First Drive – Opel ADAM 1.0 ecoFLEX:

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As the song goes, “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life,” and Opel are feeling good.  Amidst a massive cash injection to the brand from parent company GM and improved sales both locally and abroad, Opel today launched the new ADAM premium super-mini with much pomp and circumstance.

Rightly so too; as the ADAM marks a new era for the brand from a technology perspective, introducing Opel’s new turbo-triple 1-litre engine and newly engineered 6-speed manual gearbox.

The tech is welcome.  Opel’s gearboxes were long in the tooth and lacked sophistication; the new 6-speed in tandem with the new 1.0 EcoFLEX engine, in stark contrast, bring a smooth drive to the ADAM, that’s set to filter through into other models within the Opel line-up.

The turbo-triple engine is a peppy unit with fizz in abundance.  With outputs of 85kW and 170Nm, it’s finally a rival to Ford’s EcoBoost, but the peak torque available from 1800-4500rpm and the smooth way in which it delivers this torque places it in good stead to truly trample on Ford’s toes in the turbocharged 3 cylinder market.  It’s also incredibly refined, doing without the typical shudder that other 3-pot engines are prone to.

Low end torque is delivered punchily and without much lag, whilst a short clutch and slick gear shift enable one to flick through the gears effectively.  The new gearbox shifts with a soft, refined feel – short in its throw but with a smooth solidity Opel has lacked for some time.  It responds well to quick snap-shifts too; no gear grinding, no hesitations, just a get up and go attitude with torque freely available in any gear.

The steering is light – engineered for city use, but provides adequate feel even for those who wish to drive the ADAM a bit more spiritedly.  The front end is keen to turn in, and maintains high grip levels despite the ability to carry substantial amounts of speed through corners, but it is far from a sporting machine and as such is prone to body roll through corners.

But perhaps one of the most exciting characteristics of the ADAM is that despite its diminutive size and low profile wheels in GLAM and JAM spec levels, it rides fluently over imperfections in the road surface, absorbing mid-corner bumps without coming undone, and providing a comfortable, pliant ride without much road or wind noise.

Whilst the ADAM is good fun to drive though, it looks to sell based on its customisable character – with a near endless amount of customisation options that can create thousands of unique configurations.  Coloured and patterned interior panels, coloured alloy wheels, coloured ‘logo bars’ on the grill, two-tone paint jobs with unique colours, customisable mirror caps and the choice between a sunroof or star-light headliner are all options that can be picked at will for an almost bespoke vehicle experience.  Coloured interior panels can also be changed at a whim at dealerships nationwide – offering a customisable vehicle even after you’ve driven off the showroom floor.

Included as standard on the ADAM JAM and GLAM models is also the IntelliLink infotainment system – complete with Bluetooth connectivity, audio streaming, and linked-app usage which includes navigation via smartphone – as well as sports suspension, cruise control, park assist, and lane departure warning.  The ADAM is also packed with safety features including airbags, ESP, traction control, and a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

The ADAM (without any ‘GLAM’ or ‘JAM’ suffixes) base model does without several features such as rain sensing wipers and park assist, but retains the likes of hill start assist, city-mode steering and cruise control.  The base spec ADAM also does without the 3-pot engine, opting in favour of a naturally aspirated 1.4-litre 4-pot, providing 74kW and 130Nm, mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox.

Endless style combinations, a fun, bubbly drive, feature laden interior and the option of a new engine and gearbox are all signs that bode well for the ADAM range.  Whilst pricing is still to be confirmed, the super-mini’s prices are likely to start at around R185 000 for the base Essentia model, with higher specced models edging towards the R240 000 mark.

ADAM is sure to be a key seller in the Opel portfolio, and those seeking something a little sportier or a little more versatile would be happy to know that both the ADAM S and ADAM Rocks are under consideration for the local market.

Opel are reluctant to place the ADAM in a specific class with a direct competitor.  Instead they claim it sits between the likes of the Fiat 500 and the MINI.  We’ve compiled a list of figures below to compare – the ADAM offers MINI quality in the size of just larger than a Fiat 500, justifying the price tag it’s likely to come in at:

Fiat 500 Lounge (Top spec.) Opel ADAM range Mini Cooper Manual (Entry spec.)
Length: 3546mm 3747mm 3821mm
Width: 1627mm 1807mm 1727mm
Wheelbase: 2300mm 2311mm 2495mm
Number of seats: 4 4 4
Boot capacity: 185 litres 170 litres 211 litres
Engine displacement: 1368cc 1.4 – 1398cc1.0 – 999cc 1500cc
No. of cylinders: 4 1.4 – 4 cylinders1.0 – 3 cylinders 3
Aspiration: Naturally aspirated 1.4 – Naturally Aspirated1.0 – Turbocharged Turbocharged
Peak power: 73.5kW @ 6000rpm 1.4 – 74kW @ 6000rpm1.0 – 85kW @ 5000-6000rpm 100kW @ 4500-6000rpm
Peak torque: 131Nm @ 4250rpm 1.4 – 130Nm @ 4000rpm1.0 – 170Nm @ 1800-4500 rpm 220Nm @ 1250rpm
Fuel consumption: 6.1l/100km claimed 1.4 – 5.3l/100km claimed1.0 – 5.1l/100km claimed 4.7l/100km claimed
Price: R209 900 R185 000 – 245 000* R296 000
*Pricing of the Opel ADAM still to be confirmed.

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