The Vauxhall Corsa has been a consistent best seller in the UK since it went on sale back in 2006. The reasons for that are plain to see; the Corsa is a stylish small car, but it’s also roomy and affordable to buy and run.
However, with one eye on the success of the Mini, Vauxhall introduced another small car – the Adam – in 2012. Here, space and practicality come second to style and customisation, but the Adam is competitively priced, well equipped and classy inside.
So, which Vauxhall is the better buy?
What are the Vauxhall Adam and Corsa like to drive?
The Adam’s engine choices are simple. There are just three petrol options – a 69bhp 1.2 or a 1.4 with either 86- or 99bhp. We haven’t tried the higher-powered 1.4, but the lower-powered version is flexible enough at low revs and fairly strong when it’s revved harder. The 1.2 is the best bet, though. It will also need revving hard but is just as good in normal use and is the cheapest option.
The Corsa, on the other hand, has a long list of diesel and petrol engines. You’re best off avoiding the smaller 1.0-litre petrols because they feel underpowered, even in a car as compact as this.
There’s a 1.3-litre diesel, too, which comes with either 74- or 94bhp. Both suit the car well, but make the Corsa expensive to buy. As a result, we think the non-turbocharged 99bhp 1.4 petrol makes the most sense, offering enough power and flexibility to help the Corsa feel at home in and out of town, while keeping things affordable.
The steering in both cars is precise enough at low speed, but on quicker roads that precision falls away; plenty of adjustments need to be made on the motorway.
The cars are similar when it comes to ride, too. The Corsa comes with two chassis settings, with a stiffer set-up as standard on SRi models, as well as SE and SXi models with 17-inch wheels. It’s a little too harsh for UK roads, though, so we’d stick with the softer setting which helps to smooth out broken Tarmac.
Our only experience of the Adam is with large wheels and sports suspension – again, something we’d try to avoid. It causes the car to feel unsettled around town as it thumps over potholes. That said, both cars benefit from the better body control that comes with their respective stiffer set ups.
It’s the Corsa that does the best job of shutting out wind and road noise on the motorway as the Adam’s petrol engine becomes boomy when worked hard, and there’s lots of suspension patter heard in the cabin, too.
Can I get an automatic gearbox for the Vauxhall Adam or Corsa?
Not on the Adam, no. However, the Corsa can have one with either the 1.2- and 1.4-litre non-turbocharged petrol engines, although the gearboxes differ. On the 1.2, you’ll find Vauxhall’s Easytronic ‘box – a robotised manual that’s slow-witted and best avoided. The 1.4 is fitted with a standard torque converter, which is better, but we’d stick to a manual transmission unless absolutely necessary.
What are the Vauxhall Adam and Corsa like inside?
Nobody expects a supermini to provide space for five inside, but the Corsa does a better job of accommodating its passengers than the Adam.
In the front of the cabin, things are pretty equal; both cars have enough head- and legroom for six-foot passengers. However, while the Adam has lots of seat and wheel adjustment as standard, on the Corsa you’ll pay extra to get seat-height and two-way wheel adjustment.
The Adam looks and feels the newer model inside, though, with its better materials and an uncomplicated dashboard layout. There’s an affordable touch-screen option available that’s well worth the extra, too. By comparison, the Corsa is showing its age. Understanding everything isn’t the problem, as the chunky buttons are easy to use on the move, but the plastics on and around the dash are hard and scratchy.
Move to the back seats and things become even more one-sided - although in favour of the Corsa this time. In both the three- and five-door Corsa there’s enough legroom in the back seats for a couple of adults, but there are obvious access advantages to the five-door model and the three-door’s tapering roofline impedes on headroom. The Adam, however, is extremely tight for space in the rear, to the extent that adults might struggle to fit at all, and the fact it’s only a three-door car means access is tight, too.
The Adam continues to struggle when you consider boot space, too. Its sloping rear roofline not only hinders rear visibility for the driver, but it restricts the boot to just 170 litres - smaller than many city cars. The Corsa’s boot has enough room for the weekly shop and more, with a useful 285 litres of space.
Which one should I buy?
As we’ve already said, it’s best to avoid the automatic gearboxes in the Corsa. Go for the manual, naturally aspirated 1.4 to get the best blend of affordability and power. The 1.2 is the better bet in the Adam, being cheaper but still flexible enough.
In terms of trim, the Corsa is most practical as a five-door model and looks the best value in mid-level Exclusiv AC trim, which gives you air-con, daytime running lights, remote locking, a CD player, wheel-mounted controls, electric-heated door mirrors, the extra seat and wheel adjustment as well as six airbags.
Unlike the Corsa, all Adams comes with a generous list of standard kit so we’d recommend sticking with the entry-level Jam trim. That gets you features such as Bluetooth, DAB radio and air-con as standard, while there are seemingly endless opportunities to customise your car even at this lowest level.
If your preference of car is all about looking good and having something that puts a smile on your face, the Adam has much more image appeal than the Corsa.
If space and ease of use are priorities, the Corsa is the better option. It has a higher list price than the Adam, but the discounts our Target Price team have managed to achieve on both cars bring them within £800 of each other. The Corsa will be easier to live with if you regularly carry a few passengers or a big shop in the boot. Add in the fact that it's still stylish and drives better than the Adam, it does enough to seal the win here. By objective measures, the Corsa is the better buy.