The Vauxhall Adam was launched to try and surf the wave of popularity that stylish small cars such as the Fiat 500, Citroen DS3 and BMW Mini had done so successfully before it. It is a stylish car, offered with myriad customisation options, 17 body colours and a seemingly bottomless list of options with which to make the city car your own. They may seem a relative rarity on the road, but some 10,000 have found homes since launch so there are clearly more out there than you think.
The Adam Rocks Air is the first variant to broaden the Adam beyond the original car’s idea. It follows the current trend for SUV styling trends on smaller cars but, neatly ignoring the Fiat Panda Cross, Vauxhall claims it is the first to bring crossover styling to the city car market. A hike in ride height, tough-looking wheelarch protection, bumper inserts and underbody protection are the extent of the external changes, but they do make it look more butch.
Vauxhall has also given the car a fabric-folding roof, hence the ‘Air’ in the name, meaning this is the first convertible city SUV we’ve seen. It is nothing if not niche.
What’s the Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air like inside?
Equipment levels in the Adam Rocks Air are good as it is roughly in line with the Slam trim level of the standard car. That means Bluetooth, air-conditioning and digital radio as standard. That said, you should budget for the Intellilink infotainment system which allows seamless integration with your smartphone using a range of apps and is good value at £275.
As well as the fabric roof, two unique interior colour schemes exclusive to the model are standard options too – Ocio Brandy and Ocio Coffee Bean. Get the colours choices right and the interiors are hugely appealing. Leather door insert trims, a coloured dash insert and a chunky two-tone steering wheel make the car feel premium, even though away from the highlights there are some more humdrum plastics tucked away.
The sunroof is electrically operated, and can be opened at speeds up to 85mph. It does limit rear headroom to the back seats, but seeing as there is negligible legroom anyway, we can’t imagine many rear passengers will be in there long enough to complain.
What’s the Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air like to drive?
The Adam has always looked better than it has driven, but the Rocks Air goes some way to remedying those issues. Available with three engines, the car we tested had the new three-cylinder petrol turbo engine mated to an all-new six-speed gearbox.
Whereas the 1.2 and 1.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engines are listless and flat by modern standards, the 113bhp turbo bestows the Adam Rocks Air with a genuine turn of pace. It’s not desperately quick off the line, but in-gear performance is very good and the power is delivered more smoothly and consistently than you might expect from a small-capacity turbo engine. It pulls well from low revs too, meaning you don’t need to row through the ratios of the light, precise gearbox as often as you might think. It is also the greenest Adam available, with emissions of 119g/km and a combined economy figure of 55.4mpg.
Think three-cylinders and you might expect a busy, noisy cabin but the final plaudit is how quiet the engine is at low speeds. Rev it hard and you’ll know it is a three-pot, but on the road engine noise is very muted. Tyre roar from the optional 18in wheels on our test car was far more pronounced than anything from under the bonnet.
To assert its soft-roader credentials, Vauxhall has hiked the Adam’s ride height by 15mm and retuned the suspension accordingly. The standard car is criticised for its very firm ride, but even with the 18in wheels, the Rocks is an improvement. It is still quite firm and body control is very good, but comfort is generally decent on all but the most broken surfaces. Vauxhall claims to have toned down the very fast steering of the regular Adam but aside from not much communication through the wheel, the Rocks Air steers well enough.
Should I buy one?
The Adam Rocks Air is a desirable car, and now at least is as much fun to drive as it looks. Viewed purely in pragmatic terms, however, £16,695 seems too much money for a car that has two tiny rear seats and a tiny boot – even one as nicely equipped and finished as this.
Ultimately, though, the decision on whether to buy or not will rest on how much you fall for the car’s stylish charms. On that basis its main competitor is the Citroen DS3, and the two cars are priced at a comparable level.
The new engine, gearbox and suspension changes make this the nicest Adam we’ve yet driven, but for many buyers who can live without the macho styling, the new engine arrives in the standard Adam - and, therefore, at a lower cost - before the end of 2014.
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