No glam slam for Opel's new supermini
Tapping into the retro buzz around small cars has proved a lucrative business for Mini, Fiat and Citroën. One suspects that even the BMW executives who relaunched the Mini brand several years ago never quite expected it to be the phenomenal hit it has become. Since then others have rushed to steal some of its thunder. Now comes Opel’s attempt: the Adam.
Clearly aimed at the Mini, but also at the Fiat 500 and the Citroën DS3 range, the Adam doesn’t have the heritage to tap into, so it’s playing on the fashion stakes and a strong marketing campaign that tries to be cheeky and fresh.
Unfortunately, the result is a bit like your dad taking to the dance floor. The Adam has smart supermini styling, but there’s a forced coolness about the car that does it no favours.
Trim line names such as Jam, Slam and Glam don’t help, but if you can overcome the cheesy marketing, the multitude of options on offer does allow you to personalise the car in ways that most other models don’t match. Thousands of combinations are on offer, so no two Adams should turn out the same, at least on the inside.
The Adam is expected to come in above the Fiat 500 but below the Mini in terms of price. At launch, the engine range features a 1.4-litre petrol engine with 86bhp or 99bhp and a 1.2-litre petrol 70bhp.
These have been taken from the Corsa range, and even the 99bhp we tested lacked the sort of performance you might expect from a funky supermini. It’s fine at urban speeds, but take it on the open road and it starts to hit the high notes, with revs running at 3,500rpm, and really needs to be cajoled to perform on rural roads.
The ride is pretty rudimentary as well, but it’s the steering that lets the Adam down most.
It’s nowhere near as sharp or precise as that of its rivals or even of similarly sized Opels of late. It’s woolly and imprecise with little feeling or dynamism. Up against the go-kart feel of the Mini this isn’t at the races.
It’s a pity, because from its look and interior fit and finish this is a supermini that could tempt new buyers to Opel. Ignore the attempts to win street cred and its a car that should have had premium potential in this class, particularly as we expect pricing to be competitive.
The biggest draw is the myriad trim options, and optional features, such as little LED lights in the roof lining that give it a “starry night” look, for example.
But it just doesn’t match the driving dynamics or fun of rivals such as the Mini, Fiat 500 or Citroën DS3, and that will curtail sales until these issues are addressed. There are reports of new engines on the way and a revised steering set-up, but perhaps these should have been delivered on the new car instead of rushing to market with this format.
It’s a smart-looking package that adds an air of freshness and styling to Opel’s small-car offerings, but it’s facing an uphill task until it manages to encapsulate driving fun in the mix as well as funky looks.