The new Adam Rocks
A painfully punning name intended to suggest both a rock-conquering, rugged mien and fully paid-up trendiness

On the launch of Vauxhall's Adam, pitched as a cool, style-driven small car in tune with today's influential youthfulness, I cringed slightly at the earnestness and choreography. Did I or, more crucially, my daughter, actually know anyone remotely like the people in the ads? We did not.

Sales of the Adam – so named after the founder of Vauxhall's sister brand in mainland Europe, Adam Opel – were slow at first. Still are, relative to a Mini, a Fiat 500, an Audi A1 or a Citroën DS3, all of whose desirable-object status the Adam seeks to emulate. There was no doubt about the quality of its manufacture, and no small car has ever been more personalisable, but certain old-school aspects – pleasing steering, intuitive agility, a keen engine – had been overlooked. The cynical view is that the target buyer wouldn't notice, but that doesn't make it right.

Now, here is the Adam's next life stage. Compact SUVs, or vehicles which bridge the murky waters between these and simple hatchbacks, are termed "crossovers" by marketers. And this is the new Adam Rocks, a painfully punning name intended to suggest both a rock-conquering, rugged mien and fully paid-up trendiness.

It has black plastic valances and wheel arches, the latter with curious flat-topped tabs mimicking those purposeless items on the ultra-fashionable Range Rover Evoque, and it sits on suspension raised 15mm (which is not much). Thus "transformed", a process shallower than in probably any other hatchback-turned-wannabe-SUV, this Adam is readied for its urban cred-magnet role.

Much more useful, in my test car although it will spread to other Adams, is the new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged engine. This is the latest in a phalanx of tiny turbo triples, joining those from Ford, Renault and Peugeot. This properly modern engine, producing a healthy 115bhp but a low 119g/km CO2, is the tonic the Adam has badly needed.

Straight away it feels like the right engine for the car, something missing in the Adam to date. Thus powered, the Rocks goes with an easy, big-hearted vigour tarnished only by a surge-inducing hesitation when you re-apply the power after an upshift from first to second gear. You soon learn to press the accelerator sooner than is natural, and it's nothing that a little fine-tuning by Vauxhall can't fix. The engine is also extremely smooth and quiet, more so than any rival and practically undetectable at idle, but just enough of the three-cylinder sound remains to give it some character. A new six-speed gearbox takes the power to the front wheels.

The slightly raised ride height does no harm to the handling, but the optional big wheels exacerbate the suspension's fidgets over lumpy road surfaces. The Rocks also gets a new calibration for its electric power-steering, which now feels accurate and natural enough to let you flow with the car through corners without being lost in a sea of anaesthesia.

Otherwise, it's regular Adam: bold colours, high quality, odd looks, small boot, premium pretensions on the verge of being realised.

So, does the Adam rock yet? You'll need a 25-year-old to answer that.

Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air 1.0T

Price: £16,695 (Range from £14,695)

Engine: 998cc, three cylinders, 12 valves, turbocharged, 115bhp

Transmission: six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive

Performance: 121mph, 0-62 in 9.9 seconds, 55.4mpg, CO2 119g/km

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