Monday, 13 May 2013

The Opel Adam and its place among city cars

Having had the chance to examine the new Opel Adam at close quarters, I must say I find it lacking. Though at first sight (especially in maroon with a white roof) it looks funky, contemporary and urban-cool, the more thought I give the car the more I see it as a belated effort to enter a market that's long been carved up. By the Mini (at the premium end), the Fiat 500 (in the middle), with the Toyota Aygo and its French clones, the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107 (at the lower end).

One thing really disappoints - the Opel Adam's fuel economy around town. This is a car designed for urban traffic, so the urban economy figures are the ones that really count. And what do we get driving around town in the 1.2-litre Opel Adam? A pathetic 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres. That's worse than what my dear old 1993 Nissan Micra was turning in when I was still driving to work every day (a very creditable 6.6l/100km). In other words, 20 years of technological advance - and here's a brand new car that officially owns up to delivering early-1990s style fuel economy.

Compare with the must frugal of Fiat 500s, the TwinAir version. This one burns 4.7 litres for every 100km of traffic jam. The Toyota Aygo, which is a much cheaper - and indeed less trendy - little car, burns 5.1 litres per 100km around town. But the champion when it comes to miserliness in urban driving is the three-door, 1.1 litre, diesel-engined version of the Kia Rio, which sips a mere 3.5 litres for the same distance (100km = 62 miles) - and 3.0 litres on the open road. Now that's impressive. It goes twice as far around town as the brand new Opel Adam's most frugal version.

The cost of getting it wrong in this market is huge. Fiat 500s are flying off the production line in Tychy, southern Poland. So much so, that even after Fiat, bending to populist pressures back home, moved the manufacture of the new Panda to Italy causing big lay-offs in Tychy, many of those laid off have been taken on again and the factory's working weekend shifts again - because of demand for the 500. At the other end of the spectrum, Toyota's oddball (and ludicrously priced) iQ continues to be a rare sight on Poland's roads.

The new Volkswagen Up! and its brethren, the Skoda CityGo and Seat Miii are just too boxy and utilitarian; the original Ford Ka and Renault Twingo (pron. Twango) were both far nicer and more original than their replacements, the Hyundai i10 is plain ugly.

The dear sweet Mini has won a strong share of the premium city-car market; it is desirable (unlike the upmarket Smart or the iQ) and there are now plenty of used examples to be seen on Warsaw's ulice and aleje. The Mini range is ever expanding, new variants continue to pop up, but the classic Mini Cooper (in British Racing Green or burgundy with white roof, or off-white with black roof ) is remains the ultimate in urban motoring chic. The Mini is chic because it has heritage; the original Mini won Monte Carlo Rallies, it was driven by pop stars and proletarians, and was in continuous production for over 40 years. The new Mini has already been in production for nearly a third of that period. And a diesel-engined Mini will consume 4.2 litres of fuel around town. That's four-point-two, as opposed to seven-point-one. [Official UK government figures]. Having said that, I'm none too keen on the Mini Countryman. If this is a Mini, it hangs down below the knees.

Back to the Adam Opel. If the car's styling appeals to the inner hipster in you, it may be worth waiting a year or two until it gets equipped with a more modern engine. Until then, it's a display of the contemporary aesthetic - but it's carting around, and carted around by - a rather ancient power unit. The Fiat 500 runs rings around it.

Think twice - and then some more - before buying a new car. Best to stick with a quarterly travel card (for Warsaw at least) - for 250 złotys (around fifty quid), this is the best way to get around town. Hop off the bus, Metro or tram outside the office - and don't worry about finding a parking spot - or paying for it. Or filling up the car every fortnight. Or insuring and servicing it annually. Take a taxi when needed, or hire a car. But spending your own money to buy a car is the worst waste of money you will ever make in your life.

Unless you buy a Morgan, but that, dear readers, is another story altogether!

This time last year:
Biblical sky

This time three years ago:
Travel broadens the spirit

This time six years ago:
On the farm next door

1 comment:

student SGH said...

Hi Michael,

big apologies for the delay, was again too preoccupied with other stuff - time to catch up has come...

Opel Adam - doesn't enchant me with design, at first sight I found it unsightly, now I put up with its shape and all add-ons that make it funky. Not my style, not my kind though...

Fuel economy... Consumption declared in producers' catalogues (despite being governed by EU strict guidelines) is one story, real vehicle's appetite for fuel is the other story. Deviations between what is declared and how much the car gobbles up are rising. I gather 7.1 litres is your actual result. This is just 1 litre fewer than my 1.6-litre 10-year-old Megane. Not a breakthrough...

Have you checked how much Fiat 500 really consumes. I don't really believe in what carmakers try to tell, seeing is believing.

Kia Rio - 1.1 diesel - but what's the price you must pay up-front to start saving on fuel? How many kilometres do you have to cover to break even in comparison to petrol-run version?

Mini - small size, big price, you pay for the brand, not my kind...

Let's face it - a car is not an asset, but a liability - except for vintage cars (exception that proves the rule) each car will only depreciate, you have to have it serviced once a year, pay insurance premiums, repair it from time to time (PS. wipers fixed, new transmission works like a dream, total cost of repair: 335 PLN (dirt cheap) and a load off my mind).

Most people actually need a car often enough to prove your advice cost-ineffective. If you live in Warsaw and have a decent transport links, keeping a car, especially if you don't have a garage for it, make little sense. Thinking of myself - some two or three times a month I unexpectedly knock off between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and after spending 11 hours at work I wouldn't be really happy to return home by 709 bus or wait up to an hour for a train. Taking a taxi means paying for two or three such trips (I wouldn't get reimbursement) almost an equivalent of what I spend on petrol each month. And wait - why filling up once in a fortnight. I last filled up my car on 8 April, since then I drove 570 kilometres - there are months when I don't visit a petrol station - you should use cars wise, when necessary and avoid driving short distances - 5 km is a bare minimum for me to take a car.