The Opel ADAM is a model that carries the weight of the entire company on its shoulders in my opinion. It might be the smallest car made by Opel, but by bestowing it with the name ADAM, they’ve given it huge room for disappointment and a ruined reputation. Let me explain…
The Opel ADAM isn’t part of a new model range from the German brand that’s set to include a second model named EVE; and no, no matter how clever you think you are for coming up with that joke, it got old before you even said it. The story behind the tiny car’s name is actually far more important and far less gimmicky than most would know, as the ADAM was actually named after the founder of Opel, Adam Opel, who founded Opel way back in 1862.
When a manufacturer decides to name a car after the founder, they can not afford for the model to flop – it is in their minds the definitive model of the brand; celebrating the brand as a whole, from founding until now, and into the future beyond. Can you imagine if the Ferrari Enzo had been a flop? If it had been, Ferrari never would’ve named it after their founder. So right there we get to the core of the naming scheme here – the ADAM needs to be the best Opel around, and anything less would be an embarrassment.
So, is it? Is it the best Opel, the definitive model for the brand? Well…
It’s small; and yet surprisingly spacious despite this. The compact footprint of the ADAM is perfectly geared towards being a city car for the young, trendy socialite. But even with its compact footprint, housing 4 occupants in what is more correctly a 2+2 setup, the interior is spacious and accommodating, particularly for the front occupants. The ADAM is generously wide compared to other boutique superminis such as the Fiat 500 or Citroen C1, which gives plenty of shoulder and leg room, and enough space to avoid feeling claustrophobic.
The driving position in the ADAM makes the most of the space on offer. The height adjustable driver’s seat drops low, really low, granting an optimal driving position; and the height and reach adjustable steering wheel has large amounts of scope allowing for perfect placement in relation to the driver. The overall seating position is one of the best I’ve experienced, and gives a commanding view of the road despite being so low. Rearward visibility, however, is not so premium, owing to rather large C pillars which tend to create awkwardly large blind spots. The ADAM has you covered though, with blind spot monitors equipped as a standard feature.
In the GLAM specced ADAM on test, other standard features complement the blind spot assist; such as front and rear park distance control mated with Advanced Park Assist (APA2) which automatically parks the car, either in parallel or alley docking – a system that works flawlessly and even straightens out to avoid parking too far over to either side of a bay. Other kit in the GLAM specced models includes a monochromatic rear view mirror, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, cruise control, and the IntelliLink connectivity suite, complete with a centrally mounted touch screen, which not only connects smartphones via Bluetooth for telephony purposes, but also enables audio streaming and a host of smartphone-based applications to be run through the car, including internet radio and the BringGo navigation app, which works a treat as a full on in-car navigation suite.
The GLAM model also benefits from a few creative gimmicks. Mood lighting around the cabin can be adjusted between several colours of the driver’s choosing, and for the extra added touch of glamour, buyers can opt between either a sunroof or 64-LED starlight headliner, the latter of which was equipped in my test unit. This is the same sort of system you’d find in a high-end Rolls-Royce, albeit a far simpler version, and one that adds more than just a touch of glamour and class to the ADAM. In combination with the crystal-like instrument binnacle, the starlight headliner gives the ADAM and air of class and opulence, further enhanced by the satin white inlays on the dash and around the cabin – panels which can be swapped out for an assortment of colour and texture options as part of the ADAM’s near endless array of customisation options for both inside and out of the car.
It all feels classy and opulent, far surpassing anything else on offer in the boutique supermini class. It feels solidly screwed together too, and all materials offer high levels of perceived quality. Sitting in the driver’s seat, the ADAM feels like a far larger, more expensive car than its outside visuals would suggest.
That last bit is a trait inherent in the driving nature of the ADAM too, an area where the ADAM shines as a refined, highly capable little machine. It’s powered by Opel’s new generation 1 litre turbo-triple ecoFLEX petrol engine, good for 85kW from 5000-6000rpm and 170Nm between 1800 and 4500rpm. The front wheels are driven by the low displacement turbo mill via a newly engineered 6-speed manual gearbox.
This new drivetrain combination is simply phenomenal, especially compared to Opel drivetrains of the past. The gearbox in particular is slick and sharp, and allows snap shifts without grating gears. The relatively short throw and solid shift action feel great, and the ratios make full use of the ecoFLEX engine’s torque – of which there’s an abundance of.
The ecoFLEX engine is the real gem here though; providing potency and smooth torque delivery and a resistance to the typical shudder these 3-cylinder engines typically suffer from – there’s a counter-rotational balance shaft to thank for this. It delivers its torque strongly from low in the rev range and runs through to the limiter without fuss or any noticeable flat spots near redline, and although present, lag is minimal and easy to predict. As a package compared to the benchmark in this engine segment, the Ford EcoBoost 1-litre mill, the ecoFLEX unit fares favourably – it’s not as ferocious in its torque delivery, but it’s far more refined than the Ford unit – linear in its power delivery and throttle responses, and feeling calmly potent rather than rushed and brash.
The 3-pot thrum is noticeable yet non-invasive, far quieter than Ford’s aural invasion. But due to the massive amounts of nose suppression, one often finds the ADAM in a gear lower than it needs to be in – it has more than enough torque to be in a higher ratio at all times, which benefits fuel economy massively – as we were able to return figures of 5.8l/100km over our test period.
This refinement, as deceitful as it is at times in terms of gearing, is also massively impressive on the suspension front, where the ADAM GLAM’s ‘sports’ chassis and suspension tune rides imperfect road surfaces with surprising aptitude given the short wheel travel. As such, large jolts are unavoidable and uncomfortable, but smaller surface changes are dealt with in a no fuss manner; the dampers rapidly absorbing undulations with the prowess of a much larger, more expensive vehicle. At all times, mechanical grip is high – only yielding to understeer with the most ham fisted of driving techniques employed.
But where the ADAM falls short of driving prowess is the steering setup. It’s an electronically assisted system that’s biased towards city driving and lower speeds, and is a touch light and disconnected. Engage ‘city mode’ and it lightens up further, more than necessary – but even without this it’s twitchy at high speeds and it’s this aspect that betrays the fact the ADAM is indeed a small car aimed for inner-city travels rather than cross country dashes.
But this aside, the ADAM is a solid piece of kit – performing way above the standards of what anything in this vehicle class is expected to do. Not only is it user-friendly, but it’s a blast to drive, and combines the best in refinement with outright performance and a thoroughly engaging experience. Combine all this with high levels of refinement, endless amounts of customisation, and high levels of perceived quality, and the ADAM is a solid all rounder that justifies the asking price of R236 900.
So, is it worthy of bearing the ADAM nameplate? Is it the definitive Opel?
In a word, I think I’d have to say yes. It’s not the most spacious Opel, nor does it make the most sense in a cost vs. practicality sense – but as far as complete packages go, this is it. This is the Opel. It’s got all the qualities of far more expensive machines, but without any of the seriousness associated with it – it’s light hearted, stylish, and most importantly a great car to drive. Adam Opel would surely be proud to see this little city car bear his name, of that I’m certain – and if this is any sign of things to come, then the Opel resurrection is more than just wishful thinking, it’s a reality.
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85kW @ 5000-6000RPM
170Nm @ 1800-4500RPM
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