2015 Opel Adam Road Test

Odd looks and a bit duller to drive than its peers. That’s what the others say about Opel’s city car. What does DTW think? After 300 km and three days we know the real truth.

2015 Opel Adam
2015 Opel Adam

The Opel Adam is a city car based on the Opel Corsa platform. Not unlike the Ford Ka Mk1, it is made up of the front of a supermini, with modifications (a reduction in length) starting from the A-pillar backward. The Adam’s selling point is customisation, with about 61,000 combinations of colour, trim and accessories available.

It is intended to compete against the Mini (£13,750), Toyota Aygo (£8,695) Fiat 500 (£9,655), Nissan Juke (£13,390) and Citroen C4 Cactus (£12,990) in terms of the zaniness and/or customisability of the vehicle. In the UK the Adam ranges from £11,255 to £13,150. The version tested here is the Adam Rocks with a 1.2 litre turbo engine, producing 70PS.

2015 Opel Adam C-pillar detailStyling exterior

The Adam received a Red Dot design award in 2012 so some people definitely like it. My own view is mixed. The car has a welter of design flourishes such as the truncated C-pillar which looks as if the side glass continues uninterrupted into the rear screen; the roof comes in three colours and is edged with chrome trim; up front there is the new Opel corporate nose, with bright flashes on the fog lamps and cutely styled headlamps. Overtly styled plastic trim edges the wheel arches and on the bodyside is a distinctive reversing swage. The overall silhouette is compact and the large wheels do look fetching.

2015 Opel Adam: nice to sit inside while the exterior divides opinions.
2015 Opel Adam: nice to sit inside while the exterior divides opinions.

I tend to feel they’ve overegged this omelette yet on the other hand I am not the target market and perhaps this sort of decorative effect goes down well elsewhere. What changed my mind about the car was sitting inside. The good impression this made has led me to mellow my sometimes strict views about design rationalism. The car is supposed to be fun and not a statement intended for enduring aeons. In fifteen years it will have passed through “passé” to being a fun memento of this time. On balance I think I can accept it for what it is: a humorously expressive statement of intent to capture the 18-30 year old female demographic (and perhaps the 55 plus female demographic).

Indulgently thorough graphics and fun-to-look at illuminations.
Indulgently thorough graphics and fun-to-look at illuminations.

Styling interior

Sitting inside the car you can see why it has won awards such as the Automotive Interiors EXPO 2013 best interior prize. It is also impressive when you remember the price and the fact that it is made in Germany. The IP is lavishly complex and when you fire

2015 Opel Adam dashboard
2015 Opel Adam dashboard

up the motor the needles do a test-sweep in pleasing orange. The steering wheel seems to be the same as the Insignia’s, with a large number of controls to hand. The material textures are creative and you’ll notice the door cards have a higher than average number of parts and real stitching on the arm-rests. It feels like a high-quality car and is far more convincing in this regard than the Juke, 500 and Cactus. I have not been in a Mini lately but the Mini costs more.

The seats are trimmed in this version with grey leather and striped cloth panels and are comfortable and supportive as well as looking suitably sporty with their pronounced bolsters.

No costs cut here: Opel Adam door skin. It mates neatly to the dashboard too.
No costs cut here: Opel Adam door skin. It mates neatly to the dashboard too.

Driving: performance, handling and ride.

Setting off, the Adam is quiet. The engine has been well-insulated. The gearchange is nicely weighted and the detentes are clear and unobstructive so stirring the ratios is a pleasant experience. I found the performance to be entirely sufficient for the kind of assertive motoring I sometimes indulge in and at 140 kmph the car was peaceful inside, apart from some wind-rush from the cloth folding rooftop.

I have no observations about handling other than I didn’t notice anything unsettling. Just one thing stood out, when I set off on my gravel stage test. I jammed the accelerator down and the car rushed forward, its tail waving about somewhat and my steering corrections set up an overreaction which meant the car swerved about its own central vertical axis a little before I and the Adam calmed down.

2015 Opel Adam rear passenger compartment. Room for two only. Room for their drinks as well.
2015 Opel Adam rear passenger compartment. Room for two only. Room for their drinks as well.

The Adam’s steering is believable and undemanding. The car has decent turn-in and no road vibrations travel up the steering column to annoy. I particularly liked the lightness of it and enjoyed the City function which makes the steering even more assisted than standard. It is ideal for its intended purpose, parking, but I left it on all the time (it re-sets to standard when the engine is turned off though which means the fact the steering wheel hides the button is unfortunate).

On almost all roads the Adam’s ride quality is what we expect from ordinary cars these days, almost. It’s alright most of the time, with bumps muffled and no trim shaking about. The one type of surface the Adam hates is lumpy asphalt, where the depressions are smaller than a metre in length. A succession of these makes the nose rise up and down in faithful replication of the surface’s uneven profile. It is marked, irritating and out of keeping with the rest of the ride characteristics. In brief: the ride can be extremely lumpy under certain conditions and then generally is unremarkably competent.

Economy

Over 300 km of the test, the Adam returned 41 mpg. The fuel tank holds 8.4 gallons and that means you could expect to go 344 miles between fills. I should note that the fuel gauge is honest and immediately shows the fuel level falling as you drive unlike cars I have recently tested such as the 500 and Cactus that deny fuel consumption until a gallon and half are up in smoke. It is a proper analogue display too, not an LCD with insufficient increments.

On the standard Calais to Cap Ferrat test you’ll probably refuel three times.

Ergonomics

I had no problem getting comfortable in the Adam. The steering wheel and pedals are all correctly situated. Smoothly twirling dials allow one to adjust the heating and ventilation controls. A nice touch is the way the illuminations are styled: small red dots on the fascia (which turn on individually) plus lights in the knobs. These aren’t cheap little controls. The radio’s a touch-screen device and easy overall to navigate though the station search arrows could be bigger and easier to prod. If you change the volume via the screen there’s a loud beep for each step. If you use the steering wheel-mounted switch there is no beep. Twirling the volume control knob is also beepless.

Only one set of buttons is entirely obscured by the steering wheel (adjustable for rake), the city steering control and “Eco” selector. The headlamps are operated by a rotary switch to the left of and under the steering wheel which is dark until you turn on the lights. This means that when it’s dark enough to want to use the lights the control is hard to find. Only the fact I knew Opels used such a control meant I knew where to go feeling about.

A specific ergonomic characteristic relates to using the car with child seats. As the car is plainly not intended for this market I can’t hold this against it that fitting a child seat is a nuisance and getting a child into the car is another nuisance as you have to half-climb aboard. There is no interior overhead light serving the rear passengers so doing up buckles at night could be a menace.

Comfort

Overall comfort in the Adam is very good. The materials, features, fit and finish make you feel like you are in the front one-third of an Opel Insignia. The rear accommodation is not Spartan in the sense that all of the surroundings have been styled well and there are map pockets in the seats and bottle holders left, right and centre. I’d not really want to sit as an adult in the back of the car for long but children up to about fifteen would be comfortable enough (there are side arm-rests).

The heating and ventilation work well and the sound-system made clear sounds. Most people will like the retracting cloth roof but never use it. It can’t be stated too clearly that the Adam’s style and manner of construction engender a thoroughly surprising feel-good factor.

Those are the rear seat backs folded down.
Those are the rear seat backs folded down. There is one light in there, to the left. The sill is high.

Usability

For people who don’t have to ferry children and seldom have rear-passengers, the Adam’s usability is entirely sufficient. The 170 litre boot will hold a good amount of shopping (the sill is high) or two Ryanair-standard cabin suitcases with room to spare. With the seats down, two people could take this car on a holiday and not need to leave anything behind. The volume rises to 484 litres, measured to the tops of the seats. For anyone who wants to carry kids, a four-door car is essential and in this class that means choosing a Juke or an Aygo not an Adam. Neither is as a nice to be in and what the Juke wins on ride quality it loses on build-quality.

Conclusion

The Adam is a thoroughly nice car to be in, a fact made all the more amazing considering the price and the location of its construction. It is manifestly a more solid and well-designed vehicle than those of its peers I have tested. The few ergonomics flubs are not of the kind that make me want to maul the designers though it is odd Opel let them pass.

About the exterior styling: it’s not something I should like but as time goes by I have accepted it and feel that life’s too short to be too obsessed with ruthless efficiency at all times. If you don’t like the way this car looks, buy an Up! but you sacrifice festivity in a big way. Two things stand out: the fun-to-drive factor is precisely on a level with the other cars I’ve tested.

Received wisdom is that the Opel is somehow a bit stodgy and I think it needs to be said that this opinion is something hard-wired into the minds of motoring writers rather than an objective statement about the car. The Mini which is biased towards driving costs more, note. Only the pattery, lumpy ride on certain roads casts a shadow over the Adam but it’s a little shadow which is entirely insufficient to sway my view that the vehicle is a fine, fun car made to a noticeably higher standard than its peers.

[The vehicle’s dimensions and weights can be accessed here.]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “2015 Opel Adam Road Test”

  1. When I used to comment on the website of “The World’s Best Car Magazine”, I remember joining in “Kick The Adam” when it was released. Looking at one the other day, I wondered why. In part, maybe I just wanted to keep in with the lads, though a lot of it was provoked by Opel’s ridiculous ‘guess what we’re going to call it?’ campaign, so maybe they deserved it. But it looks well enough to me now, Richard makes the interior sound nice and I’m a sucker for a folding sunroof (which I would use). Also, I quite like the idea of owning cars designed for a demographic that I don’t correspond to. So, I’m almost tempted by the Adam; in the same way that I seriously considered a Twingo Gordini a few years back. I’d certainly choose it over the Fiat 500.

  2. Me too. I hated the Adam upon its arrival. I might go and look at what they said when it came out. You really have to try cars. The tests might find demerits but only you can tell if you can live with them.

  3. Good report that, thankfully devoid of minute details of its suspension setting or turn in!! on windy B roads.

    Confess i liked the look of the Adam on first sight, its cute and as far away from the Fiesta overstyled cheese wedge as possible, a good thing.
    I’ve seen some uncomfortable looking examples about, colour and combination choice is an important one, its looks will sell it or kill it at resale time so not something for the new buyer to get wrong.

    The gravel test sounds like both front wheels were spinning away in gay abandon and the cat torque steering all over the shop, which could i suppose manifest itself on really slippery roads, but the car isn’t likely to be bought by hot heads so not something that should put anyone off.

    If it turns out to be reliable, and i suspect it will be fairly good on depreciation whilst its still a cutey, then it would make a decent buy for it target market.

    The view through the rear hatch with the back seats folded down (presumably don’t fold over) looked remarkably like the view through a C2’s rear.

    I’d have preferred a lighter coloured dash, its standard Germanic gloom, presumably that can be customised too?

    Looks about the same length as the original Nova, Corsa having grown to previous Astra dimensions and seriously heavy now.

  4. I still don’t like the way the car looks – the face looks too big and out of proportion with the rest of the car, the chrome detailing in the C-pillar is still pram-like, and the profile is too obviously chasing the 500. In short, I think it contrived and lacking originality. I think the interior looks fine, if a bit serious for this kind of car. I’ve never driven one so can’t comment. Richard draws comparison with the original KA, and I know why, it too was based on a cut-down super-mini platform, but there the comparison must end for me. That KA was, with the original Focus, the purest form of the New Edge design that signalled a whole new approach from Ford, and was a very cohesive and original piece of design. The Adam is a melange of popular design elements and features – sort of a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation that irritates me for some reason, and I can’t get over myself about it.

    1. I think I (and I’d say Richard, but that would be presumptuous) am reacting to my unaccountably rabid dislike of the Adam when released. True, it’s no Ka, and I wouldn’t dispute your comments, but it seems a decent enough thing all the same, and I’m so heartily sick of seeing Fiat 500s.

      Incidentally, it’s interesting how often the Ka appears on those glib lists of “10 Ugliest Cars”, always accompanied, of course, by the Fiat Multipla. Still, Chacun a son gout degoutant as they seldom say in France (i left out the accents to give Laurent something to complain about.)

  5. SV’s points are entirely understandable yet in defence of the Adam the very pleasing interior changed my feeling about the car. They did a really good job of putting good things together properly.
    I tend to think that buyers should choose whatever colours they most like and to hell with the opinion of the next owner.

  6. I’m afraid I’m also in the Vauxhall/Opel haters camp, and having never driven the Adam am perhaps unfair in criticising it. But I have driven the Corsa recently and it was resolutely awful. A typical GM drivetrain, with a heavy fly wheel effect and zero vim, the ride was brittle, the driving position poor, the cabin austere.

    Given how many brilliant small cars there are, I doubt the Adam would make it onto my short list. Up, Mini, Swift, Mazda2, Fiesta… just five cars that I would happily own without challenging my preconceptions.

    Brand image does matter. I probably hold an irrational prejudice against Vauxhall. But their marketing has been so bad for so long that I am past caring about that, I’m afraid.

    1. I suppose I can´t change your mind. The Adam really charmed me. I thought the interior was a cheering place to be and, as I said in the post, Opel ought to offer the same option for the Corsa. I have to say you are being a bit harsh on the Corsa. For various reasons I have driven a lot of small cars lately and it was the one I didn´t get out of hating some aspect furiously. Even the decidedly lovely Adam has a jittery ride which is problematic. I think Opel did a good job eliminating annoyances and perhaps forgot to put much joie de vivre into the mix. Since none of that is found in most of the othe cars, Opel are ahead of the game. Of the cars you list, the Swift would be the one I´d want to check. For many people the Opel (I say Opel, not Vauxhall) will be a very reliable and useful car to own and, in hotter versions, even fun to drive. Have I forgotten the Fiesta?
      Why not go to a dealer and ask to test drive the Adam? Not to buy one to see if you think I have been accurate in my description. I´d be interested to hear a second opinion.
      How much did I like the Adam? I cheer up when I see one parked. Adam! I say to myself as I pass by. Improbably as it may seem, I am quite fond of that car now.

  7. Richard, I liked your write up very much and am happy that the Adam has its fans. Perhaps I could be open to persuasion – the Escort IV is, by some way, the most hateful car I have ever driven, but the facelifted version was a car transformed and I have driven some fine Fords since.

    By the by, I did test drive a Fiat 500 a few years ago and was very disappointed. Good to look at and sit in but so dreary once pedalling. The best small cars can make routine journeys feel like adventures.

  8. Thanks – I am glad you liked it. I wanted to address the dismissive reviews prevalent in some quarters. Isn´t the 500 over-rated? I drove one of those too. I have a review here somewhere. It is such a missed opportunity. The appearances are all in order; one can´t fault the designers for fulfilling the brief to offer some alluring eye-candy. The chassis engineers simply served time. Had they provided more than bare adequacy this car could have been a hoot to drive. It would then have appealed to an even wider demographic base. I never want to drive one again.

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