By definition, the 2020 Cadillac CT4 is a subcompact luxury car, which means it competes against the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLA, and Audi A3, among others. But unless you’re a first-time luxury buyer, these vehicles are relatively niche. The subcompact class occupies a small space beneath their larger counterparts, many of which are available for only a bit more cash, and almost always with more features and more power.
With that in mind, it takes some smart engineering to make these subcompact cars more compelling than their larger siblings – and in that respect, the CT4 simply doesn't feel worth it. Cadillac's compact car gets high marks for its good looks and solid power (with the optional engine), and it’s generally pretty nice to drive. But when it comes down to important details like material quality, overall refinement, and available technology, the Cadillac loses out to nearly every other car in the segment.
Instantly Recognizable Styling
You won't mistake the CT4 for any of its competitors. This car is instantly recognizable as a Cadillac – and that's a good thing. Distinctive features like tapered body edges, mesh grille, waterfall light fixtures, and a sharp profile means the CT4 stands out visually against safer alternatives like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The Cadillac CT4 has a very clean, concise design.
Strong Optional Engine
The optional turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four ($2,500) on our CT4 tester is pretty punchy. With 310 horsepower and 350 pound-feet, the compact Cadillac feels quick in a straight line and offers good power high up in the rev range. What's more, the Premium model doesn’t feel noticeably slower than the CT4-V – it takes just 5.0 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour (versus the V’s 4.8 seconds) – even though the performance trim produces 325 hp and 380 lb-ft using the same engine. The only downside to selecting the optional 2.7-liter engine is that it comes paired to a lethargic 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The Cadillac CT4 uses the same Alpha platform that underpins the current Chevrolet Camaro and the discontinued ATS-V. And frankly, we wish GM offered more vehicles with this architecture. Even though the Premium model's suspension is noticeably cushier than the V-Series – for obvious reasons – the CT4 still responds well in the corners with relative flatness and quickness, and the utmost response. And though our tester lacks optional all-wheel drive, the rear tires still offer plenty of grip. The Cadillac CT4, in any trim, is a pretty fun car to fling around.
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Lifeless Steering Feel
The CT4 is great dynamically, but we had the same issue in the Premium model as we did the sporty CT4-V: the steering is lifeless. The dead zone on-center is offensive and renders no feedback from the road, which makes the CT4 feel unpredictable. Like in the V-Series model, we were able to wiggle the steering wheel about five degrees in either direction before the vehicle responded, and like in the larger CT5, the steering wheel always wants to bound back to center. Even in the most aggressive Sport mode, the steering gets heavier but not any more responsive, and the spring-loaded back-to-center feeling persists.
The Cadillac CT4 Premium lacks refinement both under the hood and in the cabin. Press the ignition button and the entire car shakes on startup, which is the same issue we experienced in the CT4-V. Blame the truck-sourced 2.7-liter engine – this is the same motor you get on the standard Silverado.
Moving inside the Cadillac, individual elements like the lane-change stalk, paddle shifters, and rotary infotainment controller all feel extremely flimsy in hand. The gear-shift lever, too, feels like a cheap piece of shiny black plastic (though, to be fair, the base BMW 2 Series suffers the same fate). And even the leather on the seats lacks the same high-quality feel and softness as what you get in a Mercedes-Benz CLA or an Audi A3.
The 8.0-inch infotainment screen in the Cadillac CT4 is smaller than almost any other option in the class. The new Audi A3 has a 12.3-inch screen, while the 2 Series, CLA, and A-Class all have optional 10.3-inch screens. Even without taking size into account, though, the screen looks hastily applied to the top of the dash, wears a cheap plastic surround, and simply lacks features.
While some of the alternatives get things like a digital instrument cluster, additional embedded apps, and smarter safety technology, the CT4 simply doesn’t. Although, Cadillac has already confirmed the arrival of a digital cluster and SuperCruise on the 2021 model, so it might be worth waiting.
Gallery: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium: Pros And Cons
2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium