Good: standout looks, classy interior, terrific engine
Not so good: quite pricey, noisy even with roof up
Why do car manufacturers insist on doing this, taking a perfectly acceptable hatchback, throwing some plastic cladding at it, jacking up the suspension and selling it as a faux-off roader? Is it to appeal to that all important 'lifestyle' demographic - the ones who spend their weekends skiing or snowboarding - that all manufacturers seem to be after? Surely a car that was designed from the get-go to look like this would be a better option rather than one some marketing bod figured they could tart up to make some more money from.
I once got in quite a bit of trouble (an edict was sent from head office saying I was to be 'blacklisted') for suggesting that one of these cars was one of the worst vehicles I had ever driven and that buyers would be better off spending the price premium on speccing up the standard car. And yet, I quite like the Adam Rocks. It is still utterly pointless, possessing no more off-road ability than I do, but the styling works. You see, the standard Adam is a statement piece anyway; it favours form over function; it is a fashionable looking car that appeals to buyers who don't need practicality. Had Opel jacked-up the Corsa and thrown on the plastic cladding I would be lampooning it, but not so the Adam.
Admittedly there is perhaps too much going on along the flanks of our 'Red N' Roll' test car, what with the whole black-red-black-chrome-cream-black thing going on, but it is certainly a head-turning combination. Perhaps lay off the contrasting roof colour if you don't want every passer-by to get whiplash. Even with the standard roof the Adam Rocks is hardly a shy and retiring type; it comes with unique front and rear bumpers, side sills, a 15mm ride height extension and of course the plastic cladding separate it from the regular Adam resulting in, to these eyes, the best looking model in the range. The standard car can be a bit too demure for some so the Rocks additions should mean it appeals to more buyers.
And those buyers will get the same high quality interior as the buyers of the standard car. Everything in the cabin is logically laid out. The dashboard is beautifully designed, almost harking back to the original Audi TT, but with more panache and technology. Technology that is nearly all integrated into the IntelliLink touchscreen. From here you have control over the radio, Bluetooth and vehicle settings plus the satellite navigation/internet radio if paired with your smartphone, all presented on a seven-inch colour display with easy to navigate menus. Most of these controls are replicated on the multi-function steering wheel, which also houses toggles for the cruise control and speed limiter functions.
Despite the rise in ride height, the Adam Rocks does not lollop and roll through corners as you might expect. Things are very well contained in that department, though there is an inconsistent weighting to the steering that takes some time to get used to. Bring the wheel through anything more than a quarter turn (i.e. not an awful lot) and it weights up, which can make cornering 'interesting' to say the least. Thankfully, there is a handy 'City' button that takes all the weight out of the steering for easy use around town.
And the Adam Rocks is best at home in an urban environment where its small size makes it a doddle to manoeuvre, so parking is not a problem. It is also the best place to wind back the soft-top roof and enjoy some wind-in-the-hair driving. The roof is one of those new-fangled 'extended sunroof' jobs that leaves the car's pillars intact, which is a good thing as the boot space in the Adam is quite small as it is. The cloth could probably do with an extra layer or two of sound deadening though as even with it in place you are constantly reminded that you are driving a convertible such is the wind noise that rushes over it.
All that said the real star of the Adam Rocks party is the new turbocharged 1.0-litre engine. This is the same unit as used in the recently launched Corsa, but it feels most at home in the smaller car where its 115hp makes the Adam Rocks feel genuinely brisk while also providing a distinctive three-cylinder soundtrack. The flexibility of the engine, particularly in the low and middle parts of its rev range, are what really impress. It will happily pull from 50km/h in fifth gear without hesitation and climb hills without having to go searching for the correct gear. Can also be a bit of a giggle when the road ahead suits, allowing you to explore the upper end of the rev range.
The official fuel consumption figure is 5.1 litres/100km - largely the same as the 100hp 1.4-litre unit that is also available - but after a week in my stewardship I have only managed 7.4 litres/100km. It should be noted that, as I live in the hinterlands of Kildare, most of my driving is on the motorway; I suspect an urban commute, where the standard stop-start system would be employed more often, would see closer to Opel's figures.