Whether you need to zip through town during a day of errands or bail for the weekend, we’ve taken out the guesswork with our favorite new cars for both spenders and savers
THE FAMILY CAR
What you need: Room for the kids, their books and their gear, plus the impenetrability of a tank without the footprint.
Budget: Kia Sorento
City life brings with it a shortage of wide-open spaces — especially in the car, where kids tend to fight over seats like they’re feudal lands. Good thing there’s Kia’s crossover option, the Sorento, which provides the real estate of a passenger vehicle but the rugged performance and safety of an SUV.
“I tell families about the convenience of third-row seating,” says Levern Canteen, a salesman at Grossinger Kia. “If you’ve got a couple of teenagers and a little one, you want to separate them. This gives you plenty of space.”
Plus, there’s an elective premium package that includes entertainment options for the back seat and even a first aid kit to treat any bumps or scrapes the kids may pick up at football practice. Starts at $24,640.
Dealer info: Grossinger Kia, 6750 N. Lincolnwood, Lincolnwood, (800) 665-0798; Grossingerkia.com
Splurge: Infiniti FX
Between the tweens shouting out radio requests and the baby spitting up this morning’s breakfast, shuttling the kids around can be, um, distracting. The Infiniti FX takes most of the guesswork out of driving with features like distance control technology, which shoots lasers out the front of the car to determine how far you are from the vehicle ahead. Get too close and the FX slows down.
When the other car moves out the way, it resumes speed automatically, allowing you to worry less about sudden stops and more about keeping order among the troops.
Plus, there’s the benefit of the around-view monitoring system. “It’s easy to park in the city because it has cameras on all four sides,” says Ronnie Caldwell, sales manager at Berman Infiniti. The future is now. Starts at $43,700.
Dealer info: Berman Infiniti, 640 N. LaSalle, (312) 476-8000; Infinitichicago.com
THE GET-OUTTA-TOWN CAR
What you need: To keep sanity intact by skipping town for a leisurely four-day weekend away.
Budget: Buick Regal
Who says a car can’t do raw power and decent gas mileage? The Regal blows that misconception wide open, with both sport injection and fuel efficiency that approaches 36 miles per gallon on the highway. So when you’re headed to Wisconsin Dells for a weekend excursion, you can open up the throttle without having to worry about melting your credit card at the gas pump.
“If you’re headed out of town, the Regal’s got a beautiful, quiet ride,” says Nick Smoot, salesman at Anthony Buick. “There’s a plug-in for your iPod, and heated seats come standard, which is great this time of year.”
Keeping up with the tech trend, the Regal also sports a touch screen for navigation and diagnostics, and there’s Bluetooth integration for hands-free communication, making it easy to catch up on phone calls while heading out of town. Starts at $29,015.
Dealer info: Anthony Buick, 7225 Grand, Gurnee, (877) 687-3700; Anthonyautogroup.com
Splurge: Cadillac XTS
This ain’t your granddad’s Caddy. The XTS boasts a suite of safety features that update the once stodgy brand from “Florida retirement community” to “intrepid explorer.”
Picture this: You’re headed on a Michigan getaway to discover the recreational wonders of New Buffalo, and you don’t see the car in your blind spot. Thanks to the radar system, the car’s safety alert seat will vibrate and the mirrors will light up.
“People react better to sensation or touch, so it sort of helps that ‘spidey’ sense go off,” says Tegan Trejo, manager at Grossinger Cadillac. “If you’re going into a lane without looking, that feature might save your life.”
The car also comes with an iPad for checking out diagnostics when you’re not in the driver’s seat. Let’s be honest: This is more like the vehicle your son or grandson will one day be driving. Starts at $44,075.
Dealer info: Grossinger Cadillac, 6900 N. McCormick, Lincolnwood, (800) 989-6877; Grossingercaddy.com
THE CITY CAR
What you need: An agile roadster that can handle tight spaces and still have room for groceries.
Budget: Fiat 500
With gas fumes licking at the $5 mark, two important numbers come to mind: 31 and 40. That’s how far, in miles, you can expect to go on a single four-and-a-half-dollar gallon in the city and on the highway in the Fiat 500.
But what’s efficiency without a little sprezzatura? It comes in three trim styles, depending on the driver’s needs: Pop (for making a colorful statement), Sport (for a little extra kick) and Lounge (for those demanding a taste of luxury).
“It’s the perfect city car,” says Phil DeLozano, manager at Fiat of Chicago. “It’s smaller than most, but interior wise you’re not giving up anything because it seats four adults comfortably and still has room for amenities.”
Get in and prepare to mambo Italiano all over the streets of Chicago. Starts at $15,500.
Dealer info: Fiat of Chicago, 645 W. Randolph, (312) 902-3428; Fiatusaofchicago.com
Splurge: Mini John Cooper Works Coupe
There’s certainly nothing wrong with a machine that gets you from A to B. But sometimes you need the touch of extra agility that a 208-horsepower turbocharged engine can provide.
“If you’re tooling around the city, zipping in and out of traffic, and you need to get around someone, this car has the pep,” says general manager Steve McDonald at Mini of Chicago. “Plus, it’s customizable from stripes to colors to the interior. They’re one of a kind.”
The nimble coupe sniffs out parking spots with ease, allowing you to squeeze in where few others can. And if the stop-and-go of Lake Shore Drive becomes too much to bear, let off some steam at a local racetrack — or by driving south and cruising down the open roads of Illinois. Starts at $32,050.
Dealer info: Mini of Chicago, 1111 W. Diversey, (773) 969-5700; Miniofchicago.com