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You know the drill; you're out to buy a new car or truck, but then you check your finances and it looks like you might have to bike to work.

But there is an answer.

Any buyer can get the essence of a higher-priced ride without the price tag if you know 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, especially in base trim levels. Sure, the less expensive rides may not have as opulent an interior, but you'll be surprised how they do deliver, in addition to savings.

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

Instead of a: Mini Cooper Hardtop ($21,900)

Try a: Fiat 500 Pop ($14,995)

Savings: $6,905

Despite being 11.5 inches shorter and 256 pounds lighter than the Mini, the Fiat gives up 33 horsepower in its engine and one cog in its manual transmission. Still, neither car has a usable backseat, yet both have style to spare. But the Fiat's ride comfort is impressive, giving up little to the Mini - especially in high-performance Abarth trim.

Instead of a: Honda Accord LX sedan ($23,570)

Try a: Honda Civic LX sedan ($18,940)

Savings: $4,650

These cars share the same basic architecture, and while the Civic's surprisingly spacious cabin gives up three feet of rear legroom to the Accord, it's still commodious. Cargo space is similar, as are transmission choices and engine sizes. You give up a little performance, but not enough to matter. Best of all, the Civic can be had as a hatchback, as well as sportier, if pricier, variants.

Instead of a: Cadillac XTS ($47,390)

Try a: Chevrolet Impala Premier ($37,495)

Savings: $9,895

The Impala was engineered after the Cadillac XTS, and uses its underlying structure and 305-horsepower V-6 engine. Cheaper Impalas have a four-cylinder engine, while pricier XTSs have a 410-horsepower V6 and all-wheel drive. Yes, the Cadillac exudes a more sophisticated ambience, due mostly to its upscale interior. Ambience aside, you'll find the Chevy is little more than a Caddie in commoner's clothing.

Instead of a: Range Rover Sport ($66,750)

Try a: Ford Explorer Limited ($42,090)

Savings: $24,660

There's no denying the Range Rover Sport has beautiful styling, refined interior and amazing off-road ability. But the Ford has similar exterior styling, offers many comfort and convenience options, and has a similar Terrain Management System, even if the interior can't match the quality of its pricier English competitor. Nevertheless, unless your finances allow otherwise, the Ford gets the nod.

Instead of a: Mercedes-Benz S560 4Matic Coupe ($124,500)

Try a: Mercedes-Benz E400 ($58,900)

Savings: $65,600

If you can afford a Mercedes-Benz S560 coupe, you won't think twice about the similar-looking $58,900 E400 Coupe. Certainly the S-Class's size gives it greater visual presence, and its interior is more special than the E400, which still boasts top-of-the-line tech and its share of opulence. Yes, the S-Class is one second faster to 60 mph, but costs $65,600 more. Knowing that, which one looks better now?



Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at

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