Test Drive: Opel Adam S

It's a very cool little car, with a look that doesn't fool anyone: it's aggressive and there's aggression underneath the sheet metal. It's the closest thing, without being so, to an Adam OPC. And it had better be, because we'd be talking about a very serious matter, in this size an OPC would be around 180 hp. I've driven several models prepared by Opel to be fast, and this one doesn't exactly fall short.

The Adam S is just over 17,000 euros, not exactly cheap, but Opel has reacted with a stronger promotion. The Adam is not a "cheap" utility car, it's "chic", the role of the humble car is filled by the Karl, which we'll test later. In other words, it's Opel's answer to the Fiat 500, not, correction, to the Abarth 595, since we're talking about sporty versions. It would have been nice to see a Ford Ka ST in this league, wouldn't it? We'll never know.


Design

One of the distinguishing features of the Opel Adam S is the prominent spoiler at the end of the bodywork, a good reason not to visit a car wash again, as it's a bit delicate and could come off badly with the wiggle of the rollers. Its 17-inch wheels and 215/45 tyres are also eye-catching. Our test unit wears the optional 18″ ones, with 225/35 tires signed by Continental and the brake calipers painted in red.

This unit features the "Extreme Carbon pack" which changes the front whisker, front spoiler and mirror housing.

The sporty clothing consists of specific front and rear bumpers (in this case with parking sensors in both), side skirts, visible exhaust tailpipe and LED daytime running lights. There is a range of 10 body colours and five roof colours, as well as vinyls and motifs to personalise it to your taste. On the C-pillars and on the roof it has distinctive elements compared to the other Adam. The rear windows are slightly tinted as standard. Also keep an eye on the chrome line around the windows.


It is a very compact car, measuring 3,708 mm long, 1,720 mm wide and 1,484 mm high. Small and light, 1,178 kg in running order, although there are cars in this category that weigh less. In this car there is nothing to spare, has a very small fuel tank, 35 liters, and a trunk of only 170 liters.

Cabin

Inside the Adam S we won't find huge differences compared to any other Adam, but they are visible. The Recaro seats with integrated headrests are the most obvious distinguishing feature. The steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake gaiter are finished in leather. Optionally you can have an LED ambient interior lighting package with different colours, something that could only be found in very expensive cars until recently.

The Adam is a cheerful car as it incorporates hints of colour over the typical black of modern interiors, in this case with red everywhere. It incorporates an aluminum bottom bracket, an almost essential element in cars of this style. The customization options are very varied, for example the possibility of having a starry sky on the roof based on LED lights. If the rear seats were more... ahem... usable... it would be a real highlight. Not everywhere is the sky full of stars, especially if there is artificial light.

It has four seats, which are adequate for four occupants of average build and about 1.75 meters tall. The rear seats don't have the best access and egress, as the Recaro seats don't have the same flexibility as the Adam's conventional seats. However, the lateral separation between the seats is adequate, and there is a triple cup holder at hand and side recesses. It is possible to fit child seats with the ISOFIX system with rear anchorage, although I must warn that getting a child in or out is much easier in an MPV. Due to the proximity of the rear window, these seats are not ideal for tall people either.


The driving position I like the possibility of adjusting the steering wheel in height and depth, something that for example does not have the Abarth 595, that only adjusts in height. Another highlight is the ease of performing the tip-tack by the optimal placement of the pedals. In a car like this, especially being only manual gearbox, it is almost essential. The seats are a bit hard, they take some getting used to.

You can have an Internet access point (4G LTE) via WiFi to keep the passenger distracted with their tablets or mobiles.

Overall, the Opel Adam has a very comfortable cabin with quality details unbecoming of the A-segment, such as soft, cushioned surfaces. That was almost impossible in a generalist in the last few years, and in fact, it's something very difficult to see in a pure A-segment car. Remember that the Adam doesn't have the same approach as the Karl, they're in the same segment but they're looking to tempt different people with different budgets. It also has its shadows, for example, the music system makes the door panels vibrate without the bass being brutal.

The Opel Intellilink touchscreen presides over the dashboard of this press unit. You have to forgo the integrated GPS navigator and CD player, but many people don't need to care. With a phone like the iPhone, you don't need any of that. Just connect the interface cable to the phone and you can use the Apple CarPlay system. It's so easy to use that a child would be familiar with the system in a matter of minutes. Obviously the phone's navigator replaces the hypothetical one in the car, and it never runs out of updates (until Apple wants it to). With an Android phone the integration is not as good, and without Android Auto, similar to any Bluetooth car.


In my opinion, the instrumentation could be more differentiated from an ordinary Adam, it's something that happens very often in reasonably priced sports cars, that yes, the red color is much more predominant than in an Adam Glam or Slam. Inside the dials themselves, a little red dot accompanies the needle as it climbs or descends, the resulting visual effect is quite cool. On the dials you can see a racing flag motif and a specific "S" logo.

The good thing about being based on the Adam is that it has storage space everywhere for such a small car. The glovebox is surprisingly roomy (and two-height), as are the doors, which, since they're so bulky, had to have something good in them. It only has one USB and one cigarette lighter socket, but among the extras available is an induction charger that will surely be appreciated by owners of a high-end phone with Qi wireless charging standard.

Among the equipment that this car has, I want to make special mention to the heating of the steering wheel rim and front seats. When you live in a cold area that's priceless, and I say that because I usually put on gloves to drive first thing in the morning. Previously such things were only offered for the German market, but hallelujah, some people have realised that it can be cold enough to crack stones in Spain too. Curiously, the on-board computer omits the steering wheel heating as an element of consumption, although it does warn about the consumption of the rear heated window or the air conditioning.

The truth is that there's not much to say about the boot. It is very small, only 170 liters. If no one is going to go back and there is a small logistical rush, you can achieve 484 liters folding the seats, and considering up to the back of the front seats. The maximum volume, when pushed up to the roof, is 663 litres; the volume figures are measured in accordance with ISO 3832. When the seats are folded down, there are specific holes to anchor the seatbelt buckles so that they don't get in the way. The useful space is ridiculous, with two backpacks and little else I have already filled it, going alone! The luggage policy has to be more restrictive than Ryanair's, and that's saying something?

If, as in this case, you carry the Infinity speakers, the bass speaker eats a little more space and there are only 95 liters left!

In this size of car, that's all there is. The Abarth 595 has a little more space, 185 litres, and the previous generation MINI Cooper, which was still an A-segment car, had 160 litres. There's a hook on the right-hand side for hanging small bags, and when the seats are pushed back it forms a more or less flat surface. One of the available options is a small net for small objects, called FlexOrganizer. In the picture you can see that the bag with triangles eats up a lot of useful space. Under the floor we will find the puncture repair kit, tow hook and a screwdriver.

The cargo area is very high, almost 81 centimeters from the ground. It fills very easily, so it is a car in which if you are going to travel four people, you better use your imagination when it comes to limiting your luggage as you have chosen the high-end speakers. Four suitcases will not fit even by chance, they would have to be four textile backpacks and well lightened. Even for two is very tight, two cabin suitcases can fit if you remove the top tray, or if you resort to the universal remedy of placing them behind the front seats, on the floor, and even then there is no room left over.

Technology

At the heart of the Adam S is the familiar 1.4 Turbo ECOTEC engine, which has been boosted to 150 hp. It has a hollow cast iron block, and the same feature has been used for the camshaft to make it lighter. The turbocharger is integrated into the exhaust manifold, has dual-stage timing (intake and exhaust valves) and fuel injection is made in the intake manifold (indirect multipoint). The engine is a bit outdated, nowadays the direct injection is used, although it's not all advantages; this solution increases the emissions of toxic particles.

Who says 1.4, means 1,364 cubic centimeters. It delivers 150 hp of power between 5,000 and 5,500 RPM, and the maximum torque of 220 Nm is available between 3,000 and 4,500 RPM. For a turbo engine, it has a considerable compression ratio of 10.5:1. Its direct rival, the Abarth 595 1.4 T-Jet, only delivers 206 Nm with almost the same displacement, and 5 hp less. Like the ECOTEC, the Fiat engine also has no direct injection. If we consider as a rival MINI Cooper, gives 136 hp, is a 1.5 turbocharged three-cylinder with direct injection. The Anglo-German engine has a lower fuel consumption (4.5 l/100 km) and acceleration is faster by tenths of a second.

The Adam S has a specific steering set-up, stability control (can be switched off), a more torsion-resistant rear axle, springs and shock absorbers with less travel... although Opel doesn't go into much detail in the dossier in this regard. Subjectively it is a car with a hard suspension, but it is not uncomfortable for the driver according to its philosophy. The brakes have been inherited from the Corsa OPC (D), with 308 mm ventilated discs on the front axle and solid 264 mm on the rear. In good grip conditions it is very well armed to stop in short distances, and the design of the rims favours the correct cooling of the brakes.

Driving

This is undoubtedly a fun car, not only because of the power it has, but also because of the way it transmits it to the road. It doesn't have the same character that you would expect from an OPC version, a bit more radical, so I see room in the range for something wilder, in the same way that Abarth does with its youngest. I also want to say that it's a car that you enjoy more deeply when you have more experience.

It's 150bhp and a close-ratio six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive, low weight and a short wheelbase of just over 2.3 metres. The Adam S is a reactive car and lively reactions, which can insinuate coleteo of the rear when making sudden changes of support or braking hard with the steering turned. Although the stability control is effective, a novice or flipadillo won't have it all to himself if he goes over the line, he'll have to pray to the Virgin of the helpless of the Holy Adherence.

Where the Adam S has seemed to me more delicate has been without a doubt with the wet, especially with the wide wheels that are optional. I blame it mainly on the Continental tyres it is fitted with, I didn't find it satisfactory in these conditions. It's easy to lose traction on the front axle or experience understeer, so when it rains you have to be careful. I'm talking about first brand tires, if you are thinking about putting something cheap or of dubious origin, I tell you that there are cheaper ways to play with your life. This car requires good wheels, not just anything of the same size.

With enough temperance in the head, it is a car that allows a lot of fun, and it is a pleasure to link one curve after another. It would be more exciting if it had an exhaust sound more in line with the car's intentions, in that sense I like the OPC touch more on models like the Corsa; even the Zafira OPC, an MPV, had a nicer exhaust sound. Here Opel I guess wanted to be politically correct.

The suspension can be uncomfortable for delicate buttocks in bumpy or damaged areas.

On dry roads and in good weather the Adam S really grips the asphalt, but I wasn't as convinced as the feel of the second generation MINI Cooper, the model before the current one, with very similar dimensions. That's still the benchmark for me in this size, considering I've yet to get my hands on the Abarth 595. However, I don't think the Adam S is an inferior product, it's totally comparable, but you have to admit that the MINI is better in that department. I can't judge the current MINI Cooper as I haven't driven it yet.

The engine pushes hard and doesn't have a turbo character in the sense of making transitions between dullness and explosion of power, even the injection cut is like pork, it makes the most of everything. In other models of the brand this engine is not so brilliant, but with how little the Adam S weighs, it makes a very convincing role. For driving above the legal speed limits it has plenty of muscle, it is capable of over 200 km/h, which is already a very high pace. However, it doesn't impress in the 0-100 km/h with those 8.5 seconds, both the Cooper and the 595 steal its wallet in this measurement.

It shows a good elasticity, from 80 to 120 km/h in fifth gear it doesn't reach 8 seconds, and in third gear it doesn't even need 6 seconds. It is not the typical engine that asks to downshift as much as in a Fast & Furious movie, it responds well in any ratio, and on the highway the sixth gear is good for everything. The gears could be longer to reduce consumption a bit, but what the hell does it matter in this car? Besides, it doesn't swallow so much.

It's obvious that it's going to consume more than the more modest versions of the Adam. The on-board computer on the 87bhp 1.4 naturally aspirated 1.4 litres/100km compared to the 150bhp Adam S's 6.9 litres/100km; the real figure is around 6.8 litres/100km. In relation to its performance it is not an exaggerated consumption in any way, the tank lasts a little because it is 35 liters including the reserve. You have to consider that in those almost 7 l/100 km there is a lot of fun and 76 km / h on average (more than usual for me), so I'm not going to complain about that. I do criticize the apparent abruptness when changing gear unless the driver is very fine with the gearbox, clutch and accelerator. It is endemic to this brand.

The brakes are always up to the task.

On a day-to-day basis, if you don't hit the accelerator too hard, consumption is very reasonable. It is, therefore, that kind of car that can be used every day without a high salary, and that allows joy in sporty driving, overtaking in a tighter time or have power for compromised situations. For a lighter use, the 1.4 naturally aspirated 100 hp is more than enough in the Adam; the 115 hp 1.0 SIDI three-cylinder was available, but was discontinued.

Fuel consumption can be kept under control by using the on-board computer's "ECO" indicator, which includes a graph showing fuel consumption at shorter intervals. The computer includes two manual initialisation counters, A and B, so it is easy to keep an accumulated and day-to-day evaluation to see what has changed if we adopt a different driving habit.

In urban areas, the Stop&Start system helps to ease the bill at the petrol station a little. Those who want to deactivate it or know that they are going to have a very short stop -seconds- can press the ECO button. It doesn't have any buttons that modify the behaviour of the accelerator pedal, exhaust note or power steering (the conventional Adam does). It just goes the same all the time. It also doesn't have any gadgets such as a G-force meter or turbocharger pressure gauge, and cars like the Nissan Juke diesel do.

I haven't tried a long trip with it, but in the hands of the right customer, it's no more of a problem than luggage capacity. More than the suspension settings, it's the seat backs that can be a bit annoying over the miles, especially if you have a side hump. For people of average height and with the BMI in place, they collect the body well and are not uncomfortable, but of course, they are not exactly sofa seats.

Conclusions

If the Opel Adam is, roughly speaking, an option to be taken into account, the "pelotilla racer" version is no less so, although it must also be said that it is such a small segment that very few models share it. In the past the possibilities of the sporty A-segment were not the same, just remember things like the Fiat Cinquecento Sporting, more ado about nothing.

One of the problems with the Adam S is that with its price positioning it was relatively close to B-segment alternatives with more power, more space and better performance, such as the Corsa OPC or the Ford Fiesta ST. However, it must be said in fairness that we will not find in the Spanish market any cheaper car that delivers more than 150 hp, new obviously, as the manufacturer has lowered the price considerably since it came out (18,690 euros).

Who would I recommend the Adam S to? I think the most suitable customer is someone who needs to park in a small space, wants a cool car but doesn't want a sub-bordillo, wants performance but doesn't need the Millennium Falcon, and who travels mainly alone, or with a partner. Yes, it's compatible with having kids, as long as there's another vehicle in the family unit to carry luggage, or you'd have to fit a trailer. I would not recommend it to any child, you have to educate your hands before being able to tame with guarantees so much horse in a dynamically delicate car, is what it has to be so small, it is a toy for older people.

For those who like the crossover look, there is an alternative at home, the Adam Rocks, with its corresponding S version and the same engine.

Do I see room for an Opel Adam OPC? Yes, Opel engineers are capable of putting 180 hp or more in this car, if they have done it with the first generation Meriva or the previous generation Zafira, I believe it all. Of course, they'd have to be very careful to make it more controllable in a wider range of conditions. That would democratize it more, no doubt, but a petrolhead with a good head can have a great time with this car without putting himself at risk, as long as he doesn't put on Chichinabo brand wheels.



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