Outside the Seville, Cadillac’s previous efforts with a small car failed to help GM’s luxury brand. The 2018 Cadillac ATS changes everything, supplying a classy look inside and out, and backing that with strong engines and excellent handling.

Best Value

Cadillac offers the 2018 ATS in Base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Premium Performance trims. Cadillac markets an ATS-V coupe and ATS-V sedan separately. The first two trims have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; the two top trims offer a V6 engine.

The driving purist within us has our eye on the standard engine with the six-speed manual transmission. We like the looks of the coupe, but think the sedan is more practical from a passenger-carrying standpoint. This model starts at $36,490 (including the $995 destination charge). Standard features include 17-inch polished alloy wheels, leather seats, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, CUE telematics, and OnStar.

  • Model: 2018 Cadillac ATS Luxury Sedan
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 272 hp/295 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
  • MPG: 20 city/29 highway
  • Options: Performance Exhaust and Engine Cover Package ($2,065, catback exhaust system, V-Sport logo engine cover).
  • Base Price: $36,490 for the base ATS sedan, $39,490 for the base ATS coupe (including the $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$42,355

Performance

Cadillac ATS

The 2018 ATS offers two engine choices. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is standard, generating 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It comes paired with a six-speed manual in rear-wheel drive models or an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Another choice is a 3.6-liter V6, generating 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. Paired exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission, this engine benefits from cylinder deactivation technology whereby two cylinders shut down under certain driving situations. As a result, the V6 nearly matches the smaller engine’s fuel economy.

The base engine’s turbo spools up quickly, delivering ample power when you need it. The ATS corners with authority and has a grippy chassis. Models equipped with our recommended performance suspension and exhaust systems when combined with the short-throw manual gearbox makes this truly a driver’s car.

Style

Cadillacs of old were big on size and chrome embellishments. The ATS takes a simple approach with a neat and clean exterior. That said, it doesn’t match competitors like Audi and INFINITI in the “wow” styling factor.

But we’re pleased by the attention to detail Cadillac took overall, especially inside. The low-sitting dashboard aids visibility and supplies a subdued cockpit feel. The front seats are supportive, yet plush. The rear seat is tight, especially in the coupe.

One of the shining features for the ATS is its CUE tech interface. It offers a haptic-feedback setup that delivers a buzz to the finger. It takes some getting used to, but once you’re familiar with the way it works, it becomes second nature. We also like the wireless charging port hidden behind the center panel

The Best and Worst Things

Strong engine choices and an available manual transmission enhance the ATS’ solid driving characteristics. But if you’re looking for a roomy back seat, space is disappointingly limited, especially in the coupe.

Right For? Wrong For?

Cadillac ATS

Anyone looking for an alternative to the pack leaders, including the BMW 3 or 4 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. If you want compact American luxury, Cadillac is your choice – Lincoln doesn’t offer a Euro-centric model.

The shopper who hasn’t owned a Cadillac since the Sedan de Ville and is expecting a sedan that floats on air and has loose steering. With the ATS, Cadillac ripped a page from the European luxury car playbook to deliver a thoroughly fun-to-drive entry-level model.

The Bottom Line

It's a pity the ATS showed up late in the game and just as consumer preferences are shifting toward utility vehicles. Earlier Cadillac small models like the Cimarron and Catera are forgettable, while the ATS hits the mark. That said, negotiating a favorable deal shouldn’t prove difficult.