Bottom line: Cadillac finally understands small cars and now knows how to make them right. The Cadillac ATS Performance model is proof. It matches anything in its class in safety, performance, fuel economy and overall quality. It gets a “buy” here.

Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets excellent marks in all three.

Head-turning quotient: Attractively demure. It is luxury minus boast.

Body style/layout: The Cadillac ATS is a front-engine, compact luxury sedan available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. It is slotted just below the larger Cadillac CTS and is offered in four basic trim levels — Standard, Luxury, Performance and Premium.

Engines/transmissions: The ATS Performance comes standard with a turbocharged (forced air), 16-valve in-line four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (272 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque). The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually. Also available are a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 3.6-liter V-6. A traditional six-speed manual transmission is available, too. Hint: Before buying, decide what you want more — fuel economy (2.5-liter four-cylinder, rear-wheel drive), or performance (turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder, or V-6, both available with all-wheel drive).

Capacities: There are seats for five people. Cargo capacity is 10.2 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 16 gallons of gasoline (premium grade is recommended).

Mileage: In the ATS Performance with all-wheel drive, I averaged 28 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; electronic brake-force distribution; emergency braking assistance; electronic stability and traction control; high-intensity-discharge headlamps; a temporary subscription to the OnStar emergency communications system with stolen-vehicle tracking and assistance; and side and head air bags.

Pricing: The 2013 Cadillac ATS Performance model starts at $41,895, with a dealer’s invoice price of $39,591. Price as tested is $42,790, including a $895 transportation charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $40,486. There are options aplenty — choose carefully.