What is it?
Vauxhall has in effect given its Adam city car the VXR treatment, adding a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine, a subtle bodykit and larger 18-inch alloy wheels to create what it’s calling the Grand Slam.
First seen in pre-production form at the Geneva motor show last year, this latest performance Vauxhall is claimed to be capable of reaching 62mph from rest in 8.5sec and has a top speed of 124mph. It’ll go on sale in the UK this March, priced from £16,995.
As well as the extra grunt from the engine – which delivers 50 per cent more power and 70 per cent more torque than the normally aspirated 1.4-litre unit already found in the Adam – Vauxhall has also dropped weight from the model, fitting a cast iron engine block, hollow-cast camshafts and a plastic intake manifold. The result is a kerb weight of 1178kg, which is still 58kg heavier than the Adam Slam.
The Grand Slam also receives uprated springs and dampers, and VXR brakes taken from the previous generation of Corsa VXR.
Vauxhall has pulled no punches in identifying its target, saying the Adam Grand Slam has its sights “firmly set” on Fiat’s 595 Turismo – but there’s also the excellent Fiesta ST to contend with.
Although the normal Adam has sold 125,000 units in Europe since its market introduction in 2013, Vauxhall is under no illusions that this range-topping Grand Slam model will be a niche choice, with sales forecast at just 750 units per year.
What’s it like?
Despite what may seem like modest changes made to the Adam, Vauxhall’s engineers have managed to turn this usually docile city car into a passable warm hatchback. It’s no Fiesta ST, sure, but the Adam Grand Slam is both engaging and enjoyable to drive.
On the mountain roads surrounding Lisbon in Portugal, the Grand Slam felt agile and sporty. The exhaust emits a psuedo-performance drone which is pleasing above 3000rpm, which just happens to be the sweet spot at which the newly turbocharged 1.4-litre engine comes into its own.
There’s no excess of horsepower here – remember, only 148bhp is on offer – but it’s delivered smoothly and precisely. The six-speed manual transmission takes some getting used to, but on the whole the combination works well.
Vauxhall engineers have retuned the standard Adam’s chassis and fitted uprated springs and dampers, so it’s perhaps no surprise to find that the Grand Slam handles well on a variety of road surfaces, while its steering is both light and accurate.
The powertrain responds well to hard inputs – this is an engine which likes to be pushed, it seems – with the result that this is a car which feels truly engaging, and especially so close to its limit. For the ultra-keen driver, the ESP system can also be turned off, but not entirely. There’s a ‘safety net’ system which keeps things in control.
For cruising about town, the Adam Grand Slam offers a well judged ride, which isn’t too firm, and a comfortable interior. Some of the material choices inside may be a little too stylistic for some, and there are still too many hard plastics in there for our liking, but the cabin does a good job of looking suitably sporting.
So too does the exterior. The larger 18-inch alloys, subtle bodykit and roof-mounted rear spoiler give the Adam Grand Slam a more aggressive look than that of the regular car while still maintaining Vauxhall’s chic styling.
Of course, some of our original niggles regarding the Adam are also present, most notably the cramped boot and rear bench.
Should I buy one?
Whichever way you look at it, the Grand Slam is up against some serious competition. Vauxhall has made it clear that it’s targetting the Abarth 595 Turismo, which gets 10bhp more from its 1.4-litre engine but costs almost a full £1000 more than the Adam Grand Slam and gets smaller 17-inch wheels to ride around on.
Both cars also face pressure from the admittedly larger Fiesta ST, a leviathan in all matters concerning hot hatchbacks. And the truth is that for many, the question of what performance hatch to buy will be answered by turning the key of the Fiesta.
That said, Vauxhall’s team appears to have filled its brief successfully in creating a performance version of the Adam. The idea of a city car which can also be genuinely fun to drive will appeal to many, and for fans of the Adam who are seeking more power, this is a no-brainer.
Vauxhall Adam Grand Slam
Price £16,995; Engine 4 cyls, 1364cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 148bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1178kg; Top speed 124mph; 0-62mph 8.5sec; Economy 57.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 20 per cent
What is it?