Cute and nimble

The Opel Adam is so compact you can drive it into a parallel parking space head first.
The Opel Adam is so compact you can drive it into a parallel parking space head first. ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The Opel Adam is so compact you can drive it into a parallel parking space head first.
The Opel Adam is so compact you can drive it into a parallel parking space head first. ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Opel's mini city car takes a fresh spin on urban mobility

At first glance, the Opel Adam is doomed to failure. Who would buy a three-door non-turbo car from a second-tier European manufacturer?

Three-doors do not usually do well here. Of course there are notable exceptions such as the Volkswagen Scirocco and Range Rover Evoque.

A non-turbo four-cylinder European car? No one has seen one of those since the Spice Girls split up.

And while Opel is German, it is not quite in the same league as VW or Audi.

So, it is understandable if the Adam does not turn up on your shopping list. But that would be somewhat of a shame.

  • SPECS / OPEL ADAM 1.4

    Price: $96,888 with COE

    Engine: 1,398cc 16-valve inline-4

    Transmission: Five-speed robotised manual

    Power: 87bhp at 6,000rpm

    Torque: 130Nm at 4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 13.9 seconds

    Top speed: 178kmh

    Fuel consumption: 4.7 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Auto Germany

Because despite all the odds stacked against it, the Opel Adam is a strangely irresistible number.

First of all, it is as cute as a button. Named after the founder of Opel and styled along the lines of the Mini, Fiat 500 and Ford Ka, the car is eye-catching.

Looking like a lopped-off front end of a bigger car, it comes in a range of funky two-tone shades and is adorned with premium trim inside and out.

It has the cheerfulness of Japan's micro-mini kei cars, but is better finished.

Measuring less than 3.7m front to end, it has one of the smallest footprints among cars here. It is so compact you can slot it into a parallel parking space head first.

Its wheels are set almost at its four corners and the car has very small overhangs. This maximises space inside and gives the car extraordinary agility.

While its normally aspirated 1.4-litre engine has a modest output of 87bhp and 130Nm, it has a low body weight of 1,045kg to contend with. Its performance is not remotely sporty, but it does not come across as lethargic either.

Paired with a clutch-actuated manual gearbox which has a tendency to let the revs pile on, the puny Adam is able to keep up with traffic reasonably well.

In fact, its cruise control's Resume function is probably the most responsive one tested to date.

Despite its meagre drivetrain, the car displays more than its fair share of wheelspins. And precisely because you know you cannot possibly get into too much trouble with 87bhp, you floor it like a go-kart in a straight run.

While it is not as planted on the tarmac as a Mini Cooper, the Adam is a hoot to handle. Because of its size and its wheels-at-extremities configuration, the car is super nimble and in tune with tight turning manoeuvres.

Because of its size, its 195/55 R16 tyres look pretty big.

Whether driven fast or leisurely, the car offers more fun than its specifications suggest.

Its ride quality is not too shoddy either. If you compare it with similar cars, the Adam's ride characteristics would almost pass for those of a large sedan. Noise and harshness levels are also exceptionally low for a car in its segment.

Despite its compactness, it will ferry four adults in relative comfort - for shorter trips. For long hauls, this city car is best for two. The front seats are a bit sticky and unwieldy when you want to move them out of the way.

The boot is tiny. But the rear seats are collapsible if you need to carry bigger items. The cabin is cheery and finished in quality material. Climate control, cruise control and Apply CarPlay or Android Auto are some features available.

You will find a decent standard of fit and finish, except for the metal cladding on the steering wheel, which is easily stained and is sharp around the edges.

All in all, not bad for Opel's first attempt at being chic and zany. Let's hope it is not its last.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Cute and nimble'. Print Edition | Subscribe