It’s never going to be easy breaking into the UK car market with a brand renowned for little more than big V8 1960s American barges and a brief, failed, foray over here with sub-standard products in the 1990s. So it’s been an interesting few months with Cadillac’s new and significantly more competitive attempt, the BLS.

The reason for its competitiveness is GM’s sibling brand Saab, which supplies the underpinnings, engine and most of the interior. That’s given the BLS a decent start, especially with business sales where fear of the unknown is an RV killer. But with established mechanicals comes more predictable reliability and SMR, so it’s just a case of convincing brand-conscious buyers to take the step away from their BMW 3-series or Audi A4.

Our experience with the car showed that the Cadillac badge [1] and styling has at least got the car park appeal right. While the 3-series, A4 and most of their rivals have long since stopped turning heads, the attractively distinctive styling meant time and again people in car parks or waiting alongside at traffic lights wanted to know what the BLS is. That may change if and when more hit the road, although we didn’t see another one in the entire time we had ours, apart from in the car park at Cadillac UK importer Pendragon’s Nottingham HQ during a visit last month.

The trip to Nottingham highlighted the Caddy’s strengths. It’s a cruiser, not as adept through the twisty stuff as its major rivals but more than at home ploughing up and down the country’s motorways. It’s refined at a constant cruise, and the ride’s set for a decent level of comfort. The engine does become noisy under acceleration, though.

A big question mark with start-up brands is the amount of back-up drivers will receive post-purchase, and we got an early chance to test Cadillac’s system when the car was delivered with a couple of bits of loose trim [2]. Unfortunately, we struggled to get it booked in either via the website or on the phone, although company bosses have personally assured us that the issues are now resolved. When it was eventually booked in, our BLS was collected, fixed and returned spotlessly clean within 48 hours.

The interior is a combination of love and hate. While the central section with clock and stereo is well designed with a quality feel [3], the rest of the cockpit is taken from Saab. We’ve previously run a Saab 9-3, and the biggest bugbear with that car was the interior fixings Cadillac has now nabbed from the parts bin, specifically the cheap, flimsy indicator stalks and handbrake [4].

The car’s costs have come down by 0.3ppm in the time it’s been with us, thanks to slight drops in predicted depreciation, lower fuel cost and, more pertinently, a £130 improvement in the three-year 60,000-mile SMR cost prediction. We couldn’t meet the predicted 46.3mpg, averaging 35.7 thanks to a mainly urban diet punctuated by longer runs, so our final figure was 39.6 pence per mile. That’s about five pence per mile more than the BMW 320d SE we had last year, due in large part to the BMW’s better depreciation.

While Cadillac won’t be tempting many people out of their BMW or Audi, it’s still refreshing that such a well-styled car stood up to the rigours of 8000 miles on our long-term fleet with no complaint worse than a few administrative teething troubles. It’ll be interesting to see how many find buyers – presumably RV confidence will improve as Cadillac becomes more established, which will help make the maths stand up better.

It’s difficult to recommend the BLS over more established and dynamically accomplished rivals, but it has an appeal that lies in the chance to drive an upper medium saloon which genuinely turns heads.