First Drive

2013 Vauxhall Adam review

  • New Fiat 500 and Mini rival
  • Driven in UK for the first time
  • On sale February, priced from Β£11,255
Words ByWhat Car? Staff

Need a valuation?

Obtain a FREE used car valuation for any vehicle.


An article image
An article image

The Adam is Vauxhall's answer to small, trendy hatchbacks such as the Citroen DS3, Fiat 500 and Mini.

Its cutesy styling is completely new, but beneath the surface things become rather more familiar. There you'll find a shortened version of the Corsa platform and three of Vauxhall's current-generation petrol engines: a 69bhp 1.2 and a 1.4 with either 86bhp or 99bhp.

One of the Adam's biggest selling points is that it's the most customisable car ever, with a vast amount of options and accessories, from paint colours to interior trims and wheel designs.

What's the 2013 Vauxhall Adam like to drive?

All the versions we've driven so far have been fitted with optional sports suspension. This helps keep the Adam upright through tight corners, but it makes the ride punishingly firm – especially if you opt for the largest (18-inch) alloys.

This stiffness doesn't help the Adam's handling on bumpy roads, either, because it causes the car to hop sideways when you hit a mid-corner bump or drain cover. Also, the back end doesn't feel anywhere near as grippy as the front, which is unnerving if you enter a corner too quickly.

The steering feels precise around town, and can be made lighter at the touch of a button to help with manoeuvring. However, it doesn't weight up enough when you're travelling at faster speed. This doesn't inspire confidence when you're driving along twisty B-roads, because you're never sure when the front tyres are approaching their limits of grip.

We tried the 86bhp 1.4, which Vauxhall expects to be the biggest seller.

Performance is adequate, if not exactly sparkling. Refinement is a bigger issue, because the engine becomes raucous when you work it hard, and it drones noisily at motorway speeds due to the low gearing and the lack of a sixth gear. You hear a fair amount of noise from the suspension, too.

Official fuel economy is 51.4mpg, which is about the same as a Mini One's, but falls short of an equivalent Fiat 500's.

An optional stop-start system (Β£295) cuts CO2 emissions from 129g/km to 119g/km, but if you're a private buyer there's little point spending the extra unless you plan to keep the car for more than four years; you'll save only Β£70 a year in road tax.

What's the 2013 Vauxhall Adam like inside?

The driving position is good, the seats are comfortable and the dashboard layout is reasonably good. There are intuitive controls for the air-conditioning and a user-friendly touch-screen interface called 'Intellilink', which you can link with your smartphone.

The lush materials and solid construction make the Adam's interior feel classy, too. However, your view of some dashboard buttons is blocked by the steering wheel, and over-the-shoulder visibility isn't great because of the Adam's chunky rear pillars.

Practicality is an even bigger issue. The rear seats are so tight on head- and legroom that even children will feel hemmed in. Adults will be downright uncomfortable – assuming they can squeeze in at all. The boot is also pretty pokey, although no smaller than a Mini's.

However, none of that is what's going to sell the Adam. Instead, it's the fact that you can tailor the car so precisely to your requirements – and that you could drive it for the rest of your days and never see another quite the same.

Firstly, you have to choose from one of three trims: Jam, Glam or Slam. Jam models are reasonably priced (starting at Β£11,255) and come with all the essentials, but there's a hefty jump of Β£1395 for more luxurious Glam models, while range-topping Slam trim adds a further Β£500 to the price.

Next, you pick from 12 paint colours, with names including 'Saturday White Fever', 'Papa don't Peach' and 'James Blonde'. To this you add a roof colour from a choice of 'Men in Brown', 'I'll be Black' or 'White my fire', followed by (if you so desire) exterior decal packs called Splat, Fly and Stripes.

If you can't be bothered with all that, you can simply add accessory packs with names such as 'Twisted' and 'Extreme', which combine various set elements from the options list. Then all you have to do is select one of 20 wheel designs and you're done – for the outside at least.

Inside, there are a further dozen colours and numerous dashboard surrounds that – should you get bored or want to tone down the car before selling it – can be changed for Β£75 plus a quick visit to your local dealer.

Finally, there's the roof lining; you can have a sunroof, or 60 LED lights set out in celestial constellations, clouds, leaves or a black and white chessboard.

Should I buy one?

Even the entry-level 1.2 costs Β£11,255, while the 1.4 87 Jam that you'll want will set you back an extra Β£350. Add a few options (let's face it, you probably won't be able to resist) and you'll be looking at the thick end of Β£12,000.

Discounts will also be relatively modest by Vauxhall standards, because dealer margins are smaller than on the company's larger models.

According to our used car experts, the Adam won't hold its value as well as a Fiat 500 or Mini, either. That means you'll be even further out of pocket come resale time.

So, the Adam models we've driven cost more to own than many rivals, are less practical and aren't as good to drive. In theory, versions on smaller wheels and softer standard suspension should be more comfortable, and that might well be enough to earn these versions a third What Car? star.

However, in the form we've driven it, we find the Adam very difficult to recommend.

Read the full Vauxhall Adam review >>

By Andrew Frankel, Will Nightingale and Ivan Aistrop


Fiat 500

Mini One

What Car? says...

Vauxhall Adam

Engine size 1.4-litre petrol

Price from Β£11,580

Power 86bhp

Torque 96lb ft

0-60mph 12.4sec

Top speed 105mph

Fuel economy 51.4mpg

CO2 129g/km