21 October 2013

Road Test: Opel Adam

The Adam shows just how Opel can come up with a really sweet niche product that has the glamour of a Mini, the winsomeness of a Fiat 500, and hopes it can get away with charging more for it than the larger Corsa with which it also shares underpinnings, writes Brian Byrne. .

That front end is endearing in a design that doesn't just copy the grilles of other Opel products, while the alternating character lines on the profile lift the shape nicely when the light hits them from various angles.

The contrast colour glasshouse, and particularly the unique c-pillar adds real elegant funkiness to the whole package, 'floating' it on the 'Adam' signature on the rear quarter. The name comes from the Adam Opel founder of the German company, though there's now talk of bringing out an 'Eve' companion in the US market, for which there was an international sketching competition earlier this year.

The rear is well presented. Fetching tail-lights, and big fog/backups anchoring the bumper area. All in all, there's a toy-like look to the car that invariably makes you smile and want to pick it up and scoot it across the carpet. Except, of course, that it is a real car. And a pretty competent one too. It's an Opel, so I'd be disappointed if it wasn't.

Inside there's also a lot of style, none of which gets in the way of practicality. A clean dashboard design which in the review 'Glam' grade featured a fine-pattern finish and complementary stylish inserts, chunky air vents where they make sense, more funkiness in the main instruments but nonetheless absolutely clear in providing their information. There's a touch-screen nicely placed above the easily operated climate control knobs which manages entertainment, and apps for the connectivity system which I didn't really get to grips with this time out. The steering wheel is hefty, comfortable and stylish, incorporating too the entertainment ancillaries and the cruise controls.

On the accommodation front, there's good room for any size people up front, and this writer was particularly happy with how easy the Adam is to get in and out of without head and neck contortions. The back, though, is a different country. Bluntly, there's absolutely no space for knees and legs. You could comfortably fit a pair of child seats there and that'd be it. And there'd be no space for the accessories which said childs would also need, in the short but deep boot.

So, this is a car for two, with the rear seats folded giving the pair adequate luggage space for heading out of the city for a quick weekend. Which is really where, in the larger market scheme of things, Adam is aimed.

The car's brochure is unashamedly youth oriented. Early 20s to late. Trendy things in trendy jobs who go to trendy clubs (not in their cars, of course, because they quaff trendy cocktails too).

The emphasis is on the smartphone young people who swap their apps preferences, are always connected, and want to dolly up their cars in the same way as they buy their phone accessories and different tops to go with their designer jeans and many-colours Sketchers.

The car is aimed at the online generation who will be wearing the next generation of computer connection instead of tapping or swiping. Maybe even being implanted with or having their connectives dangling from their ear or nose piercings.

And here's the Irish twist. Maybe even further afield than here. These are the age who can't afford cars, let alone designer cars. They're also the new generation who prefer their said smartphones to cars, a trend having a significant downwards impact both on car buying and even taking out driving licences. Initially in the US, but increasingly also here in Europe.

So there have been just 65 Adams registered in Ireland since it was launched here earlier in the year. Of the 41,000 built since production started in January, around 27,000 have been sold. Opel has announced a cut in production of both the Adam and Corsa during coming months, the Corsa suffering because it's heading for renewal.

They need a new brochure. They need one for people like me, at the opposite end of the targeted demographic of young, cool, who 'don't follow trends' but 'set them'. (Not sure they do set trends, youngsters are mostly followers of dictated fashion, maybe?)

I'm in the 'no small children at home' space. Even my grandchildren are on two continents away from Europe. I could buy this car happily, and it is my demographic who are the ones buying cars privately in any numbers in the current recessed Irish market.

I like the style. I love the finish. The driving (hmm, never got around to mentioning the zesty 100hp 1.4 petrol engine, and the very competent ride and handling sensibilities) is more than good, heading to overtake best in the segment.

I should mention that there is a new family of small GM engines coming next year which will be more efficient and probably even more fun in the Adam. But there's nothing wrong with the current option.

I'm not young. I'm not considered trendy, I suspect. And cool is not attached to my public persona by anybody I know.

But I could comfortably be targeted as a potential buyer of Adam. Need to see the right brochure, though.

Prices from €14,995. The Review Glam version €16,995. A wild and wonderful range of personalisation options will make money for the sales people who can seriously interact with their showroom coolsters.