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Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air – Driven and Reviewed

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The Adam’s been a huge success for Vauxhall since its release in 2012 and has sold especially well here in the UK. A huge part of the car’s modus operandi was based on personalisation, with over 1 million combinations of options apparently available. This thrust it into the highly competitive area of the market that’s also occupied by the ubiquitous MINI and Fiat’s 500. Brave move.

A Little Fact

Here’s a little Vauxhall Adam based fact for you; it’s the only model in the current Vauxhall range that doesn’t end in the letter ‘A’. Feel free to use that the next time you’re on a first date or you really want to impress your mates down the pub. Alphabet based nuggets of information aside though, what is this new version – the Adam Rocks Air all about?

 

vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_sunroofRocks Air?

This Rocks Air is a quasi-SUV version of the Adam, complete with a little rise in ride height (15mm) and some rufty-tufty bits of plastic splashed liberally about the place. That explains the ‘Rocks’ part of the new title then, but what is the ‘Air’ bit all about? It’ll come as no surprise that it refers to the full length fabric sunroof that every Adam Rocks comes with. Don’t worry if you didn’t really want a soft-top though; it doesn’t impede rear visibility when it’s folded back like some similar models do, and the added noise it creates is barely detectable.

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They might only be for show, but I feel that the visual additions to the Adam Rocks really set it apart from the base model and give it far more road presence. I’m not sure what the extra 15mm ride height will achieve in terms of off-road ability, but where the Adam could get lost in a crowd, the Adam Rocks stands out, especially with the 18” ‘Twister’ wheels that our test car was shod with.

vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_door_handleRide Quality

These enhanced looks do come at something of a price though, and I don’t just mean financially. The whole setup has been adjusted and tuned to accommodate the loftier height and it’s left the Adam Rocks jittery on uneven surfaces; any bumps and potholes are felt throughout the whole car, irrespective of which wheel encountered them.

This particular Adam Rocks is powered by the same 1.0l, three-cylinder engine that so impressed us in the New Corsa recently, proving to be competent and refined in equal measures. It works just as well in the smaller Adam, as you’d expect, and when it comes down to triple-cylinder units that are so de rigueur at the moment, it really puts Vauxhall up there with the best.

vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_goldIt combines the best qualities of a three cylinder engine – decent economy and bags of character, with a useable torque curve and just enough restraint in the sound department to not be intrusive. Plus, it gets this Adam Rocks Air to the 60mph mark in a not-too-shabby 9.9 seconds

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Simply press the Griffin, et voila…..

Luxurious Touches

Vauxhall as a brand aren’t really renowned for their luxurious little touches but that’s precisely what’s so satisfying about the Adam range as a whole.

Take, for example, the exterior boot release; not an element I usually get over-excited about but I feel it deserves special mention in this case. There isn’t a button or lever as such, one simply presses the boot’s entire Griffin badge and the bodywork depresses slightly, opening the boot.

Some of the prettiest dials I've encountered

Some of the prettiest dials I’ve encountered

The basic design and materials in the cabin are satisfying both in terms of aesthetics and quality. The rubber-look eye level plastics, user-friendly Intellilink infotainment system (£275 option) and large, circular air vents put the Adam Rocks ahead of much of the competition, but it’s the fabulous dials that seem to take inspiration from both the aviation and nautical world that pleased me most. A tiny spotlight glows behind the dials, following wherever the needles go, and when the stop/start kicks in, the tachometer needle doesn’t just drop to zero like most cars – it goes to an ‘Auto Stop’ position, leaving ‘Stop’ solely for when the ignition’s turned off. It’s these little touches that add an ‘air’ (excuse the pun) of exclusivity.

vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_interiorAt What Price Though?

The Adam Rocks Air’s premium look and feel does come with a premium price tag however; this exact car would set you back a whopping £20,335. It doesn’t have to be this way though; even with this highly desirable engine option that does suit the car so, the basic price is a far more reasonable £16,695. Or, if it’s just the show you’re after and the go element isn’t a priority, you can spec your Adam Rocks with their 1.2l unit, dropping the base price to £14,695.

There’s obvious flair, and equal amounts of care that’ve been put into the Adam Rocks Air’s design – both inside and out; show some restraint with the options list and you can end up with something that’s got enough taste and refinement to put any MINI to shame.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air, 1.0l 12v Direct Injection Turbo , Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 115PS, Torque – 170Nm, Emissions – 119g/km CO2, Economy – 55.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 121mph, Acceleration – 9.9s 0-62mph, Price – £16,695 OTR, £20,335 as tested

For full details, go to; http://www.vauxhall.co.uk/vehicles/vauxhall-range/cars/adam-rocks-air/overview.html

Fiat Panda TwinAir – Driven and Reviewed

Fiat Panda TwinAir frontFour cylinder engines are just soooooo unfashionable these days you know, many people wouldn’t be seen dead in one. With many manufacturers offering a three cylinder in their range, Fiat have decided to go one step further with their ecotastic offering and have lopped another cylinder off, leaving us with their somewhat diminutive 0.9l TwinAir unit, as found in our test car – this rather natty looking Panda in (2wd) range-topping Lounge spec.

Fiat Panda side and frontThe Panda is one of those cars that doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to look good, it’s no retro pastiche, nor is it splattered with graphics and wild colours, it just is. Square was undoubtedly the order of the day when it came down to designing just about every element of the body, and the interior, and the dashboard. In fact, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a Fiat designer somewhere, left haunted and frustrated by his failure to reinvent the wheel – these conventional round  ones just clash with the rest of the car.

Fiat Panda side and rearNow in its third generation, the Panda is  looking more substantial and altogether more grown-up than the last version, especially in this optional, sensible colour and Lounge spec with 15” alloys and chunky side mouldings to add some interest to the fairly flat sides. It may appeal to me but I can see how the boxy shape might not be everyone’s cup of espresso – take the side and rear windows out and you’re left with Postman Patrizio’s van. Use the Panda for a while, though, and you’ll grow to love the practicality of the whole thing; parking just doesn’t get any easier than when you can see all four corners, and that square loading area will carry more than you’d warrant – especially with the rear seat folded down.

Love the quirky nature of the cabin - not to sure about that foot-rest though!

Love the quirky nature of the cabin – not too sure about that foot-rest though!

Car interiors are increasingly hard to tell from one model to the next – it makes financial sense to design one cabin and then modify the shape and size for every car in the fleet. It’s nice to see, then, that the Panda’s living space is so bespoke, even down to the eye-level plastics that have the letters P, A, N and D imprinted onto them, albeit on a very small-scale; details like that impress me – I know, it’s not hard. The commitment to avoiding anything circular continues to the point of obsession in here, too. Again, the way Fiat have made new knobs and dials shows a devotion to the Panda brand – possibly best exemplified by the 1cm²  plastic trim pieces used to cover up those oh-so-unsightly speedo and rev-counter needle hubs – yep, you guessed it – square.

Fiat Panda rearThat lofty image comes into its own again when the subject of passenger comfort comes into account. The headroom is enough for anyone up to about 6’3”, and that’s not just in the front seats. The only aspect of driving the Panda that I did find uncomfortable was the way the transmission tunnel impinged onto my left knee; I’m guessing that something was lost in translation when moving the pedals from LHD to RHD as, without actually surgically removing my left foot, there’s no way I was going to plonk it on the foot rest – that could grow tiresome on a long motorway schlep.

Look closely......

Look closely……

But what about that engine? Well, this is surely the best part of an already fairly impressive car. The claimed 67.3mpg might not be achievable in the real world, but what’s undoubtedly true is that it slips in just below that magical 100g/km mark for CO2 emissions. This obviously means that, for now at least, the government won’t be taking one single penny for the privilege of using this particular Panda on our roads – how great is that?

0.9l engine fills the bay more than you might expect

0.9l engine fills the bay more than you might expect

Free road tax aside, just how satisfying can a car be with less than one litre of engine capacity providing propulsion? The original Panda was graced with many engines around this size, some of them even being closer to 0.5 litres, but you doubled the car’s kerb weight if you left the handbook in the glovebox, so it got away with it. This car is by no means built from girders but by the very nature of modern cars, it weighs substantially more than the original. Thankfully though, as weight has gone up, so has the efficiency and performance of engines, and this turbocharged unit develops a not-too-shabby 85hp. On the road, there’s very little lag and the power feels adequate, to the point of being quite good fun, even propelling the TwinAir to 60mph in a little over 11 seconds. One aspect of this little engine that was probably accidental, but that I feel deserves special mention nonetheless, is the great ‘putt-putt’ noise it makes. Anyone who ever stuck an ice-lolly stick in the spokes of their bike recognise the sound of this Panda, although my daughter was adamant it sounded ‘like a race-car’. Either way – it’s a great noise, even if it wasn’t entirely intentional.

5 seats and the ability to split them is a £50 option - make sure you tick it

5 seats and the ability to split them is a £50 option – make sure you tick it

Now, there’s a button on the dash marked ‘Eco’, and I’m kinda guessing that if you’re the type of person who’s attracted to the frugal nature of the TwinAir Panda, you’d be tempted to press this button and gaffer tape over it to prevent any possible deactivation. To these people, I say ‘Don’t!’. Yes, it does decrease the performance of the engine, thereby giving you a few more mpg, but sometimes a bit of fun is more important than saving money (or the planet for that matter), and the way this amazing little engine is strangled by the effects of the Eco button is a real shame. The ‘shift up’ display can be a little optimistic regarding the engine’s available torque at the best of times, but in Eco mode it can feel laboured to the point of irritation. If you absolutely have to use it for you conscience to allow you to sleep at night, it’s effects are least noticeable at motorway speeds, so use it there.

A few more squares

A few more squares

To conclude then, the Panda’s popularity is impossible to question, with over 2m units having been shifted already. It’s hugely practical and I think it’s cool, in an understated way, and adding this great little two-cylinder engine to the range can only add to the appeal.

By Ben Harrington

 

Specifications; Fiat Panda TwinAir Lounge, Engine 0.9l petrol two-cylinder 5 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 145NM, Emissions – 99g/km CO2, Economy – 67.3mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 110 mph, Acceleration – 11.2s 0-62mph, Price – £11,295 OTR, £12,195 as tested.

For full details, go to http://www.fiat.co.uk/uk/new-panda

 

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