Deep Dive: Can Adam Save Opel?

The Opel Adam – once known as the Junior – is almost ready to take on the Fiat 500, the Citroen DS3, and the Audi A1. They could have offered the small Opel at a price below that of the tiny three-door Volkswagen Up!, but according to Nick Reilly, who ran Opel when project Junior kicked off, this would have been the wrong strategy. “A shortened Corsa marketed at cut-throat rates takes the brand exactly nowhere,” said Reilly who has since left General Motors. “After all, the entry-level segment is firmly in the hands of Chevrolet. That’s why we decided to position the new model as a generously equipped and attractively designed lifestyle object with a high-quality interior and plenty of scope for aftermarket customizing.”

A Premium Compact Offering

Options on the Adam are set to include advanced assistance systems as dynamic matrix headlamps, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, collision warning with brake activation, traffic sign recognition, active parking aid, and all the latest connectivity wizardries. One can choose between 25 different exterior colors (10 more than the compact Corsa on which the Adam is based), there is a variety of two-tone paint jobs to choose from, and Opel has even created three bespoke lifestyle-oriented trim packs known as Glam, Jam, and Slam. All versions feature large body-color bumpers, sculpted flanks without rub strips, alloy wheels, plenty of brightwork, and a new-style grille that is mounted low down for improved aerodynamics. Inside, the Adam looks as classy as a high-end Insignia (sold here as the Buick Regal), combining soft-touch plastics with piano black accents and special upholstery. Seats, instruments, center stack, and steering wheel are all unique to the Adam.

To be built in Eisenach, Germany on a dedicated €200 million ($250 million) assembly line, the Opel Adam is much more than a short-wheelbase Corsa. In addition to the totally restyled sheet metal and bespoke up-market cabin, the image-building new arrival already incorporates elements of the next-generation 2014 Corsa, codenamed S4500. With only two years of life left in the current Corsa platform, it made sense to combine old and new, thereby allowing the factory to quietly prepare for the major model change. While S4500 – which is also known as Global Gamma – has not been reengineered from scratch, it is between 88 and 143 pounds lighter thanks to the modular construction and to a more advanced material mix. U.S. customers will receive two cars based on the current Corsa’s Gamma platform next year – the Chevrolet Spark and the Buick Encore.

Measuring just 145.7 inches long, the Opel Adam is roughly a full foot shorter than the 157.5-inch three-door Corsa. Expected to weigh just under 1000 kilograms (2205 pounds), the good-looking runabout relies on the familiar blend of McPherson front suspension and twist-beam rear axle.

Power and Price

Unlike the 1983 Junior, 2001 Maxx, and 2004 Trixx concepts, the Adam is not a budget city car but a proper four-seater that promises to be roomy, refined, and relaxed enough to cover long distances. That’s why the small hatchback avoids the base engine from its donor car and is available with the 87- and 100-hp gas units we know from the Corsa when it launches early next year. Only twelve months later, however, the baby Opel switches to a brand-new 1.0-liter three-cylinder rated at 75 hp that will average 62.5 mpg on the European cycle; one step up will be a 105-hp 1.2-liter achieving 57.9 mpg. At least for the foreseeable future, there will be no diesel. In March of 2014, customers who would like to give their left foot a rest can opt for a six-speed dual-clutch transmission over the standard manual transmission.

Originally, GM Europe has planned to launch a BEV version in the summer of 2013, but now that electromobility is short-circuiting across the globe, the battery-powered Adam must first win the internal battle against the RAKe (also known as “My First Opel”) that may be driven with a scooter license that can be obtained at the age of 16. Also in the cards are a sporty Adam OPC edition and a pseudo-convertible with a fabric rollback roof. Prices for the cute little jewel car are said to start just under €11,000 ($14,000).

-Georg Kacher

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