DRIVING IMPRESSION: Opel Adam S
Ever since the hot hatchback craze of the early eighties, a lot of expectation and intrigue has surrounded the arrival of a new performance model wearing the famous Opel blitz badge for a number of reasons.
Whether for their rarity, performance or even affordability, versions of the Kadett GTE, eight-valve Kadett GSi and unique-to-South Africa Kadett GSi Turbo, to the motorsport derived Kadett GSi Superboss and power-crazed Kadett 200 TS have gone to reach near iconic status on our shores, with the lineage continuing today in the form of Astra and Corsa derivatives brandishing the Opel Performance Centre (OPC) badge.
Although an OPC version of the recently unveiled sixth-generation Astra is yet to be commissioned, and the hot Corsa so far being limited to Europe, parent company General Motors, now more committed to one of its oldest marques than ever, took the first step in bringing fun and excitement back when it launched the Corsa Sport in August last year.
Seven-months down the line, the Russelsheim-based automaker has stepped its game up another notch by transplanting some of that car’s DNA into its smallest model, the Adam.
With an average of 120 units having left dealership floors last year, the Adam, named after the man who founded Opel as a maker of sewing machines in 1862, has proved to be a runaway success in the so-called boutique hatch segment, regularly outselling its biggest competition from Audi [A1], Mini and Fiat .
Likely spurred on by each offering a performance version; S1, Cooper S and 500 Abarth, Opel has responded by injecting its smallest model with a cocktail of steroids and supplements to create the new Adam S.
Slotting in above the off-road inspired Rocks as the new flagship model, the limited-run S is a departure from the standard’s Adam somewhat cutesy and chic appearance, in favour of a more striking and masculine look that manages to be sporty and tasteful without trying too hard.
To this end, the S features the same Xtreme body style as the mid-spec Adam Jam, but with a deeper front airdam, honeycomb grille, model-specific side skirts, chrome logo bar, roof-mounted spoiler that is claimed to generate 100 Newtons of downforce, a slightly wider front and rear track, as well as a chrome tipped oval exhaust outlet.
Topping the looks off, the S, finished here in a colour Opel refers to as Red ‘n Roll with the roof, spoiler and mirrors finished in matte grey, comes fitted with a set of racy looking 18-inch Propeller alloy wheels wrapped in 225/38 section Continental SportContact rubber, and ominous looking red front brake callipers that provides a further clue to this car’s intention.
Fitting in with its exterior, the S’ interior takes a slightly different approach by being more on what can be described as the flamboyant side thanks to the fitment of Opel’s somewhat oddly titled Red Your Engine décor pack, which consists of red stitching on the doors, steering wheel and gear lever, leather steering wheel with the bottom half finished in red, red gearknob and red detailing on the handbrake.
An opinion splitter it be, there is little to fault the S’ fit-and-finish with extensive use of soft touch plastics on the dash, body matching grey plastic insert with special ‘S’ detailing on the facia, piano-key black finish around the now familiar and still intuitive seven-inch Intellilink touchscreen display, and chrome finishes on the steering wheel and on the door handles.
Completing the Adam’s newfound sportiness, the S also comes fitted with a pair of Recaro sports bucket seats trimmed in hard-wearing Moroccana fabric, and drilled aluminium pedals.
Despite its go-faster paraphernalia, Opel has not skimmed on luxury with the S featuring climate control, cruise control, the aforementioned Intellilink system with six-speakers and Bluetooth as well as Aux input and USB, traction control, auto on/off lights, rain sense wipers, height-adjustable steering wheel, electric windows and mirrors, Advanced Park Assist with front and rear sensors, Blind Sport Detection, six airbags and ABS with EBD as well as BAS.
What sets the Adam S apart from lesser siblings though is when you drop the clutch and punch the accelerator. Replacing the acclaimed 1.0-litre three cylinder turbocharged EcoFLEX engine, the S uses the same 1.4-litre SGE (Small Gasoline Engine) blown four as the Corsa Sport, which produces 110 kW and 220 N.m of torque.
Although seemingly down on power compared to its rivals on paper, the combination of a snappy six-speed manual gearbox, revised suspension and unladen mass of 1.1 tons, makes for truly staggering performance.
About as responsive as you could wish, the S exhibits virtually no turbo lag from the get-go and continues gaining momentum with absolute aplomb as you bang-in another gear. Just as quick as it goes from 0-100 km/h (Opel claims 8.5 secs although it feels much faster), the S’ stoppers are lifted straight from the previous generation Corsa OPC, and provides frankly astonishing power when going from 100-0 km/h.
As supportive and comfy those Recaro’s are, there is no escaping that the fact that the ride ventures on the firm side thanks to the low-profile rubber and sports suspension. That said, the feel is not of the rock hard type and will most likely become a custom over time.
Taking on a wet Van Stadens Pass just before its seven day stay ended, the S felt nimble and agile with the steering providing good levels of feedback and those Recaros keeping you in tight with each corner change.
The S badge might not have the same cache as GSi or OPC, it would be unfair to ignore the talents of Opel’s hottest Adam based on its initial market placing. With only 50 units allocated for South Africa and its performance worthy of hot hatch status, the Adam S is a proud addition to the lineage of fast blitzes.
|ENGINE LAYOUT||DOHC 16v Inline 4 Turbo|
|MAX POWER||110 kW @5000 rpm|
|MAX TORQUE||220 N.m @3000-4000 rpm|
|DRIVE LAYOUT||Front engine; Front-wheel drive|
|ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H]||8.5 secs|
|TOP SPEED||220 km/h|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION||5.9 L/100 km|
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