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First Drive: Vauxhall Adam 1.0T ecoFLEX Rocks Air 3dr [Start Stop]

£18,180 when new
4/10
Road test score

Car specifications

Budget
£18,180
Brake horsepower
115bhp
Fuel consumption
57.6mpg
0–62 mph
9.90s
CO2
112g/km
Max speed
121Mph
Insurance Group
10E

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The Adam Rocks Air? That’s quite a silly name.

You’re not wrong. And if you’d fast forwarded to its arrival from as little as ten years ago, it would seem an incredibly silly car. As it stands, a fusion of crossover, convertible and city car feels par for the course in a climate of intense niche busting.

It sounds quite confused…

It’s also quite expensive. Prices start at £14,695, but the version you’ll want has Vauxhall’s new 1-litre turbo petrol engine, which costs £2000 more. That means a Ford Fiesta ST (the king of small hatchbacks, basically) is just some mild haggling away, so you’ve certainly got a specific skillset in mind if you’re choosing one of these instead.

So how skilled is it?

As a crossover, it hasn’t got an awful lot going for it. It remains front driven, rides 15mm higher than a normal Adam and has retuned suspension and wider tracks, though it crashes uncouthly over broken urban tarmac and only really settles at speed.

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The makeover centres around some rufty tufty plastic bumpers (remember when they were the undesirable hallmark of a basic car?) and to these eyes, it all makes the Adam look way too cartoonish. The pumped-up body on a small chassis has a whiff of those wobbly self-assembly remote control cars about it.

Is it better as a city car?

Its dinky proportions ought to make it a pretty accomplished one, but there are some prohibitive blind spots - thanks mostly to the artfully styled C-pillars - and the doors are huge. Not normally an area we’d dedicate much reviewing time to, admittedly, but squeeze the Adam into a typically tight city centre space and you’ll have to be nimble to slide through the tiny gap the wide-opening doors allow.

That uncultured ride is a cause for discomfort when potholes and speedbumps come your way, too. A saving grace for the Adam’s town traversing is its punchy little three-cylinder turbo engine, more on which in a sec.

Does it work as a convertible?

Phew! The criticism can abide for a moment. It’s not a traditional convertible, instead utilising a full-length fabric sunroof. But this is good - it limits the weight penalty, the hatchback body remains and the rear-view mirror doesn’t become a rectangle of magnified fabric (unlike its Fiat 500C and Citroen DS3 Cabrio rivals). The roof opens in a sprightly 7secs and can be operated on the move, even at motorway speeds.

Above 50mph things get a bit blustery inside, but up until that point it’s a pleasant thing with the roof rolled back. That’s true even when it’s chilly outside, as the hatchback structure enhances the effectiveness of the climate control while a heated steering wheel and seats lie on the options list for a very reasonable £215.

So the engine’s good…

Most definitely. It will also be available in regular Adams as well as the new Corsa (and no doubt Astras further down the line), and it’s a bit of a cracker. In the Rocks it produces 113bhp and 125lb ft, enough to shuffle a 1088kg kerb weight to 62mph in 9.9secs, though in truth it actually feels brisker. Pick up is impressive through all points of the rev range, and it doesn’t run out of steam if you explore the upper reaches of the rev counter.

The uneducated will also struggle to pinpoint its diminutive size and cylinder-count. Use all of the throttle travel and there’s the pleasing rasp we associate with urgent little three-pots, but the rest of the time it’s quiet, refined and grown up - even at a high-speed cruise, hardly the Adam’s natural habitat. Things are looking up for the new Corsa’s fight against the fun Fiesta Ecoboost.

Anything else of note?

Its claimed fuel economy is far more realistic than the Fiesta’s; 55.4mpg is claimed, and we averaged 40mpg after 400 miles comprising all kinds of driving.

There’s plenty of tech available, the options list containing self parking, blind-spot monitoring and ‘Intellilink’, a 7in touchscreen system that is smartphone-friendly. Perhaps too smartphone-friendly: downloading an app to your phone is the only way to get sat nav in an Adam without suckering a TomTom to your windscreen.

Niche successfully busted?

Not really. This Adam-of-all-trades doesn’t master any of them, but the punchy little engine is a high note. It ought to inject new life into the regularly bumpered Adam.

And judging by the arrival of Citroen’s C1 Urban Ride, Vauxhall might be onto something after all…

What do you think?

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