John Redfern | March 2015
Since being introduced in 2013, Vauxhall has sold over 22,000 examples of the fashion-conscious Adam city-car in the UK. Now the time has come to add a quicker version to the range in the shape of this Grand Slam model.
Yes, that’s the real name for it here in the UK. Over in Europe it simply gets branded as the ‘Adam S’ and you’ll still find badges to that effect on the bottom of the C-pillar. However, we here get a slightly silly model name that keeps it in line with the rest of the Adam nomenclature. Vauxhall has seemingly resisted the urge to brand it a ‘VXR’ model, despite several references to the company’s performance arm.
There’s been a comprehensive mechanical overhaul, which we’ll cover later, but the most obvious change is the introduction of a bespoke VXR Styling Pack. With a front splitter, deeper side sills and raised rear spoiler, the Grand Slam has definite visual clout.
The exposed exhaust tailpipe in the extended rear bumper is a first for the Adam, as is the option of the so-called ‘Red ‘n’ Roll’ roof colour. In keeping with the rest of the Adam range, there’s a myriad array of colour combinations and options to personalise ‘your’ car with. Finally the 18-inch ‘Propeller’ alloy wheels with 225/35 R 18 tyres give the Grand Slam extra stance. It grandly looks, er, slammed. Oh! We get it now! We think.
What’s the Adam Grand Slam like to drive?
Better than you would ever imagine. Vauxhall has tuned the Adam Grand Slam to offer an impressive combination of pace, grip and dexterity.
The 1.4 litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine produces a useful 150hp: sufficient to propel the Grand Slam from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds. Given the car’s compact nature, acceleration is made even more vivid as it fires towards the horizon. In contrast to some turbo engines, it’s also quite happy to use the upper reaches of the rev counter without feeling too breathless, too.
A six-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission available, with a short-throw and positive shifting action. The ratios are well spaced to make use of the generous torque on offer, making mid-range acceleration particularly strong in the Grand Slam. You’ll be fooled into believing there’s a much bigger engine beneath the bonnet.
Uprated springs and dampers form part of the sports suspension, which results in a car able to tackle corners with genuine gusto. There’s reasonable feedback through the steering wheel – just don’t go expecting Lotus levels of communication.
Braking is very strong, with a setup borrowed from the previous generation Corsa VXR, including 304mm vented discs at the front and 264mm sized ones at the rear. The calipers are also painted red which, of course, means they have to be better than normal.
Perhaps the most outstanding thing about the Grand Slam is the way it rides. Typically you would expect a short-wheelbase car with sports suspension and big wheels to ride stiffly. Not so the Grand Slam. Vauxhall has tuned this car well, delivering a supple ride with no impact on cornering ability.
Is the Vauxhall Adam Grand Slam really a premium hatch?
Compare the Adam Grand Slam to the new Corsa, and you’ll see that inside Vauxhall has made it feel very much the MINI-rivalling upmarket little car – within reason.
For starters there’s a sporty three-spoke steering wheel wrapped in leather, aluminium-look pedals, tinted rear windows and unique dashboard trim. Adding to the premium environment in our test car was a pair of wonderful leather Recaro sports seats. However, at £1,610, they add almost 10% to the total price of the car!
Vauxhall has also thrown a long list of standard equipment at the Grand Slam, with electronic climate control, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control just some of the features fitted. There’s also the option of the IntelliLink system that allows easy connection of Apple and Android smartphones.
The biggest blocker to the Adam Grand Slam truly being considered a premium hatch is, unfortunately, the badge it wears. For many, the Vauxhall brand sadly won’t have enough cache to make them justify the relatively substantial outlay the Grand Slam requires.
VERDICT: 2015 Vauxhall Adam Grand Slam
The Adam Grand Slam causes us something of a dilemma. Beneath the styling enhancements and challenging name lurks a genuinely decent warm hatch. It plays all the performance parts well, from the responsive turbocharged engine, to strong brakes and grippy chassis. It’s a better driver’s car than most people would probably ever believe.
However, the list price pitches it at genuine hot-hatches from the bigger supermini class above, rather than just the Fiat 500 Abarth Vauxhall would like to see it do battle with. That becomes a much tougher fight for the Grand Slam, and one where outright performance, space, and image would see it lose out to its larger adversaries.
We wish Vauxhall could have found a way to carve more from the list price. As it stands now, it’s hard to imagine anyone but the most die-hard Griffin fan picking the Grand Slam over a Ford Fiesta ST or MINI Cooper S. Perhaps Vauxhall will be able to offer competitive finance deals to lure buyers in.
Vauxhall openly admits that it only expects to move a few hundred of the Grand Slam in the UK. Those brave enough to take the plunge will be left with an enjoyable, and rare, warm hatchback.
Rivals: 2015 Vauxhall Adam Grand Slam
- Fiat 500 Abarth
- MINI Cooper S
- Ford Fiesta ST
- Volkswagen Polo GTI
- Suzuki Swift Sport
On size alone the Fiat 500 Abarth is the most obvious competitor to the Adam Grand Slam, but undercuts it by over £2,000. However, the Abarth is becoming increasingly aged, and no amount of retro-chintz can disguise this. The Mini Cooper S is competent, but expensive with options added. Ford’s Fiesta ST is the darling of the supermini hot-hatch segment, though being best in class makes it somewhat ubiquitous. New on the scene is the keenly priced, but more mature VW Polo GTI, whilst the Suzuki Swift Sport offers cheap high-revving thrills.
Specification: 2015 Vauxhall Adam Grand Slam
Engine 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder
Gearbox Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Price from £16,995
Torque 162lb/ft (220Nm)
0-62mph 8.5 seconds
Top speed 124mph