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2021 Cadillac CT4 Review | A joy to drive, a puzzle to compare

Cadillac’s smallest sedan is arguably its most competitive. The question is, though, what does the 2021 Cadillac CT4 actually compete with? It has the price tag and interior in keeping with the growing number of sub-compact luxury sedans, yet its rear-drive layout and sophisticated chassis are more akin to sedans that are a size up. It sure drives more like a BMW 3 Series than something smaller and cheaper. Actually, it could easily be argued that the CT4 is a more rewarding sport sedan than BMW’s benchmark – be it the Premium Luxury you see above or spicier CT4-V trim

That’s where the comparison ends, however. The CT4 is smaller, with a cramped back seat and rinky-dink trunk. Its cabin quality is lower and its engines less refined. Yet, it is sufficiently cheaper to justify all of the above. For the dwindling few who still prize communicative steering and an unflappable suspension in their entry-level luxury sedan, the CT4 is a terrific choice – no matter what you compare it to.

What’s new for 2021?

The CT4 was all-new last year, so there are only minor updates for ’21. A 12-inch HD instrument cluster is now available as part of the Technology package in top trim levels, while Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driver assist system will be a late-availability option. Wirelessly connected Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard. There’s also a new Diamond Sky Special Edition that adds a unique color scheme and trim finishes. 

What’s the CT4 interior and in-car technology like?

We’ve criticized the design and quality of other Cadillac interiors, and although the CT4’s is awfully similar to those, its lower price and market positioning make it far more competitive and, well, palatable. It may not be as expressive as the Mercedes A- or CLA-classes, but for the money, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The infotainment system is controlled by an 8-inch touchscreen with a pair of redundant control knobs better suited to scrolling through playlists, radio stations or other menu functions. One is adjacent to the screen and volume knob, while the bigger one is on the center console. We like this setup quite a bit and appreciate the Cadillac’s system’s clean look and quick responses. The base setup includes wirelessly connected Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus Amazon Alexa integration and a choice of USB Type-A and Type-C charging. Upgrades include navigation and multiple Bose audio packages, all of which bring with them wireless device charging.

How big is the CT4?

Like many of Cadillac’s previous sport sedans, the CT4 is a bit of an oddball size-wise for the segment it targets, stretching more than a foot longer than the Audi A3 and nearly 9 inches longer than the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. However, this doesn’t translate into a comparable interior space advantage because of the CT4 rear-wheel-drive platform. Instead, things are effectively evened out so that cabin space is similar to those competitors in terms of leg, head and shoulder room.

Not only is the CT4’s 10.9-cubic-foot trunk one of the smallest in the segment (only the Mercedes A-Class somehow managing to be smaller), it’s one of the smallest found on any sedan. Nevertheless, we managed to fit in just as many pieces of luggage as in the Cadillac CT5 – the bigger sedan had more room left over, but only for a shopping bag or two. Indeed, the days of Cadillac trunks looking like this are long gone.

What are the performance and fuel economy?

Cadillac offers its small sedan in three states of tune. The Sport and Luxury models are equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-four good for 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This is the most potent base engine offered in the class. Like all CT4 models, it comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission, active fuel management (can run on only two cylinders to save fuel) and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an option. EPA-rated fuel economy is 23 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined with RWD and 23/32/26 with AWD.

Premium Luxury models get the option of a 2.7-liter turbo inline-four that makes 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It returns 21/31/25 mpg with RWD and 21/29/24 with AWD.

The CT4-V gets the same basic engine and nearly identical fuel economy figures, but gets a bump up to 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. That may seem like a pittance considering the outrageously powerful V models of Cadillac’s past, but GM’s luxury arm has decided to re-jigger its performance hierarchy by eliminating “V-Sport” entirely, shifting “V” down to fill that role, and introducing a series of new range-topping performance models dubbed “Blackwing.” This positions the CT4-V against the Audi S3BMW M235i Gran Coupe, and Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, which all play in the exact same space with similar power figures. Its fuel economy is 20/29/23 with RWD and 20/28/23 with AWD.

What’s the CT4 like to drive?

It’s legitimately fun. You can feel the immense strength of the chassis, as well as the impeccable suspension tuning when hustling the car along. You also just feel things. There seems to be less cushion and fewer 1‘s and 0’s between you and the car compared to other sport sedans like the BMW 3 Series and new Acura TLX. The steering has a lot to do with it: consistently weighted, regardless of drive mode, without too much speed-based adjustment, and genuine feedback filtered through the steering wheel. At the same time, the CT4 seems far more grown up and sophisticated in its engineering than the various front-drivers it competes with on price (Mercedes A/CLA, BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe).

And, we should mention, all of the above applies to a CT4 Premium Luxury we tested. The CT4-V steps things up even further, especially when equipped with the optional MagneRide suspension.

If there’s a dynamic let-down it’s the engine selection. Both are rather gravelly and hardly the silky-smooth mills offered by BMW or Acura, in particular. The upgrade 2.7-liter’s turbo also has a noticeably whistley waste gate. There’s certainly no arguing about performance, though. The base 2.0-liter is perfectly competitive, while the 2.7 will genuinely impress in either of its available outputs.

We’re also big fans of the 10-speed automatic transmission. It capably does its job without fuss in normal everyday driving, but when in Sport mode, the car detects when you’ve started to drive enthusiastically and automatically engages a further performance-oriented algorithm (it actually alerts you to this in the gauge cluster). Lower gears remain selected to keep revs highs and downshifts are perfectly timed and executed when braking into turns. Few automatics do a better job.

What more can I read about the Cadillac CT4?

2020 Cadillac CT4-V First Drive | The Cadillac of compact Cadillacs

This may not be the V of old, but it’s still a winner.


2021 Cadillac CT4 Luggage Test | How much fits in the trunk?

The specs say the CT4 has one of the smallest trunks of any sedan. We see how many pieces of luggage can actually fit inside.


2021 Cadillac CT5 Review | Is the price (and size) right?

This is our review of the CT4’s big brother, the CT5. It too is uniquely positioned: it’s sized like a midsize sedan but priced like a compact. We’re generally more impressed by the CT4 for the money. 

What features are available and what’s the price?

The “Luxury” model represents the entry-level CT4. It starts at $34,985, including the $995 destination charge. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, power front seats (12-way driver and 10-way passenger; both with power lumbar adjustment), leatherette upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, wireless connected Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. and an eight-speaker sound system.  

Stepping up to the Premium Luxury model adds 18-inch wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlights and wipers, driver’s seat memory settings and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. This trim also makes the 2.7-liter engine available as well as additional advanced safety systems.

The Sport is positioned as an alternative to the Premium Luxury for those who prefer a more youthful, performance-oriented style. It’s still offered exclusively with the 2.0-liter engine, but includes blacked-out trim, unique wheels, and sport-themed interior surfaces and accents.

The CT4-V is the performance trim. It comes standard with the enhanced 2.7-liter engine and adds a mechanical limited-slip differential, bigger brakes, Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 and V-specific wheels. Both summer and all-season tires are available.

There are quite a few available options, most of which are bundled into packages. Below you’ll find the base prices for each trim, but you can check out the 2021 Cadillac CT4’s full pricing, specs and feature breakdown here on Autoblog.

All prices are for the rear-wheel drive model and include a $995 destination fee:

Luxury: $34,985
Premium Luxury 2.0: $39,485
Premium Luxury 2.7: $41,985
Sport: $40,585
CT4-V: $46,485

What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?

The 2021 Cadillac CT4 Luxury model comes with no advanced safety systems standard, though forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking are standard on all other trim levels. The Driver Awareness Plus package adds lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning. The Driver Assist package adds an enhanced emergency braking system that operates at higher speeds as well as in reverse. Adaptive cruise control is included with that package, while Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous highway driving system will be a late-availability option.

The CT4 had not been crash tested by a third party at the time of this writing.

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