The Opel Adam is a tiny city car that works better with Singapore traffic than Singapore taxes
SINGAPORE — Given the way car prices are in Singapore, it’s only fair if you want as much metal for your money as possible. But that doesn’t mean the country doesn’t have room for cars that can only be described as toys.
I mean that in the best way possible, because what are toys meant to do but deliver fun?
And the Opel Adam fits that description nicely.
For similar money to the Opel’s asking price, you could have a perfectly serviceable four-door sedan (the Mitsubishi Attrage) or a hatchback that can seat five (the Suzuki Swift). Stretch a bit, and Kia’s K3 Forte is yours, and it’s sophisticated enough to feel like a real car for grown-ups.
So the Adam makes sense mainly if what you want is not an appliance-on-wheels, but something a bit different (and a lot stylish).
It looks like nothing else out there, after all. The three-door, four-seater has surprisingly suave bits of design in places, like a “floating roof” and a strip of chrome that swoops along the roofline. To some eyes it’ll be dinky, but to others it’s cute.
The cabin is surprisingly mature, in that the plastics feel fairly high-quality, and there’s a neatness to the controls that you usually find in pricier cars, along with a terrific sound system. That neatness is greatly aided by a touchscreen system that’s responsive, easy to use (even for an adult) and blessed with crisp graphics.
If you scaled the dashboard up and put it in, say, an Opel Insignia, you wouldn’t mind at all. And looking at things from the other direction, the Adam shows that tiny cars don’t have to be nasty inside.
Until, that is, you sit in the back. The rear will accommodate two full grown people, but you’d better not do long road trips in the car with more than one friend aboard. Short hops across the island are pretty much the limit for adults in the back before someone will have to report the driver to a human rights organisation.
Up front, though, unless you’re a sumo wrestler or NBA player you’re likely to find the Adam perfectly accommodating. It doesn’t feel like a place you can stretch out in, but neither does it feel cramped or claustrophobic.
As for cargo, there isn’t much room for it with just 170 litres of space available in the boot, but that rises to 663 litres if you fold the rear seats down, so maybe you can still shop at Ikea, if you can’t exactly splurge there.
So far you should be surprised by none of this — the Adam is a small car on the outside, so naturally it’s small inside.
Where you might find an unexpected bit of pleasure is in the way the little Opel drives. It was built for the often miserable traffic conditions of Europe’s capitals (congestion, squeeze-it-wherever-you-can parking, pricey fuel) and to that end it excels.
The view out is good, the controls are light (you can even adjust the steering weight) and the car is both nippy and maneuverable in the way that only small cars can be. Outside of crowded city roads, it’s even reasonably fun to check around. In spite of its skinny tyres it’ll cling to a cornering line the way a puppy hangs onto a stick with its teeth. And though the engine doesn’t have much zing (or perhaps because it doesn’t) you’re encouraged to carry as much speed as you can through corners, which prompts a whole new way of extracting some driving pleasure.
The car’s main failing is its “Easytronic” gearbox, essentially a five-speed manual with the single-clutch and gear selection automated for you. It’s tonnes better than when Opel first came out with the system a dozen or so years ago, with smoother, faster gearchanges, but it still feels a generation behind the twin-clutch goodness that other German brands serve up.
Result? If you drive it like an auto by keeping your foot steadily on the accelerator, you’ll be jostled by a brief interruption in power each time the car de-clutches to change gears.
To coax smoothness from an Adam, you have to pretend it’s a manual, and gently ease your hoof off the throttle pedal each time there’s a gearchange. Can’t tell when there’s going to be one? Select the sequential manual mode and call them up yourself.
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That sounds like a lot of work, but at least there’s no clutch pedal to depress and balance on the biting point and so on. Whatever calories driving an Adam smoothly demands of you, they’re are mostly from mental, not physical exertion.
The benefits of Easytronic are simplicity and low fuel consumption, and the latter is at least certifiable: you’ll average 4.7L/100km when conditions are ideal. In the real world, we did about 20 percent worse, but that still makes the Adam a frugal car.
Honestly though, money should be among the last things on your mind if you buy an Adam. You could think of it as the cheapest among the stylish, lifestyle-driven hatchbacks from Europe like the Audi A1 or the Mini hatchback, but it’s a class below them in size — the Adam is actually meant to compete with cars like the Volkswagen Up! and Toyota Aygo, city runabouts that aren’t sold here.
What really makes it expensive for what it is is that, while it costs a few months’ typical wages in Germany, it costs a few years’ salary here.
That is the tax man’s fault more than Opel’s of course. The Adam is a likeable, head-turning and jolly car, but the fact remains that while it’s sometimes a lot of fun, its price tag isn’t funny.
NEED TO KNOW Opel Adam 1.4 Easytronic
Engine: 1,398cc 16-valve in-line four
Power: 86hp at 6000rpm
Torque: 130Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: 5-speed Easytronic transmission
Top speed: 178km/h (est.)
0-100km/h: 13.9 secs (est.)
Fuel consumption: 4.7L/100km
Price: $103,888 with COE