WHEN VAUXHALL gave us the Adam earlier this year it was clearly sent to jostle for urban space with the Fiat 500, the Citroën DS3 and all those other cute, duo-tone fun buggies and Mini offshoots that populate our towns and cities. It also seemed to usher in a whole new era of no-nonsense, straight-down-the-line car-naming in which the Vauxhall Dave and Vauxhall Colin would surely not be far behind.
Alas, though, the Adam has spawned the Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air, which is, if nothing else, a mouthful. So much for first-name terms. Reading about the car in advance, one was tempted to assume that the way the company styles the name in capital letters would require us to shout it, possibly in the beefy drawl made famous by the late Radio 1 heavy metal specialist Tommy Vance.
Still, we’d have no problem with that here at Driving, where everyone rocks as a prerequisite of employment. The Adam, in the form of a face-melting guitar solo? Bring it on, dudes. We were more than ready to spend 48 hours in its company, assessing the cut of its spandex trousering, checking it over thoroughly for killer riffs and finding out whether in this new form the Vauxhall Adam rocks — or whether it merely sucks.
One could expend energy sneering at this faux, sub-Tonka ruggedness and at the pretentiousness of what is basically a plimsoll pretending to be a hiking boot
It turns out, though, that the prime inspiration behind the car wasn’t David Lee Roth or any member of Aerosmith, but parkour athletes — those people who, for sport, jump, climb, roll and generally clamber their way round cities without using the pavement. Disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that those guys don’t in their own way rock, but I am saying they don’t ROCK.
The idea is that this new Adam takes an imaginative, uncompromising approach to the urban jungle and its obstacles (and hopefully doesn’t use the pavement either). Hence the beefier looks. At the same time the Air part of the name betokens the presence of an opening canvas roof. Solid, tin-top Adam Rocks follow next year. Meanwhile the Adam Rocks Air is out on its own, a small CUV — crossover utility vehicle — that is also a convertible and therefore pretty much a niche unto itself.
However, beefier doesn’t turn out to mean much. The stance is minimally widened and it gains just 15mm extra height for just 14cm of ground clearance overall, leading one to worry about how the car would get on in the face of actual rocks. There is no 4×4 capacity, unlike in the similar Fiat Panda. It’s all about the plastic, really: the chunky grille wrap and wheelarch padding.
Now one could expend energy sneering at this faux, sub-Tonka ruggedness and at the pretentiousness of what is basically a plimsoll pretending to be a hiking boot, on the grounds that unnecessary plastic cladding, unsupported by mechanical reinforcement, sucks.
At the same time, no one from Vauxhall seems seriously trying to suggest this is the perfect car for anyone who routinely needs to barrel across stony moorland in search of sick cattle. And if plastic cladding happens to be your idea of decorative fun, then why not? After all, a tie serves no obvious practical purpose, but it does from time to time finish a suit.
As with the Fiat 500C the electrically operated canvas roof, when peeled away, offers the pleasures of a generous sunroof rather than the full, hair-demolishing, ear-battering wildness of top-down driving. But unlike the 500C the canvas manages to stow itself on the boot lid without unhelpfully shrinking the visibility in the mirror to the view through a letterbox. It also remains functional at speeds beyond the 70mph limit, meaning that you and your possessions will never be at the mercy of an abrupt motorway downpour.
For reasons mostly of appearance, one assumes, the car sits on a choice of unnecessarily large 17in or 18in wheels, which can be heard rumbling away merrily in the cabin, and the steering is a bit muzzy. But on the upside there’s a new 1-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that will also be available in the next Vauxhall Corsa and which tugs forward impressively even from cruising speeds in high gears.
One wonders if a tad too much effort has gone into refining it, and if some of the buzz and clatter that give the Fiat’s similarly-sized TwinAir unit its pep wouldn’t have gone amiss in this case. Vauxhall has opted for smooth and sophisticated, but as any parkour athlete will tell you, a bit of bump and grind never hurt anybody.
No one from Vauxhall seems seriously trying to suggest this is the perfect car for anyone who routinely needs to barrel across stony moorland in search of sick cattle.
However, the company has also gone for refinement in the cabin, where its presence is harder to quibble with. You can operate your smartphone via the dashboard, warm your hands on a heated steering wheel, parboil your backside on heated upholstery, and personalise the wheels and the interior with snap-on bits and pieces in courageous colour schemes.
This is also the only car in its segment to offer, albeit as an option, one of those systems that measures a parking space and automatically guides the car into it. That said, if you need it to park an Adam, your parking sucks, dude. Unlike the Adam Rocks Air, which, apart from its name, certainly doesn’t suck, although if it is going to rock, it could possibly rock harder. Nice engine, though.
Car, where’s my dude?
2014 Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air 1.0T specifications
Engine: 998cc, 3-cylinder turbo petrol
Power: 113bhp @ 5200rpm
Torque: 125lb ft @ 1800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 9.9sec
Top speed: 121mph
Fuel: 55.4mpg (combined)
Vehicle tax band: C
Release date: On sale now
Fiat 500C TwinAir Colour Therapy, £14,970
For Retro styling still cuts a dash; characterful engine
Against Engine needs an extra cylinder
Mini Cooper, from £15,300
For Great engine; good roadholding
Against Not so mini any more; you’ll end up spending a fortune on options