Thursday 5 December 2019

Opel: 'Young' Adam tempts with hot-hatch allure

Powerful Opel but watch your speed

Looks the part: Opel Adam.
Looks the part: Opel Adam.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Sometimes, a car can make you feel that bit younger. And while I welcome such rejuvenation, I mean the sentiment to reflect both praise and warning.

We all need to feel a bit of re-charging every now and then - that's for sure.

But whatever about being temporarily younger at heart, we most definitely need to make sure we bring the old head with us too.

I'm not saying younger people are necessarily bad drivers; I am saying the statistics show they are at higher risk of taking chances.

The Opel Adam S I drove recently is a good demonstration of the apparent contradictions between a thoroughly enjoyable, feisty little hot-hatch and keeping from doing silly things with the power and pace it places at your disposal. I'm sure everyone, from car manufacturer to road user, will agree on that.

This Adam S is an attractive little city car with a 1.4-litre turbo-charged petrol engine that kicks out an impressive 150bhp. That's a lot for a pocket rocket (getting all the clichés out of the way early) but the chassis is well able for it. There is sport suspension, too (more anon), and all sorts of 'young' enhancements around the cabin and on the outside.

I enjoyed it in some parts, not so much in others.

I think it is only right that everything about it should be young, fresh and 'drive me'. That is its prime purpose. For an ould lad like me, it was a bit of a pick-me-up, unusual (that's good) and worked hard at being what the cliché writers call 'appealing'.

Surprisingly (for me), it was easy to get into and out of - a big plus - but trying to get anyone or anything into the back two (tiny) seats was a nightmare. The front seats slid forward with great reluctance and effort. Just to get my old (everything seems to have an age this week) gym bag into the back was an effort. Now, that is ridiculous and the sort of thing that would put people off.

For all that, it looked the part of a Millennial's motor, decked out as it was with spoilers, skirting, contrasting red brake callipers - and more.

For the most part, my driving echoed its get-up-and-go nature.

It was quick-fire and neat in its handling without necessarily setting pulses racing. And it squirted with great energy from standing starts or pulling up through the revs in lower gears.

Because cars like this are so small and close to the ground, they give the impression, which is fine, of being quicker and more dynamic than they are.

The MINI and Fiat's great little 500 are proof of that. Mentioning them puts the Adam in context. It has little by way of heritage to draw on while the other two have great depths of the stuff. And that means a lot. The Adam S is very much a newcomer; these things take time.

There's no doubt it could be great fun. But somehow it lacked the driving allure of the Fiat, which even in less powerful versions has an appeal few can match. The MINI, certainly, is a wonderful drive, too, but it is on the expensive side.

And the Adam's sports-tuned suspension, while lively and clearly designed to heighten the sense of dynamics, picked up every crevice there ever was on the roads I tested, especially with 18ins wheels. That meant the faster I went, the more I noticed road/tyre noise. Not the end of the world but something of a drawback nonetheless.

So why would you buy an Adam S? Because it's not a FIAT or a MINI, maybe. Because it so looks the part, perhaps. It didn't register mightily on my younger generation passengers' sampling, whereas the 500, I remember, did. Most of all, you'd buy it for the sense of speed and dexterity. It can be quite an enjoyable experience.

And that is where the warning I mentioned at the start raises its flag. Any car of this size and power - and I'm not picking on the Adam - warrants respect. Let me be blunt: if you are a well-off 20/30-something (and you'd need to be to buy and insure it) and looking for kicks, there is a temptation, not a predisposition in many cases, to go further and faster than you should or are capable of driving safely enough. That's looking for trouble. I'm not condemning pocket-rockets but there is a danger of them being abused by those who have yet to have old heads in tandem with young hearts.

Like everything else in life, an Adam S in moderation can give you a lot of enjoyment.

Facts & figures

Opel Adam S 3dr. 1.4 Turbo 150PS petrol (5.9 litres/100km, 139g/km, €280 road tax); Top speed 210kmh; 0-100kmh in 8.5 secs.

Price: €20,750. Options add €3,650 =  €24,400 total. Adam prices start at €15,795 ex-works.

Standard spec includes: 18ins alloys, Onstar, sports suspension, uprated brakes with red callipers, rear-roof spoiler, black roof/door mirrors, Morrocana seats, air intakes in lower front bumper; body-coloured front lower spoiler, side sills and rear lower skirt etc.

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