2015 Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air review

Vauxhall extends the Adam stylish city car line up with a sunroof and SUV styling - and more significantly, an all-new 1.0-litre turbo engine.

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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 it your own. They may seem a relative rarity on the road, but 10,000 have found homes since launch so this new model should build on that success.

The Adam Rocks Air follows the current trend for SUV styling trends on smaller cars. 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 small scrolling fabric roof, hence the ‘Air’ in the name, meaning this is the first (sort of) 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 – it sits 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 integration with your smartphone using a range of downloadable apps and is reasonably 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 trims, a coloured dash insert and a chunky two-tone steering wheel make the car feel premium, even though there are some more humdrum plastics tucked out of sight.

The roof is electrically operated, and can be opened at speeds up to 85mph, but it's more a big sunroof than a convertible – it only goes back to the rear seats rather than scrolling right back to above the boot, as the Citroen DS3 and Fiat 500C do. It limits rear headroom to the back seats, but seeing as there is negligible legroom anyway, we can’t imagine many people will sit there long enough to complain.

Likewise, the boot is very small, with an awkwardly high loading lip, and narrow load bay that restricts the amount you can carry to a few small shopping bags, or a couple of carry-on bags.

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 genuinely nippy turn of pace. It’s not desperately quick off the line, but in-gear performance is good and the power is delivered more smoothly and consistently than you might expect from a small-capacity turbo engine.

It pulls cleanly 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, but with CO2 emissions of 119g/km and a combined economy figure of 55.4mpg, is hardly going to set the world alight.

Think three-cylinders and you might expect a busy, noisy cabin but the final plaudit is how quiet this engine is at low speeds. Rev it hard and you’ll know it's a three-pot, but on the road engine noise is quite 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 up height by 15mm and retuned the suspension accordingly. The standard car is criticised for its very firm ride, but even with the optional 18in wheels fitted to our car, the Rocks is an improvement.

While still quite firm, ride comfort is generally decent over small bumps and undulations, so it feels settled enough on most roads. Where it does struggle is over big mid-corner bumps, which, even at moderate speeds, can have the Rocks jarring sharply and skittering across the road surface momentarily, though it regains its composure again very quickly.

Vauxhall has toned down the very fast steering of the regular Adam, so it doesn't feel quite so nervous at high speeds, which is another improvement over the standard car. There's still not much feedback through the wheel, but it responds consistently and with just enough weight to give you confidence during everyday driving. 

Should I buy one?

The Adam Rocks Air is a desirable car, and now at least is more fun and more refined to drive.

Viewed purely in pragmatic terms, however, £16,695 is 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. After all, for less than £200 more, you can have a Mini Cooper complete with Pepper Pack and panoramic glass sunroof, which is similarly well-equipped, usefully faster, more fun to drive and more practical. 

Ultimately, though, the decision on whether to buy or not will rest on how much you fall for the Adam's stylish charms, and if you do then you're unlikely to be disappointed. 

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 beefed-up styling, this engine arrives in the standard Adam - and, therefore, at a lower cost - before the end of 2014.

It promises to be a better-value proposition that will be much easier to recommend. 

What Car? says...


Rivals

Citroen DS3 Cabrio

Mini Cooper

1.0i Di Turbo 115ps

Engine size

1.0-litre petrol

Price from

£16695

Power

113bhp

Torque

125lb ft

0-62mph

9.9 seconds

Top speed

121mph

Fuel economy

55.4mpg

CO2

119g/km

 

 
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