Vauxhall Adam Rocks Confusingly Charming.

Could there be a less convincing off-roader?

The Adam becomes the Adam Rocks through nothing more substantial than the addition of some cladding around the wheelarches, on the sides and at the front, giving a slightly beefier look, plus a 15mm increase in ride height and some accompanying adjustments to the suspension.

There are cosmetic skid plates front and rear, there’s been some tweaking of the chrome and matt black detailing. That’s it. This is not a criticism, just a note of caution: the Rocks is not designed to tackle rocks, and has no powertrain modifications to make it happier on mud, sand or snow. It’s a road car.

The roof, on the other hand, makes a big difference. It takes just a few seconds of pressing a button – just like a regular sunroof – for the roof over your head to slide backwards. It doesn’t go back as far as the 500C’s, leaving you with a good amount of protection from the wind, with no intrusion into the already very limited rear-passenger or luggage space.

No two the same

Throughout the Adam range, there are various options for easy personalisation, some of it at zero cost. There are few colour choices, few of them dull, and different ways to contrast the body from the roof and the door mirrors.

The options list also has a big concentration on ways of dividing up the boot or carrying stuff on the roof – essential when the boot is so small. You can change the bar holding the Vauxhall badge for one of a different colour. You can add zany stickers. You can choose an interior trim kit in 18 different colours. And there are various wheel designs, as well as a choice of diameter.

A bit of substance to go with the style

As small, low-powered cars go, the Adam Rocks is good fun. It’s not a performance car, but it responds well if you drive it relatively hard. There’s body roll and a sense that you’re pushing it outside its comfort zone.

It’s reasonably brisk around town, and happy boinging down twisty lanes on its soft suspension, and no trouble on motorways. But if you’re spending much time out of town, and if you don’t intend to drive with the roof open at every possible opportunity, you’ve bought the wrong car.

The Fiat 500 was here first, and its retro styling still looks fresh and neat. The Vauxhall is newer and more forward-looking. While not necessarily elegant, it’s certainly a bold piece of design work, and not for the shy.

We’ve talked a lot about style and image, but don’t get the impression that the Rocks is all about the looks. It’s no sports car, but it feels good to drive, and passengers love it (in the front, at least): the two-tone styling, the well-chosen materials, the good standard of fit and finish – it all adds up to a great environment. And when the sun comes out and you open the roof, all the positives get magnified.

The crucial question must be how it compares to the Fiat. It may not look it, but the Vauxhall is heavier than the 500, while also being more powerful, with a higher top speed and a quicker 0-62mph time. If you get the chance to test drive the two, you’ll find that the Vauxhall feels the more substantial of the two. It’s also way more expensive, though.

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