Catera is the entry-level model in the Cadillac family, a midsize sedan with German genes that competes with near-luxury cars such as the BMW 3 Series, Lexus ES300, and Acura 3.2TL.
Built by General Motors' German subsidiary, Catera is based on the Opel Omega. Both the American and European versions get facelifts this year. Unlike Cadillac's other passenger cars, which have front-wheel drive, the Catera has rear-wheel drive. The next-generation Catera is due for the 2003 model year and plans are to build it in the United States.
A new fascia, headlights, hood and smaller grille are the main appearance changes at the front. The rear end also has a new fascia, plus new, separate taillights instead of a continuous bar across the tail.
The Catera Sport, added last spring, rides on new 17-inch aluminum wheels. The base model sticks with 16-inchers. At 192 inches, Catera is about 16 inches longer than a BMW 3 Series sedan and 9 inches shorter than a Cadillac Seville.
Catera's dashboard places most controls where they're easy to see and operate. This year there is a second power outlet in the center console. The four outboard seating positions have ample room for adults, but pity the person who has to sit in the middle rear position and straddle the large driveshaft tunnel. Trunk volume is listed at 14.5 cubic feet, and the rear seatbacks fold for additional room.
Under the Hood
Versions of Catera's 3.0-liter V-6 are found in the Saab 9-5 and Saturn LS and LW. The 200-horsepower engine requires premium gas and hitches to a four-speed automatic transmission. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard.
Bland styling and the stodgy image of the Cadillac brand probably turn off some prospective buyers, but the Catera's European heritage shows through in its athletic handling and spirited performance.