The three-door hatch seats four, but it is rather cramped in the rear.
The three-door hatch seats four, but it is rather cramped in the rear.
The cabin looks sporty and upscale. A great effort.
The cabin looks sporty and upscale. A great effort.

QUICK SPIN

Opel Adam 1.4

Boutique hatch, glamour ride, funky handbag - call them what you like but these glittered up compacts are proving irresistible to fashion-conscious, young-at-heart motorists that want a stylish car with a compact footprint.

Whereas the modern Mini and Fiat 500 take a walk down memory lane with retro looks inspired by their ancestors, the Opel Adam follows the Citroën DS3 in forging a modern style of its very own.

In fact, this Opel's only real salute to the past is its name: Adam Opel having founded the company way back in 1862. Still, I can't imagine that the average dude will want to plonk this car's body-colour-matching keyfob on the bar counter, and announce “Hey guys, I'm driving Adam!” But let's face it, this is not where Opel is aiming this spunky little hatch.

Instead the Adam is aimed at trend-setters who, in Opel's exact words, seek “self-expression through their clothes, lifestyle and cars.”

Like its rivals, the Adam allows these fashionistas to personalise their cars to the hilt, with a wide range of colour schemes and accessories. You can even get an LED-infused headliner that mimics a starry sky.

Sadly, all the tasty option packs - which include two-tone exterior colour schemes and other distinctive bits and bobs - are not available on the entry-level Opel Adam 1.4, featured here. That said, it does offer eight colour options with self-explanatory yet creative names like Purple Fiction, I'll Be Black, Let It Blue, The Greyfather, James Blonde, Saturday White Fever, Silverwalker and Red 'n Roll.

Though Opel readily admits that this is a “no frills” model, it's not too stingy on the features front. Standard fittings include air conditioning, electric/heated mirrors, cruise control, a five-speaker audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch alloys, six airbags and ESP stability control.

SOME FRILLS, THEN, BUT NO TURBO

The cheapest Adam, costing R189 900, also loses out on the engine front. Whereas its siblings, the R209 900 'Adam Jam' and R232 900 'Adam Glam', are powered by an advanced new three-cylinder 1-litre turbopetrol engine, the base Adam makes do with Opel's familiar normally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol, which delivers 74kW and 130Nm.

We tested the 1.0T earlier this year and were impressed by its perky performance. Yet while the turbo Adam is actually a lot of fun, the base 1.4 is merely adequate. Around town and on your normal highway cruise it'll do just fine for the average motorist, but fill it up with your friends and hit a hill and you might struggle a tad.

It is an otherwise agreeable drive, with a comfy ride - especially considering the short wheelbase - and a solid steering feel. You can also use the 'city' function to make it lighter at low speeds.

If style means a lot more to you than performance then the 1.4-litre version has a place, and Opel should seriously consider offering it with more personalisation packs.

Even so, the interior is superbly finished with quality materials and the sporty design lends a sense of occasion. You don't ever feel like you're in an ordinary hatch, it just feels premium.

Just don't expect practicality to be part of the deal - the rear seats are cramped and the boot is only really good for a shopping spree, at least according to my male definition of one. If you want more space and metal for the money, Opel's new Corsa sells for similar money to this, but then someone wanting to take Adam home will probably yawn at that option. Oh well.

VERDICT

All considered, Adam Jam and his turbo, as well as extra features like the touch-screen IntelliLink infotainment system, seem well worth the extra 20 grand in my book. But if you have to keep things below the 200 mark and you can live with so-so performance, the basic Adam is still a good enough way to show off.

FACTS

Opel Adam 1.4

Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol

Gearbox: Five-speed manual

Power: 74kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 130Nm @ 4000rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 11.5 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 185km/h

Consumption (claimed): 5.3 litres per 100km

Price: R189 900

Warranty: Five-year/100 000km

Service plan: Three-year/60 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Citroen DS3 VTi 82 (60kW/118Nm) - R222 900

Fiat 500 1.4 Lounge (74kW/131Nm) - R218 400

Opel Adam 1.0T Jam (85kW/170Nm) - R209 900