Driven: 2015 Opel Adam

Driven: 2015 Opel Adam

Amazing results can be yielded with a bit of work and the right backing. Yes, I know that sounds a bit like a platitude a motivational speaker would say. But it really rings true when it comes to the motoring industry.

General Motors is ploughing money and support into their German Opel division and you can see the fruits of this. Last month the American monolith’s CEO Mary Barra announced that 500 million Euros would be invested into the company, earmarked for the production of new engines and transmissions. Around 27 new models are planned between now and 2018 and a number of those are destined for our market.

The new Adam, launched locally last week opens the floodgates for this product offensive.

Adam 2 - IgnitionLIVE

The namesake

Opel representatives stressed that Adam is no biblical reference. It is in fact the first name of Opel’s founder. The dainty newcomer aims to fight in the popular small premium car segment. In terms of size its direct rival is the Fiat 500, although it shouldn’t be discounted as an alternative to the likes of the Citroen DS3 and as a cheaper option to the Mini or Audi A1. These are cars for young, trendy types who prioritise style and individuality.

Adam 3 - IgnitionLIVE

Sinfully good looks

Ok, we couldn’t resist biting into that one. But the Adam is an attractive little thing and it looked right at home in the super trendy (and slightly pretentious) settings of the Cape Town CBD.

Up front it wears a smug looking smirk and the designers likened the headlights to a playful glimmer in a pair of eyes. Down the side a classy chrome calligraphy line borders the window frames and the pert rear bears strong resemblance to that of the Astra GTC coupe.

Of course, you can go wild with the accoutrements and there are three styling grades on offer: standard, Glam and Jam. As expected, the base model is subdued with fewer embellishments and subtle eight-spoke wheels. The Glam is adorned with shinier pieces and seems like the kind of chariot for the Instagram user who hashtags the word fabulous. And the Jam is the sportiest of the bunch, thanks to an OPC-Line package.

Adam 4 - IgnitionLIVE

City serpentine

There are two engine choices, first is Opel’s tried and trusted 1.4-litre mill that Noah was rumoured to have used as an outboard motor on The Ark. Next up is their all-new one-litre, turbocharged power source. We spent all our time with the latter and thankfully so – it is a true gem.

Three-cylinder engines are characterised by an off-beat growl and a coarseness we motoring scribes often describe as “cheerful” – but you know that the novelty of these aural theatrics could wear off very quickly on a long-distance journey. It’s remarkable how refined this motor is. Yes, you get the distinctive noise when you really wring it out, but it manages to deliver its power smoothly and without any of the clatter. I feel it beats the EcoBoost alternative from Ford.

But from a dynamic perspective, it could be a little sharper. If you expected a pocket knife to slice through the back roads, let me affirm that this is happiest in the city. It doesn’t respond to spirited inputs too eagerly, showing body roll in the bends and shimmying under hard braking. But the transmission – usually a gripe on GM products – has been remedied. Now you can perform first-to-second snap changes without any disconcerting crunches. Perhaps the Opel Adam S will be more convincing as an authentic little hot hatchback.

Adam 6 - IgnitionLIVE

How about them apples?

The Adam is exactly what Opel needs to spearhead its local revival. It will get people into dealerships based on appearance alone. And there is substance to the striking looks. It drives acceptably well in the conditions that most of us will experience daily, that new engine is a treat and the vast scope of customisation it offers will entice the audience it’s geared towards.

Final pricing is yet to be announced, but Opel says you can expect things to range between R185,000 and R250,000. The direct rival from Fiat starts off at R172,900, Ctiroen’s DS3 begins at R222,900 and you’ll pay R247,000 for the entry-level Audi A1. The Mini is out of this ballpark with a basic price tag of R296,000.

The Facts: 2015 Opel Adam
Engines: 1398cc four-cylinder, NA; 999cc three-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 74kW at 6000rpm (1.4); 85kW at 5000rpm (1.0)
Torque: 130Nm at 4000rpm (1.4); 170Nm at 1800rpm (1.0)
0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds (1.4); 9.9 seconds (1.0)
Top speed: 185km/h (1.4); 196km/h (1.0)
Fuel consumption: 5.3l/100km (1.4); 5.1l/100km (1.0) (Claimed)
CO2: 125g/km (1.4); 119g/km (1.0)
Pricing: TBC

Brenwin Naidu