging Korean brands and the expanding premium manufacturers, so it needs to inject a bit more zing into its product line-up. That's the job of the Adam, although it starts with a couple of disadvantages compared with the competition. In particular, it's not a revival of an old favourite like the BMW Mini or Fiat 500 and it's not a downward extension of a premium brand like the Audi A1. On the other hand, it still makes a good case for itself with appealingly distinctive looks, high levels of quality, reasonable pricing and a dizzying array of personalisation options when it comes to colours, wheels and the rest.
But the single most impressive thing about it is that it doesn't just feel like a superficial makeover of the similarly sized Corsa. Vauxhall's determination to do something different runs deep. The Adam's interior is at least a match for those of its rivals in terms of style, materials, finish and use of colour, and the options list offers a few things you can't get on a Mini or a 500. One is a "sky at night" roof lining with dozens of tiny twinkling LEDs – only Rolls-Royce will sell you one of those if you don't want an Adam.
On the road, it's pretty sound. Cornering is competent, if not, perhaps, quite the full Kevin, and the 1.4-litre petrol engine fitted to our test car did a good, if not exciting, job of moving it around. British models will get a different chassis set-up to the left-hand drive version I tried but this car is more about making a statement. And Adam's a bit of a Clever Trevor (to borrow another name from that old Renault campaign) when it comes to equipment, with digital radio and Bluetooth as standard, and the £275 option of IntelliLink technology, which provides a 7in screen and the ability to tap your smartphone for useful apps such as BringGo sat-nav and TuneIn Internet radio, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
Sometimes you get the feeling Vauxhall is trying just a bit too hard to emphasise this car's trendy individuality. You can see that in the names of the trim levels – Jam, Glam and Slam – and colour choices. But the Adam is still a thoroughly likeable effort.
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