Johannesburg - The Opel Adam is what you might call a true ‘little big’ car.

Little, of course, if you’re asking the tape measure. At 3747mm, it’s one of the shortest vehicles on the market, but it’s quite wide for its length at 1720mm across, which is on par with the Mini. So it’s small and funky looking, with contrasting black or white roof colours available on top models, just perfect for singles and couples looking for something that’s easy to manoeuvre and park, but with more spunk than a traditional budget hatch.

So what’s big about it then? That’s all down to its premium finishes and road manners, the latter being a theory we got to test on a 1200km round trip. The tiny hatch has been on the market for a few years now, but Opel recently gave us the chance to get reacquainted with it, and that just happened to coincide with a weekend trip down to the KZN coast.

Would it be too small for such a long trip? Would it blow off Van Reenen’s Pass?

Thankfully the Adam proved to be a ‘big’ car in all but size - yes, the small boot is more suited to shopping so some of our luggage spilled over the back seats. Not that we would have put people back there as it is on the cramped side, and not really suitable for anything more than short urban trips. Not that we’d hold that against the Adam as it has never pretended to be a family car. If you want space try the Crossland X or any other bigger hatch or crossover for that matter.

Back to the N3 road trip, the Adam’s 1-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol engine, which is standard across the range, impressed with its performance, elasticity and efficiency.

With 85kW and 170Nm on command, it performs really effortlessly on the open road, although you’ll still have to gear down occasionally if you want a sudden burst of acceleration, although once you are in the correct rev range, it is remarkably tractable and on single-lane stretches of road you can overtake quite comfortably.

The engine is quiet and unobtrusive, with no real discernible three-cylinder shakes, and the little three-pot went easy on the juice too, averaging around 5.6 litres per 100km on the mostly-freeway round trip.

The relatively smooth ride quality, solid-feeling steering and agile road holding also contribute to its big-car persona. The Adam is perhaps most at home in the city, but it’s certainly not afraid of the open road.

On the subject of town driving, its slick gearshift and clutch actions make it a pleasure to pilot, but if there is one nitpick, the engine feels a touch laggy off the mark.

Ok, another nitpick. Ergonomically it feels a bit dated, with the infotainment system and ventilation controls positioned fairly low on the dashboard, taking the driver’s eyes further from view of the road.

The six-speaker, 17.8cm Intellilink touchscreen infotainment system, which is standard across the range, is easy to operate and has a modern look and feel.

As for equipment, the base Adam, at R233 000, is well appointed for the price, featuring cruise control, multifunction steering wheel, heated mirrors, six airbags and 16-inch alloys.

The Adam Jam (R271 721), and which we had on test, gets the funky black or white roof and mirror colouring as well as ‘Boomerang’ alloys and additional driver assistance gadgets in the form of Advanced Park Assist, Blind Spot Alert and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

The Adam Slam (at R275 553) packs even more of the good stuff, including 17-inch rims, auto climate control, upgraded sound and additional aluminium interior trim.

The material selection across the range is excellent though - it definitely feels more premium than the larger Corsa hatch (which in part makes up for the fact that you’re paying similar money for a smaller car), and the seats in our test car were and looked really racy with their dark cloth and vinyl upholstery combination and central support cushions. You could certainly think of this as a viable, and cheaper, alternative to the lower-end Mini models.

VERDICT

With a more substantial feel than the Fiat 500 and a lower price tag than the aforementioned Mini, the Adam should hit the sweet spot for singles and DINKs seeking a funky car with small dimensions and big-car luxury. The styling won’t suit all tastes, but if you like it this one’s definitely worth a closer look.

Drive360