This morning a man in a chunky-neck jumper and corduroy trousers is sitting down to his plate of kippers, blissfully unaware that he’s the last person in Britain to have been christened Malcolm. It’s much the same story with his wife, Brenda, and his friends from the lodge, Neville and Roger.
Who is Britain’s youngest Simon? Is there a Clive aged under 10? Where is the last Derek? Do you live next door to the final Brian?
This cull of monikers doesn’t happen in Iceland, because the government gives new parents a list of names from which to choose. But here the army of opinion-forming orange people have got it into their heads that they can call their poor little tyke pretty much anything that comes into their heads. And, frankly, why go for something traditional such as Edith or Gertrude when you can name your little girl after a sweet white wine, or a village where you had particularly enjoyable sex in Crete?
This, of course, brings me on to the naming of cars. By and large it’s always been very simple. Expensive cars such as BMWs and Mercedes and Audis were given numbers and letters. Smaller, cheaper cars had names. And usually those names were absolutely terrible.
Fiat has always been especially hopeless. Over the years, it has had the Road and the One and the Point. But we can’t forget Austin Rover, which named the car it said would save it from the dustbin after the Paris underground system. Can you imagine Renault calling its next little car the Tube? No. Neither can I.
Volkswagen isn’t much better, but there’s a reason for this. In the past it would give a shortlist of names to executives in the company, who were asked to rate them out of 10. Which meant the winner was invariably the name that was everyone’s second or third favourite. How else could they have arrived at the Golf? That’s like calling a car the Herpes.
Then we have Nissan, which for a long time kept alive traditional English names that Coleen and Wayne felt were beneath them. There was the Cedric, the Gloria and the Silvia.
Toyota, meanwhile, called the first car it tried to sell in America the Toyolet. Until the importers suggested that Toyopet might be a bit better. And then we had the Mitsubishi Starion. Which was supposed to have been the Stallion but there was a mix-up caused by the Japanese problem with the letter “l”.
There have been some good names, though. The best by a mile — and I won’t take any argument on this — is the Interceptor. The Pantera was pretty good as well but, really, for consistently good names you need to look to America, which has given us the Thunderbird and the Mustang and the Cougar and the Barracuda.
It’s a confidence thing, I guess, the big, toothy ability to name an awful, slow car after a wild, ferocious animal: it’s like calling your son Hercules, even if you have an inkling he’ll grow up to be a six-stone weed with asthma and pipe cleaners for arms.
All of this brings me on to the new baby Vauxhall. The company has called it the Adam, which was the Christian name of the founder of Vauxhall’s sister brand Opel, but the car maker says that’s not why it chose the name. It says it chose Adam for the reason that UKTV changed the name of its G2 channel to Dave. Because it’s a nice name. I think I agree.
The Adam is supposed to take Vauxhall into territory currently occupied by the Fiat 500 and the Mini. It’s supposed to be a trendy car for young urbanites. But there’s a small problem with that. The Fiat and the Mini hark back to cars people remember fondly, but what does the Adam hark back to? The Chevette? The Viva?
“The Prince Henry,” said a spokesman for General Motors, Vauxhall’s owner. Well, it’s true. The Prince Henry was indeed very special — the first performance car — but if you can remember that, I suspect you’re not really in the market for a small car. Or indeed any car. Not since your final road journey in that hearse.
No. This new car cannot rely on people wanting to recapture a flavour of the Fifties and Sixties. It’s going to have to stand up on its own four wheels. So does it?
There are three trim levels: Jam, Glam and Slam. But each is available with a bewildering array of options. There are, and I’m not making this up, billions and billions of permutations. And don’t worry if you make a mistake and order “Men in Brown” door mirrors — that’s what they’re called — because you can have them changed for the “White My Fire” option in a jiffy.
In fact, when you become bored with the look of the interior you’ve selected, you can change it next month or next year for something completely different, for £70.
The upshot is that you cannot hate the way the Adam looks because you can make it look however you want. You can’t really hate it as a town car either. There is space in the back for two people, provided their lower legs are no more than 3in thick, and there is a boot that’s just about big enough for a midweek shop.
Visibility is good, the clutch is light, the steering is nice and the ride comfort is exceptional. Take away all the connotations, and the fashion aspiration, view it as a town car only, and I have to say it’s better than the Fiat and the Mini.
But as an all-round car, I’m not sure. The model I selected was a 1.4-litre Slam with a chessboard roof lining, yellow trim on the wheels and a billion other sporty features besides. This meant it looked like a hot hatch, and one thing’s for sure: it wasn’t.
The Adam is not at all fast. It doesn’t handle with much enthusiasm and at 70mph on the motorway it feels awfully busy — as if it’s sort of surprised to be there.
There are more things too. It doesn’t come with satellite navigation or a telephone, because it is designed to hook up to your smartphone and piggyback the features on that instead. In theory this is a properly good idea. I even asked a man from Vauxhall how it all worked, and in a matter of seconds, well, minutes — well, a quarter of an hour — he had the car talking to his phone.
But when I was left to fly solo, my phone treated the Adam in the way that a reluctant bitch treats a dog. There was no mating at all.
So. There are problems but overall it’s a likeable and practical little car. The only thing that would stop me buying one if I were in the market for such a thing is its other name. Adam is fine. Vauxhall, though? They’ve still got some way to go with that.
The chameleon car
Vauxhall Adam 1.4i 16v VVT ecoFlex Slam
- 1398cc, 4 cylinders
- 86bhp @ 6000rpm
- 95 lb ft @ 4000rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph: 12.5sec
- Top speed:
- 55.4mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- Band C (free for first year)
- L 3698mm, W 1720mm, H 1484mm