2013 Opel Adam quick spin

General Motors currently finds itself in the great position of having a lot of very good small cars in its US lineup. Less than a decade ago, the eight-branded automaker couldn't have enough trucks, SUVs and vans, but now it finds models like the Chevy Sonic and Cruze, Buick Encore and Verano, and Cadillac ATS (not a "small car" by definition, but the smallest for Caddy) garnering praise from the press and sales from consumers. Just across the Atlantic sits another great small car, the Opel Adam.

Now, Old GM would have likely done a rush, badge-engineering job (something in line with the Pontiac G3 or Saturn Astra), but the leaner, smarter New GM seems to be content with letting the Adam stay a European-only offering. Of course there's nowhere for the car to go, really. With Pontiac and Saturn gone, the Adam doesn't really fit into the Buick image and Chevy already has the Spark as its minicar. Even though sales of the Adam seem to be in a funk, this is a fun little hatchback that could put some real competition on style-driven cars like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper here in the States.

After spending time with the Opel Cascada last month (a convertible that seems to be destined for a Buick showroom at some point), I also got to drive the Adam, which, if you're wondering, gets its name from the founder of Opel, Adam Opel.

Driving Notes
  • In almost every aspect of the Adam, it was easy to be impressed with the high level of personalization the car offers; something like Scion meets Mini meets a Ford Mustang. It all starts with the exterior design. The two cars I had access to were styled quite differently. The blue car you see above was actually the more toned down of the two – even with its splotchy paint swathes on the A- and C-pillars and on the mirrors. Owners are also able to get colored covers on the wheel spokes, which I was told are easily interchangeable. If that's not enough, there are 12 exterior paint colors (including three roof colors) and 20 wheel options.
  • Inside, there are even more color/styling options to help buyers customize their Adam. My favorite thing about this car's interior was something I never thought I would like: the sky blue headliner with 64 LEDs. Having something so close to the similar star-lit headliner found in the Rolls-Royce Wraith feels like a premium accomplishment.
  • Two-tone color schemes are fairly commonplace inside today's flock of small cars and the Opel Adam is no different, but the surprising thing inside the hatchback is how upscale the cabin looked and felt right down to the leather interior and soft-touch dash. Sure, there was no center armrest for the front occupants, but this tester had heated front seats and steering wheel, parking sensors and GM's IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system
  • In addition to the Adam's personalization, I also found myself liking the car due to its design that lacks the 'cute factor' that you find on cars like the Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Mini Cooper. Instead, the Adam has a familial look that matches the Opel range. The shape of the front grille and headlights match other Opels, as does the signature hockey stick crease at the bottom of the door. Some of the more stylized elements of the Adam's design include the fish-hook-shaped crease around the door handle and the pinched molding atop the glasshouse.
  • Along with the options buyers have to choose from for the interior and exterior, there are also three powertrain choices. We had the middle-child 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder tuned to 87 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque, but this engine can also be had in a 100-hp variant. Buyers can also opt for the base 70-hp, 1.2-liter mill.
  • Even with a low 2,469-pound curb weight, you can't expect much from the Adam in terms of acceleration, and that is backed up by official 0-62 number of 12.5 seconds. Then again, this is no sports car, so its small stature and decent fuel economy (rated at 6.6 L/100 km or about 46 miles per gallon US in urban driving and as high as 4.2 L/100 km or about 56 US mpg in "ultra urban" driving) make it a great urban runabout. Despite its sluggish acceleration, the Adam is still a hoot to drive thanks in large part to its small size. On a long stretch of autobahn outside of Frankfurt, I was eventually able to crest 100 mph, but the fun factor was increased significantly on the twisty mountain roads.
  • In terms of its size, the Adam has about the same footprint as the Fiat 500, but it is slightly wider and lower. Despite its similar proportions as the Fiat, it was interesting to note that from behind the wheel the Adam felt much larger than its Italian rival, which is likely due to a longer hood and an interior that felt more spacious.
  • I wasn't given a pricing breakdown for all the various options, but this tester retailed for 17,600 euros – up from a base price of 11,500 euros (although not an apples-to-apples conversion, this would amount to a starting price of around $15,500 and an as-tested price of $24,000). In Germany, that starting price is comparable to a Fiat 500 and slightly less than a Volkswagen Polo.
  • After my short time with the Opel Adam, I felt as though it is a shame that US buyers will never have the opportunity to experience this car. It has the right amount of quirkiness, luxury and fuel efficiency to make it an attractive option in the growing small car market of the US. Somehow, the Adam comes off looking far less gimmicky than the Fiat and Mini, while being more intriguing than other small cars like the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa Note. Then again, there is always the possibility of the more crossover-ish Opel Adam Rocks coming to the US, as it could possibly make its case as a sub-Encore model in the Buick lineup.