The Opel Adam was the German company’s attempt to cash in on the trend for customisable city cars and superminis, a movement that was at its peak at the turn of the last decade. Launched in 2012, it sat on a shortened version of the Corsa’s platform and formed a three-strong small cars range with the Corsa itself and also the later-released Opel Karl, a budget city machine. The Adam was the stylish one, though, with contrast roof options and loads of funky interior graphics. Sold only as a three-door machine throughout its life, there was the regular hatchback, the crossover Adam Rocks (and Rocks Air) and then a faster model, the Adam S. Sadly, however, the Adam will be limited to one generation of car – Opel has no plans to replace it.
Aside from some strange names for some of the paint schemes and design element colours, the Adam originally launched with a choice of 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre normally aspirated petrol engines, these delivering 70hp (1.2), or either 87- or 100hp (1.4). Drive went to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox and the trim levels were named Jam, Glam and Slam. The Adam was improved immeasurably in 2014, when the off-road-styled Adam Rocks joined the line-up. However, it wasn’t the chunky bumpers, black plastic cladding and 15mm higher ride height (this did improve the Adam’s ride comfort, mind) that made the Rocks such an enjoyable car – and it wasn’t even the Adam Rocks Air model’s cool folding canvas roof, either. No, it was the super-sweet three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine that was introduced here, which made either 90- or 115hp. This little motor was a gem and it was subsequently offered in the regular Adam, so if you’re after the best engine of all, this is the one. At the top of the Adam tree, and launched in 2015, the Adam S used a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine with 150hp and 220Nm to deliver 0-100km/h in 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 210km/h. It was reasonably fun to drive, felt as quick in reality as its on-paper stats promised and looked smart, but the low-speed ride was particularly unforgiving; in turn, a rather unforgiveable transgression for a car that was primarily built to operate in a city. All of the Rocks, Rocks Air and S models came with a six-speed manual gearbox, to make the most of their turbocharged torque.
Anything with that 1.0-litre turbo engine, really. The Rocks Air is the best bet, because it looks good, rides sweetly and has that full-length, sliding fabric section in the roof to make it a most curious mix: a semi-convertible off-road-ready chic supermini city car.
Opel Adam Rocks Air
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Maximum speed: 195km/h
0-100km/h: 9.9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5.1 litres/100km
• Quirky looks
• Rocks’ smooth ride
• Great little 1.0-litre engine
• Tough ride on some models, particularly the S
• Utterly daft paint/option names
• No variant drives that well
There are better city cars and superminis available than the Opel Adam, which was a valiant effort at a Fiat 500/MINI rival but one that wasn’t executed to the highest possible standards. However, avoid the gutless 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol launch engines and aim at the three-cylinder cars or the quick S model, and you’ll have a decent and stylish enough little run-around that’s not as obvious a choice as some of its rivals.