Review and road test of the Vauxhall ADAM ROCKS / ROCKS AIR (2014 - 2018)
ROCK & SOUL
By Jonathan Crouch
The name's certainly unusual - and so, for Vauxhall, was the approach with this unusual small car contender. Back in 2014 with this ADAM ROCKS AIR model, the brand brought us a car that didn't take itself too seriously - the perfect antidote perhaps, to an ordinary everyday supermini. With jacked-up body styling and a sliding soft top roof, this car tapped into the small Crossover market and was at its best in turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol guise. It's a rare but very interesting find for the fashion-orientated small car buyer that's worth seeking out.
3dr Hatch [1.0, 1.4 petrol]
Once you you've got a small, trendy little car, there are all kinds of ways you can develop it. Look, for example, at all the derivations we see of models like the MINI and the Fiat 500. Fashion, it seems, has many forms - and here's one of them. The ADAM was the car that in 2013 launched Vauxhall into competition with models like the two we've just mentioned. In the ADAM's trendy 'ROCKS' and 'ROCKS AIR' guises, launched in 2014, the plan was to broaden its appeal.
By this period, the MINI and the Fiat 500 had already shown how the basic concept for a stylish urban runabout of this kind could be adapted to create either a convertible or a small 'SUV'-style Crossover. In 'ROCKS' the ADAM became slightly SUV-like and in 'ROCKS AIR' guise, it ambitiously aimed to combine both the Crossover and Convertible genres in one stylish little package. Since, back in 2014, there had never been anything quite like this before, Vauxhall coined a new name for the niche it then believed this car represented - that of the 'CUV' - or 'Compact Utility Vehicle'.
In both its guises, the ADAM ROCKS was aimed at trendy folk needing a small car but not wanting a boring supermini. People finding it difficult to choose between a fashion-conscious MINI-style runabout, a 'lifestyle'-orientated Nissan Juke-style small Crossover or one of the cheaper little convertibles. On the used market, as with the new market, they might like the way that this Vauxhall brings all these attributes together.
Those buyers that do will certainly be individualists - people prepared to try something new who don't mind paying a little more for the privilege of doing so. Vauxhall hopes that they'll find the ADAM ROCKS and ROCKS AIR models to be fresh and different. But then they need to be for the kind of money being asked here. Both models sold until 2018 and were discontinued a year before the ordinary ADAM left the sales lists at the end of 2019.
What You Get
We're now used to seeing little Nissan Juke-style Crossover-class vehicles based on 'B'-segment Superminis but the ADAM ROCKS, we were told by Vauxhall back in 2014, was the very first Crossover to be based on a smaller 'A'-segment citycar. In this niche model, the Griffin brand brought us an ADAM that was taller, wider and tougher than its ordinary stablemates. Mild attempts at the lifestyle-orientated 'SUV-ness' demanded from this type of design were delivered by the front and rear silver skidplates provided to draw attention to a ride height that has been raised by 15mm.
You'll want to know about the opening top, which, as with cars like Fiat's 500C and Citroen's DS3 Cabrio, is really more of a giant sunroof than any sort of proper convertible arrangement. That arrangement has the other advantage of not impinging upon access to the boot - or the space that lies within it. Which is just as well, for the 170-litre total this Vauxhall offers is a little less than what's available from the models we've just mentioned and is accessible only over quite a high loading lip. Up-front, the designers made some effort to give this ROCKS AIR model a bit of its own distinctive character, with the main instrument cluster, the seat and door panel colours and various other trim elements all unique to this derivative.
The clean overall design is complemented by a centre console proving that GM designers from this period really could do this kind of thing in a smart, concise and easy-to-use form. Instead of the rows of complicated little dials and knobs you get on a Corsa, an Astra or an Insignia from this period, there's a simple, easy-to-grasp layout that most original buyers want to dominate with the optional 7-inch LCD colour Intellilink infotainment system you'll find fitted to most used models.
What to Look For
We found plenty of satisfied ADAM ROCKS AIR customers, but inevitably, there were some who had issues. One owner had an issue with the windscreen wipers colliding and other problems with the thermostat, the water pump and the ignition coil. Another owner had electrical problems caused by a faulty ECU. On another car, the front passenger seat wouldn't fold forward. In another case, the fuel gauge was faulty. Make sure the Intellilink infotainment screen (if fitted) works thoroughly and connects to your 'phone properly. The lighter fabric colours show stains easily. Otherwise, it's the usual things; insist on a fully stamped-up service history. Check the alloys carefully for parking scrapes. And examine the interior plastics for signs of general child abuse.
There were a few recalls you'll need to be aware of. On cars made between February and September 2014, the steering intermediate shaft could break and the 18-inch alloy wheels could crack after 62,000 miles. On cars made between June and July 2015, the steering rack may crack. On cars made between June 2014 and September 2015, the lower control arm may not have been assembled correctly and might become loose. There was an additional recall for steering racks on cars assembled between October 2014 and January 2015, this time because the steering gear might break under excessive force when manoeuvring at low speeds. The handbrake might disengage on ADAMs built between June 2016 and January 2017. And finally, the sunroof glass may come unstuck over time and require rectification. Make sure that any recall affecting the model you're looking at has been actioned - and ask for service book evidence of the fact.
(approx based on a 2014 ADAM ROCKS AIR 1.4 - Ex Vat) An air filter costs around £4-£12. Front brake discs cost in the £37 to £48 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £16 to £52 bracket for a set. Wiper blades cost £10-£15. A radiator can be had for around £95-£110. An oil filter costs in the £4 to £10 bracket. A water pump typically costs in the £21-£50 bracket but can cost up to around £80. A thermostat can cost as little as around £12 but is typically in the £40-£50 bracket. Front shock absorbers are typically around £53 but can cost up to around £95.
On the Road
You probably won't be surprised to hear that there was no 4WD option offered with this model - but then few small Crossovers offer that. Many though, would quite happily take on a light forest trail in clement weather, the kind of terrain you'd feel a bit ridiculous tackling in this Vauxhall. Better then, to use its raised ride height to tackle the speed humps, pot holes and traffic jams of urban life. The ROCKS AIR is certainly well suited to this kind of environment, with a tight turning circle and this useful dash-mounted 'CITY' button that lightens the steering for low speed manoeuvring that on original cars could be further aided by an optional automatic parking system.
If things should snarl up, you've the pleasure of opening yourself to the elements by using the provided roof-mounted button to retract this car's electric folding canvas top, a process that takes just 7 seconds. On to engines - where the advice is simple. If you can afford to stretch to a version fitted with the 1.0-litre ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo three cylinder petrol powerplant, then for goodness sake do so. It's just so much better than the other engines Vauxhall offered in this car, both also petrol units but firmly old-tech. With those, there's a choice of either a 70PS 1.2i unit that makes 62mph from rest in a lengthy 14.9s en route to 103mph. Or an 87PS 1.4i option that improves those figures to 12.5s and 109mph.
Perhaps at times we're all guilty of over-analysing our purchases - of taking things a little too seriously. Here, in contrast, is a car that's a perfect antidote to this tendency. Nobody actually needs a fashionable small runabout with 'Crossovery' SUV-style looks and an open-top roof but hey, you'd like one wouldn't you?
It isn't the most practical, the most efficient or in any way the most sensible used car choice you could make on a premium small car budget. But then life's serious enough as it is. If we all bought on rational grounds, we'd probably all be driving Volkswagen Golfs. Here's a car that celebrates a little irrationality. More power to it.
Vauxhall ADAM ROCKS / ROCKS AIR (2014 - 2018) review by Jonathan Crouch