Review – Opel ADAM 1.4:

Have you met ADAM?  If you haven’t, you’ve probably still heard of him thanks to Opel South Africa’s frantic marketing exercises on all media platforms.  If you’ve still been living under a rock though and haven’t had the pleasure, allow me to give you the run down on who, or what, the Opel ADAM is.  It’s the newest boutique super-mini model from Opel, named after the founder Adam Opel.


The ADAM is big on fun and big on customisation.  Not in the riced-out, tuner-style customs you’d associate as Durban specials, but rather that it allows an endless array of colour, kit, and feature specification combinations that will ensure the true hipsters of South Africa are indeed unique in the car they drive.  It’s got a small footprint too; built for the city and unashamedly so; but bearing a robust cute-factor for the youthful buyer who wants something a little different from the usual selection of humdrum hatches you see on the road.  The quirky bug-ish design is built around small proportions and style more so than practicality and function over form.


It is small, really small – so if practicality and space are what you need then I’d advise you to steer clear.  The 4-seater is genuinely a 2+2 seater, in that the rear seats will seat only the tiniest of adult occupants, and the boot is rather small too, although cleverly packaged to be deep and wide enough to actually fit some full size luggage or a decent bit of grocery shopping.  The front of the cabin, however, is more than spacious; belying the small car’s dimensions by providing front occupants all the space they could desire.  You see, the ADAM is cleverly dimensioned; short from front to rear but wider than most of the competition in its class (Fiat 500, we’re looking at you).  There’s plenty leg room, and you needn’t worry about rubbing shoulders too closely with your passengers; head room is at a premium, and the seats drop low enough into the cabin to make it feel well cosseting of however many people you dare cram in.


The low seating position also comes as a great pleasure for those buyers who enjoy the thrill of driving.  Sitting low in the small car gives the driver a great connection with the ADAM, aided hugely by a cheerful chassis that’s lively and yet relatively well composed on the road.  It’s eager to be tossed about, like the toy it is, but it handles with neutrality and an energetic spring in its step.  The suspension contributes greatly to this, riding ridges and bumps with an impressive compliance, relaying little disruption to the cabin, yet keeping a firm hold of the road and communicating fluently the goings on of the surface beneath you.


Of course it is a city car though, and as such it’s engineered to be easy to use.  The electronic power steering is light and the steering rack isn’t as quick as keener drivers would like.  It’s pretty sharp though, and consistent, and makes light work of tight spaces – especially with ‘city mode’ enabled which reduces the weighting further.  But don’t you dare ask for feel, because that there is none of; and most of the potential buyers couldn’t care less.


But whilst some aspects of the ADAM’s drive are very driver friendly, others just do the job and nothing more.  The 1.4-litre engine is nothing to write home about – it’s the old 4-pot from the previous generation Corsa, plating up 74kW @ 6000rpm and 130Nm @ 4000rpm.  It’s typical of older naturally aspirated engines, neither revving too freely nor too slowly, nor being particularly potent once it did build up revs.  It’s also a tad thirsty, with our test unit consuming 6.8l/100km over our test period with the car – although this is in part, I believe, due to the 5-speed manual gearbox through which it drives the front wheels.  The gearbox is the last of a dying breed of old Opel ‘boxes (praise the heavens) – it’s not the most refined and it isn’t very efficient, and most of all it requires patience, a very gentle hand, and on down-shifts, very accurate rev matching to prevent grinding.  It’s a bit of a dog, but as an entry level proposition to bring the ADAM’s lower price bracket down, it does the job well enough – although the 1.0T ecoFLEX engine and new 6-speed manual gearbox are the drivetrain you really want in the ADAM.


But as far as a mechanical package, that’s the worst the ADAM has to offer.  Everything else is neatly packaged and feels like real quality.  The lack of road, wind, and engine noise permeating into the cabin shows just how much Opel have upped their game on the build quality stakes, whilst the high quality feel of the interior again feels like a step up for the brand.  The simple design offers quirky elements combined with soft-touch materials all round to ensure a high quality cabin feel.  It’s also pretty feature-filled, with even the entry specification offering hill start assist, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring system, ABS, ESP, 6 airbags, and a Bluetooth equipped audio system.


The entry-model ADAM pricing starts off at R189 900, and as a boutique package it’s hard to fault.  Buyers with a slightly higher budget will be rewarded for selecting a higher specced Jam or Glam model, not just for the features, but for the ecoFLEX engine and new gearbox – but buyers of the 1.4 will be rather pleased with their acquisition nonetheless.  The ADAM is a new generation of Opel, and it really does indeed feel all-new compared to models of the past.  A welcome addition to the market, and a good sign of things to come!


The Stats:


Engine Capacity:


No. of Cylinders:


Max. Power:

74kW @ 6000RPM

Max. Torque:

130Nm @ 4000RPM


5-speed manual

0-100 time:

11.5 seconds

Top Speed:


Dry Weight:


Fuel Tank Capacity:

35 litres

Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):



Front-wheel Drive

Price (as tested):

R189 900,00


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