First Drive: Vauxhall Adam

YOU COULD argue that Vauxhall is a bit late to the party when it comes to the fashion-led supermini segment dominated by the triumvirate of the Mini, the Fiat 500 and the Citroen DS3, but the Adam’s lateness might just be the making of it.

Buyers in this lucrative part of the car market are looking for something different, and more specifically something they can make their own. With that in mind try this on for size: the Adam comes in four BILLION possible combinations. Which is a lot.

There are around 60,000 different combinations for the exterior and about 80,000 for the inside, but since some combinations aren’t allowed for either stylistic or manufacturing reasons, the 4.8 billion theoretical possibilities gets cut back a bit.

As you sit in the dealership you can choose to change more than you can on any other car, like the dashboard finish and colour scheme, the head lining style, coloured clips on the wheel spokes, steering wheel trim colour, door trim colour, front grille cross-member colour, wheel style, wheel colour, roof colour, body sticker style and colour, gear lever and handbrake lever finish and then colour, body paint colour, seat fabric type, engine choice, trim level and so on until you realise that it’s dark and the sales staff have all gone home.

Ultimately there will be 40 styles of wheel alone, before you move into wheel colours and clips. Expect the 12 funkily-named exterior colours like Papa Don’t Peach, James Blonde, Buzz Lightgreen and I’ll Be Black to be expanded as well. Before too long there might just be an Adam for literally every person on the planet…

But if you prefer you can just choose an ‘Extreme Pack’, which basically gives you a ready-made design built from a combination of the available choices into a cohesive look. The choice is yours.

On more familiar ground there are three trim levels, but none will have any identifying badges so no one will necessarily know whether any individual Adam is the cheapest but still well equipped Jam, mid-range Glam or the sporty Slam.

The engine under the bonnet will stay a secret too; from a choice of 1.2 and 1.4 petrols. There’s no diesel and there never will be according to Vauxhall. There’s just no demand for it in a car this small. And small it is, based on a shortened and heavily modified Corsa chassis.

The larger engine is much more responsive than the 1.2, which feels a bit dim-witted at times compared to the genuinely sharp and lively character of the 1.4. It comes in two power outputs, but either will do the job nicely. The 1.4 is still lightweight too, which gives the Adam a lovely lightweight and nimble feel at the front wheels. It bites into turns as keenly as a vampire bat; all the more so with larger, wider wheels and tyres fitted.

There’s not much body roll either. Strengthening work around the suspension has done wonders to keep the stylish little nipper flat and stable without denting its thoroughly likeable sense of chuckability. Even if you only potter gently around in it there’s a certain sense of joie de vivre that’s partly thanks to the interior style and partly down to the well judged balance between the way the steering, pedals and slightly notchy five-speed gearbox feel. It’s easy to drive and easy to enjoy, although on the motorway the revs spin too high and it buzzes along a little out of its comfort zone.

There’s not a massive amount of room in the boot. Although it’s relatively deep and you can squeeze a surprising amount of soft baggage in, the pinching point where the rear seat backs and the load lip come closest is a bit of a barrier to getting bigger stuff or hard cases in.

Vauxhall hasn’t been shy with the equipment on offer but with all models blessed with alloy wheels, a chunky leather-covered steering wheel and colourful interiors the actual equipment you get takes a back seat to the enjoyment and feel-good factor the car gives you. When was the last time automatic windscreen wipers made you grin like a fool anyway?

Nonetheless, all the gear you could hope for is available, including a clever touch-screen ‘Intellilink’ interface that simply transfers your smartphone’s main functions to the display.

The Adam might be late to the party but it’s learned from its rivals and it moves the game on. Astonishing customisation potential in a great-looking starting package is likely to be a sizeable ace up the Adam’s sleeve.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Model: Vauxhall Adam Slam 1.4i 87PS ecoFLEX, from £13,770 on the road.Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol producing 86bhp and 96lb.ft.Transmission: five-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.Performance: Top speed 109mph, 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds.Fuel economy: 55.4mpg.CO2 rating: 119g/km.

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