Parkers overall rating: 2.9 out of 5 2.9
  • Petrol-only engine range
  • Three-pot 1.0i Turbo a fine all-rounder
  • Least-powerful 1.2i is lacklustre

As a city car, Vauxhall Adam performance centres on usability rather than all-out top speed or acceleration, from its exclusively petrol-fuelled powerplant line-up.

Now available with one single engine

Least powerful of the engines is the 1.2i, a four-cylinder motor producing just 70hp and 115Nm of torque from 4,000rpm. That means in order to extract its performance you’ll need to work the rather stiff five-speed manual gearbox quite hard, with scant reward: top speed is just 103mph, while the 0-62mph benchmark takes 14.9 seconds. Motorways are quite an effort, even in town, it feels lethargic when pulling away from the lights.

Discontinued engines

Opt for the slightly punchier 1.4i with 87hp and 130Nm of torque, again from 4,000rpm, and the Adam’s a little sprightlier with a top speed of 109mph and a 0-62mph time of 12.5 seconds. An Easytronic automatic transmission is available in lieu of the manual ’box with identical performance figures.

There’s a fuel-saving Ecoflex package available for that engine that affects its performance: while the top speed increases to 111mph, the 0-62mph time increases to 13.9 seconds. Topping the non-turbo range is the 100hp version of the 1.4i, although its torque output is identical to the less powerful version. The result is a modest performance jump with a top speed of 115mph complemented by an 11.5-second 0-62mph time.

Things are better with the forced-induction motors, the first being the three-cylinder 1.0i Turbo. It delivers a peppy 115hp and 170Nm of torque from a much lower 1,800rpm making this much more flexible and pleasing to drive. Its six-speed manual gearbox is an improvement, too. It’ll reach 121mph and cracks the 0-62mph sprint in 9.9 seconds.

Fastest of the Adam range is the S, the only model available with the 1.4i Turbo, which is of a different design to the non-turbo 1.4i models. It delivers 150hp so it’s a warm hatch rather than a hot one to rival the quicker Audi A1s and MINI Hatches, but with 220Nm of torque from 2,750rpm, that’s sufficient for a 130mph top speed and an 8.5-second 0-62mph time.

Handling

  • Light steering is a bonus around town
  • But it restricts the fun when out of it
  • Sportier S makes a slightly better fist of things

Rivals including the MINI Hatch and the Audi A1 are better and more engaging to drive than the Vauxhall Adam. Even though the large majority of city buyers will love the light steering, the lack of feedback takes all the sense of enjoyment away from keener drivers.

Through the corners there is little or no bodyroll when driving enthusiastically but thanks to the lack of information from the steering you never feel truly at one with the car. Cars specified with 17- or 18-inch rims come with a Sport chassis as standard and is meant to give the car crisper steering. Unfortunately, all it gets is a firmer ride rather than sweeter handling, so expect to be jolted about more.

Vauxhall has engineered the Adam with a UK-specific steering system that has been tuned for more twisty, lumpy British roads. In truth, you’d be hard-pressed to tell, such is the vagueness of its communication with the driver.

Things are a little better with the Adam S which is much better to hustle around, but again that lack of feedback prevents it from truly sating the driver in the manner a slightly larger Fiesta ST does. Small cars should be as much fun to drive as they are to look at, but the Adam simply isn’t.