Rides that offer attributes of pricier rivals

Larry Printz
Tribune Media Services

You know the drill. You’re out to buy a new car or truck, just aching for that new ride, but then you check your finances. Sigh. Looks like you might have to bike to work.

But don’t despair. There is an answer.

Any buyer can get the essence of a high-priced ride without the price tag if he knows which vehicles to consider. Some spendier rides are little more than mundane vehicles with an attitude, while some everyday vehicles have many of the same attributes as pricier rides.

With that in mind, here are five budget-stretching suggestions:

■Instead of a Mini Cooper ($20,700) try a Fiat 500 ($16,845). You’ll save $3,855.

Despite being quite a bit lighter than the Mini, the Fiat gives up only 33 horsepower in its engine and one cog in its manual transmission when compared with the Cooper. Still, neither car has a backseat suitable for humans. Both models have style to spare, so it’s a draw there. But the Fiat’s ride comfort is impressive, giving up little in handling to the Mini.

■Instead of a Honda CR-V ($23,445) try a Kia Soul ($15,690). You’ll save $7,755.

Like the Honda CR-V, the Kia Soul is a four-cylinder crossover SUV with optional all-wheel drive that fits four comfortably. True, there’s almost double the cargo space in the Honda (35.2 cubic feet vs. 18.8 cubic feet), but passenger space is close (104 cubic feet for the Honda vs. 101 cubic feet in the Kia). Yes, the Soul weighs 644 pounds less, but it has just 55 fewer hamsters under the hood and funkier styling. I’ll take the Soul and the significant savings.

■ Instead of a Mercedes-Benz CLS ($72,100) try a Mercedes-Benz CLA ($29,900). You’ll save a whopping $42,200.

For years, automakers have been copying the Mercedes-Benz CLS’ influential svelte silhouette. Now even Mercedes-Benz has issued a designer knockoff of its CLS: the entry-level CLA. Given the front-wheel-drive, 208-horsepower, seven-speed automatic CLA, you’ll never match the effortless performance of the rear-wheel-drive, 329-horsepower, nine-speed automatic CLS. But you’ll get styling that’s just as gorgeous, if also impractical.

■ Instead of an Cadillac XTS ($44,660) try a Chevrolet Impala ($31,260). You’ll save $13,400.

The Impala was engineered after the Cadillac XTS but uses much of its underlying architecture, including the same 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Cheaper Impalas do have a four-cylinder engine, while pricier XTSs can be fitted with an optional 410-horsepower V-6 and all-wheel drive. But let’s not forget the Caddie’s interior is more refined and returns a more sublime experience. It’s an experience, however, that’s almost matched by the Chevy.

■ Instead of a Range Rover Sport ($64,950) try a Ford Explorer ($31,145). You’ll save $33,805.

There’s no denying the Range Rover Sport has beautiful styling and incredible off-road abilities. Its artfully crafted interior is as elegant as any high-end London nightclub. It’s hard not look down on the Ford. But the Ford’s styling strikes a similar note. In addition, the Explorer has an extra row of seats and has a Terrain Management System similar to Range Rover. Given the terrain most of us drive, the Ford gets the nod.