There are five petrol engines to choose from: a turbocharged 1.0 with 113bhp, a 1.2 with 69bhp, a 1.4 with either 86 or 99bhp, and turbo version of the 1.4 with 148bhp. The 86bhp 1.4 is not too bad; it feels flexible enough at low revs and fairly sprightly when you work it harder, so it’s not worth paying extra for the 99bhp version, which doesn’t feel much faster in practice.
As for the 148bhp 1.4, this is only available in the Adam S and Adam S Rocks. It’s easily the fastest version but is expensive and has quite high CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. The pick of the range by a long way is the 1.0, which is punchy, smooth and cheap to run.
Ultimately, none of the Adam models are particularly fast next to rivals such as the Audi A1, Citroen DS3 or Mini, all of which offer smoother-revving engines with better performance.
Vauxhall Adam ride comfort
Adams fitted with optional sports suspension (optional on all but Slam and S trims, and included if you add 17- or 18-inch alloys) suffer from a decidedly choppy ride, and are firm enough that mid-corner bumps can have them hopping sideways. Even on the softer, standard suspension of the two lower trims and 16-inch wheels the Adam exhibits similar characteristics, but they’re not nearly so pronounced. It’s softer on initial bump absorption, and not quite so fidgety around town, so it’s worth sacrificing the bigger wheels and lowered ride height if you value comfort. SUV-inspired Rocks variants get an increased ride height that does make the body pitch more, but it’s still fairly easy to live with.
Vauxhall Adam handling
Adam models not specced up with sports suspension have lighter steering, which is fine when you’re zipping around town, but the absence of any real weight inspires little confidence at speed. The heavier steering feels more responsive, particularly at low speeds, but still fails to offer quite enough feedback and bite at higher speeds. It’s a shame because, if you’re prepared to push beyond this vagueness and trust the car, there’s quite a bit of grip to exploit. However, exploit it a bit too enthusiastically, and you’ll find that the back end feels disconcertingly unsettled when you enter a corner too fast. All Adam models come with a ‘City’ button that makes the steering super-light for easy manoeuvring in tight parking spots.
Vauxhall Adam refinement
Most of the Adam’s engines are relatively hushed around town, but become noticeably noisier at the motorway limit. The exception is the 1.0, which comes with a sixth gear to keep down the revs and the noise. That said, there’s plenty of suspension noise to be heard, too, and road and wind noise are audible, but rarely problematic. The gearshift is quite rubbery-feeling, if pleasingly short of throw.
Our favourite engine. Genuinely nippy turn of pace, albeit not desperately quick off the lin. Good in-gear pace, and the power is delivered smoothly. It’s pretty quiet, too. CO2 emissions of 119g/km and a combined economy figure of 55.4mpg aren’t world-beating.
This engine is happy to rev, easier to drive smoothly and doesn’t feel much slower than the 1.4 in practice, so you don’t miss out on much in return for saving the cash. Don’t go for Ecoflex optional stop-start unless you’re sure you’ll do enough stop-start miles (for example, in town) to justify the extra outlay.
1.4 87 VVT
You have to work the 1.4 very hard, which makes it quite a noisy companion for long motorway journeys, so while it is a touch nippier than the 1.2, it’s actually no more fun and isn’t worth the extra money.
Standard in the Adam S and Adam S Rocks, this 148bhp engine has nippy performance but is expensive to buy and run.
1.4 100 VVT
Like the 1.4 87 VVT, you have to work this engine hard to extract decent performance. We’d stick to the 1.2 if you can’t stretch to the 1.0-litre turbo.