Compact Fun: Cadillac’s Athletic CT4

It has its faults, but Caddy's entry model is a blast to drive.

A couple of “Wow, didn’t know that” factoids about Cadillac’s first-rung-on-the-ladder CT4 sedan.

For starters, it rides on pretty much the same chassis, or platform, as Chevy’s muscley Camaro two-door coupe and convertible.

Yep, there’s a little bit of Camaro in every CT4. Elvis, who loved his Cadillacs, would have been proud. Or maybe not.

Less impressive, and definitely not in keeping with Cadillac’s old “Standard of the World” slogan, is the fact that the engine powering our test CT4 is the same motor you get in a Chevy Silverado pick-up truck.

A Caddy with a pick-up truck engine? Not something you’d boast about to the neighbors.

And, alas, there were times during my week behind the CT4’s leather-wrapped wheel that I was left in no doubt that there was indeed a truck motor under the CT4’s curvy hood.

Elvis himself may have been thinking of the CT4’s optional 2.7-liter turbo four-cylinder when he sang: “There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on”.

In case you’re not too familiar with Cadillac’s model line-up, the CT4 is essentially the replacement for the previous, and not particularly well-loved, ATS compact sedan.

The CT4, which landed in showrooms early last year, is a more handsome, more distinctive, more athletic successor.

It’s well-priced too. With stickers starting at $33,390, you’re getting a Cadillac for the price of a Camry. Even our nicely-loaded Premium Luxury model could be driven off the lot for around $40,000.

Of course the biggest challenge for the CT4 is the might of its opposition. Vying for the CT4 buyer’s attention is Audi’s A3, BMW’s lovely 2 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes’ CLA.

And, with America’s love affair with compact SUVs still very much in full bloom, arguably the biggest rival to the CT4 is Cadillac’s own XT4 crossover, priced from just $35,695.

See the CT4 in the metal and it’s one handsome devil. I love the front end, with those vertical slivers of LED lights on each side, the trademark shield-like grille, and prominent Cadillac badge.

Nice rear too, with more vertical LED lights, that cute ducktail spoiler on the trunk, and big brushed-metal exhausts down low.

Even in profile it looks nicely assertive, with that raked-back windshield, low, swoopy roofline and high waist. Cool-looking, multi-spoke 18-inch alloys too.

It’s less impressive when you swing open a door and climb inside. Despite the Premium Luxury model name, and leather on the seats, there’s not too much that’s premium or luxurious about the cabin.

It’s as if Cadillac designers were trying hard to replicate the cold, austere, Germanic look of BMW interiors circa 1983, and didn’t notice they’d moved on.

Here there’s too much hard plastic, leather that looks just a little like vinyl, and no softness or style you get in a Benz CLA or 2 Series.

I know it’s classed as a compact sedan, but the CT4 is also a little too compact compared to the opposition. Rear seat space is pinch-tight, as is trunk space.

But there’s no complaining when it comes to performance.

While the base engine is a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder cranking out 237 horseys, you’ll want the optional 2.7-liter with 309-hp.

Yes, it’ll cost you an extra $2,500, but you’ll also get the 10-speed automatic transmission instead of the base 8-speed.

Stomp on the gas and you’ll zip from standstill to 60mph in under five seconds. That’s quick. And the 10-speed auto fires through shifts with machine-gun rapidity.

Those rear-wheel-drive Camaro underpinnings show through when you point the CT4’s bold nose through a tight, fast curve. There’s next to no body roll, a ton of grip, and a feeling of poise and balance. There are go-karts that are less nimble.

But you won’t enjoy revving that turbo four-cylinder. At the top end it sounds harsh and unrefined. Even hitting the start button produces a crude shake and shudder.

Yes, the CT4’s attractive pricing, stylish design and still-prestigious badge deserve attention. But in the end, there are much stronger, more appealing alternatives out there.

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