2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T Premium2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T PremiumOnce a leading purveyor of luxurious, pricey land yachts, Cadillac has tossed a wider net over a market that continues to believe the nameplate means something special. The last dozen years have brought many surprises, including the Escalade — a truck that proudly bears the Cadillac crest. Now comes the sporty ATS, the first compact Caddy since the days of the forgettable Cimarron, and the competent but slow-selling Catera.

The ATS, built in Lansing, Mich., is Cadillac’s rebuttal to the popular compact sport sedans from Europe. These include BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class, and the Audi A4. It’s also poised to take on Japanese premium models from Acura, Lexus and Infiniti.

So what’s an ATS, and where does it fit in the Cadillac lineup? It’s a 4-door compact sedan with admirable driving dynamics, a choice of three engines and two transmissions, and a seamless blend of luxury and performance. In price, it ranges from about $33,000 to nearly $48,000. So it’s truly an entry-level Cadillac, though not in the context this term usually confers.

Our crystal red test car, a 2013 ATS with the turbocharged Four, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive and premium trim, had a sticker price of $52,100. Loaded with luxury and safety features, it exhibits a BMW-like personality on the road.

With the addition of the ATS for 2013, Cadillac now has three sedans, ranging in base price from $33,095 for the ATS to $44,075 for the XTS. Gone are the personal-luxury STS and the massive DTS. All of these models serve up copious quantities of luxury, along with strong performance and crisp handling.

Our ATS was a delicious driver, with smooth, ample power from its 272-horsepower engine and a firm yet comfortable ride. Its major weak spots include a small back seat and trunk. For tall drivers, access and egress were awkward because of the B-pillar’s odd slant. The quality and style of the interior controls and appointments are top-notch.

The ATS is sold in a multitude of flavors. The base model has a 202-horsepower, 2.5-liter Four and rear-wheel drive. Some models are available with a 6-speed stick shift. At the top of the line can be found a 321-horsepower V-6. In all, the ATS has 16 different incarnations.

Crash-test data are not yet available on this new model. Judging by its long list of safety features and the Top Safety Pick designation conferred upon Cadillac’s other sedan lines, the CTS and XTS, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it should be a safe vehicle.

One of the ATS’ best qualities is its fuel economy. Our all-wheel-drive test car was rated at 20 mpg city, 30 highway. The base model with rear-wheel drive is capable of 33 mpg on the open road. Those numbers are competitive with the Europeans’. Indeed, while the BMW in particular poses a daunting challenge to all comers, the new Cadillac is a worthy contender.

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $52,100

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged Four, 272 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 3,373 lb.

Suspension: four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 18×9-inch painted alloy

Tires: P255/35R18 90W run-flat 

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 12.4 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 16 gallons

Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Fuel type: Premium (recommended)