There is no doubt that Opel is alive and defiantly on comeback trail to win back the hearts of South Africans. Once viewed as a brand that was more South African than German, the maker of icons such as the Kadett GSI, Monza GSI, Kadett GSI Superboss and Astra 200ts, fell on tough times with questions even being asked as to whether parent company General Motors (GM) would retain interest in the brand it bought in 1929.

Following a last minute pull-out to sell its famous blitz marque to a consortium of Russia’s Sberbank and Canadian auto parts supplier Magna some five years ago, GM’s renewed commitment began to show as numerous models started leaving assembly plants much to the joy of Opel loyalists.

Having succeeded in re-introducing the much vaunted Astra nameplate back into the market, Opel wasted little time in turning their attention to a segment that was rapidly gaining momentum thanks to the success of the Mini and later, the Fiat 500.

Dubbed by motoring scribes as the boutique hatchback segment, the main drawing card is all about style with the main clientele being young up-and-coming buyers who require a car that matches their personality, needs and make a bold statement.

Buoyed by the introduction of the Citroen DS3, Audi A1 and Alfa Romeo MiTo to the list of challengers, Opel’s entry comes in the form of the Adam, a trend-setting ‘game changer’ the German marque somewhat cheekily refers to as being anti-retro.

Named after its founder who started the company in 1862 as a maker of sewing machines, the Adam is not only Opel’s first entry into the segment, but also signals the marque’s intent of establishing itself as GM’s flagship brand. 

As it often happens, our test car turned out to be the range topping Glam model, although my first experience came in March with the mid-range Jam. Sporting the same I’ll Be Black paintjob, the Glam also featured a customised white logo bar across the grille, model’s specific 17-inch diamond cut Roulette alloy wheels, and a (optional) panoramic roof with the bars finished in white, or Saturday White Fever as Opel calls it.

Although not as customisable as the Jam in terms of bodykit and wheel size options, the Glam doesn’t deter from the fact that the Adam will warrant a second glance. Its looks are bang-on modern and youthful with the deep grille, jellybean-like headlights and standard LED-daytime running lights lending the impression that its main aim was is to be the centre of the attention.

Inside however, the Adam plays its biggest trump card with one of the most modern and beautifully trimmed interiors the segment has seen. As befitting its custom nature, the dashboard comes fitted with a slab of body colour plastic while the built quality is nothing short of the superb.

Taking pride of place, the seven-inch Intellilink touchscreen infotainment system not only looks smart and is a doddle to use, but also comes equipped with pre-loaded apps for Stitcher, TuneIn and BringGo navigation.

Used extensively during my tenure, the system also incorporates Bluetooth audio streaming that is supplemented by a single USB and Aux input located at the base of the facia in a neat storage area, which also doubles up as a cupholder.

Due to its flagship status, the Glam’s equipment levels are just as impressive with climate control, Park Assist with front and rear sensors, Xenon auto on/off headlights, rain sense wipers, leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel, City Mode Steering, auto lock/unlock doors, six airbags, ABS with EBD and ESP, Blind Spot Alert and Hill Start Assist.

By far and away the Adam’s biggest highlight is the engine. Displacing 999 cc but with aid of a turbocharger, the all-new three cylinder rates as one the best downsized units I have experienced son far.

Fitted with dual balancer shafts and producing 85 kW and 170 N.m of torque, the characteristic three pot thrum only becomes noticeable in the city but is virtually eliminated on the open road. Even more astonishing is the way it goes.

With the latter available from as low as 1 800 rpm, forward motion is rapid and could see you going faster than you might have expected. Top speed is a claimed 196 km/h with 0-100 km/h taking 10.0 sec. Combined fuel consumption is rated at 5.1 L/100 km.

Equally as impressive, the six-speed manual gearbox is not only slick, but also direct and the shift action crisp. Likewise, the ride remained comfortable despite the 17-inch wheels, and only became bumpy at low speeds and over really bad botched patches of tarmac.

Although some might grapple at the idea of Opel’s newly appointment premium marque status, there is no doubt that the Adam has made a huge step in realising this. Irrespective if which model you opt for, it is bound to make a statement unmatched by its more expensive and retro-opposition.