In an affluent, but quirky, market segment where the iconic Fiat 500C has ruled the roost for a number of years, the launch of the equally fashionable Opel Adam Rocks is set to change buying patterns quite dramatically. For starters, the Adam Rocks brings robust German build quality to the party, while the Fiat is, well, Italian.
Launched recently to the media in Johannesburg (where altitude sucks 17% off the power band on non turbo-enhanced cars) the Adam Rocks is propelled by an 85-kW/170 Nm 3-cylinder petrol engine which, to the surprise of most media members, felt capable of outperforming larger 4-cylinder units.
It is a gem of an engine with its characteristic gruff 3-cylinder sound that is claimed to use only five litres of fuel every 100 kilometres. Even the emissions count, at 115 gm/km, dips under the tax radar of 125 gm.
The shortish (100 km) launch drive was an eye-opener in that handling, steering and predictable braking were all of a high standard. The 6-speed gearbox has well chosen ratios, but the diminutive size of the engine precluded any party tricks such as starting in second gear. However, why do it at all, when the smooth shifting manual system is a joy to use?
On the downside, the ride felt somewhat firm and even harsh but this is the price you tend to pay for good road holding and safe handling.
However, the interior lets the Rocks stand out. Metal pedals have rubber studs, there’s a thick-rimmed steering wheel, as well as height-adjustable driver’s seat, height and reach adjustable steering, power windows, cruise control and a split/foldable rear seat.
Seating at the rear is somewhat limited, but shorter persons should be able to fit in with reasonably legroom on offer. The two-door design of the Rocks, however, makes getting in and out of the car a tricky event for rear seat passengers.
The brilliant, high-resolution 7″ touchscreen, likewise, deserves special mention since it syncs with the user’s smartphone, and advanced park assist – a feature normally found on significantly more expensive cars. Also standard is side blind spot alert, a full 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating, and seven airbags.
Clearly then, the Rocks is aimed at fashion conscious young couples who will appreciate the ability to personalise their car so that it will be unlike any other Rocks while, at the same time, making a powerful, outdoorsy statement when driving with the swing top canvas roof open.
That the Adam Rocks is way beyond mundane and is aimed firmly at a young, well educated and ambitious market segment is further illustrated by disc brakes all round, attractive 18″ alloy wheels, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, hill side assist, and even a tyre pressure monitoring system. The brakes are of the ABS and EBD variety, and the fuel tank only holds a very modest 35 litres. Do not despair, since this is good enough for a 700 km range when driven sensibly. There’s no spare wheel, but an inflator kit is provided (for what it’s worth in our conditions).
Retailing at a recommended R273,400 – only R2,000 more than the asking price for a Fiat 500C – the Adam Rocks carries a 5-year/120,000 km warranty, a 3-year/60,000 km service plan, and service intervals of 15,000 kilometres.
The Opel Adam Rocks, of which only 150 units will be imported initially, has the potential to be snapped up by semi-affluent young buyers who relish the idea of owning a mini-CUV (Cross Utility Vehicle). It offers the freedom of open air driving, personalisation, a great Infinity sound system, and a tough and masculine appearance that many buyers should find irresistible.
Report by BERNARD HELLBERG SR | Images © OPEL SOUTH AFRICA