First Drive

First Drive articles

2014 Kia Forte



SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. —The Kia Forte this spring will join the popular compact sedan segment that includes such vaunted competitors as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra. This newcomer, based on our afternoon of driving in the Arizona desert, will be  a player.
Oh, hold on, wait a minute. You say the Forte isn't new to the segment, it came on board in 2010 as replacement for the forgettable Spectra.

2014 Kia Sorento



SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Usually when an automobile manufacturer says a new model is a mid-cycle facelift that’s a fairly accurate description. Mostly there are minor changes; maybe it sports a different grille or front and rear fascias. Maybe it has a new dashboard using higher-grade materials. Or in some instances it’s simply called the “new” 20XX vehicle. For its 2014 Sorento CUV Kia has thrown conventional wisdom to the wildebeests.

2013 Land Rover LR2



MONTREAL, Quebec — It has often been said that Land Rovers are the Swiss Army knives of the automotive world, albeit it with a British accent. You can rock climb, go for a leisurely drive, wade through bodies of water or just sit in your own driveway listening to classical music through orchestral hall-quality speakers…all in the comfort of your own vehicle. This was emphasized  in Montreal and northern Quebec driving the 2013 Land Rover LR2.

2013 Buick Encore



ATLANTA — Luxury in a small, fuel-efficient package is the new hot commodity in the automotive world. We want our good stuff, but we want it in a tidy container that makes us feel good about saving precious resources and disposal income that otherwise would land in the pockets of big oil. In this vein, Buick is offering up for 2013 the very tidy and compact crossover Encore.

2013 VW Beetle convertible



LOS ANGELES — Few of us were around in 1949 when the type 15 Convertible was introduced by Volkswagen. In essence it was the first Beetle convertible and over a 32-year span the company produced more than 330,000 of the popular little cars. With a salute to the past, the third-generation Beetle convertible, introduced at the L.A. Auto Show, has three specific editions that harken back to the three distinct decades of the iconic vehicle in American history: the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

2013 Toyota Avalon



SAN ANTONIO, Texas — We give Toyota designers a standing ovation for their work with the 2013 Toyota Avalon, which turned a predominately senior citizen's entry-level-luxury sedan into a vehicle that should appeal to a wider — and younger — audience. Toyota officials say this is their new design direction for the entire fleet.

2013 VW Jetta Turbo Hybrid



SANTA FE, N.M . —  If one believes the automotive hype, the new darling of the industry seems to be electric vehicles. But, maybe not. There is a technology that seems to be appearing in many car lines that’s been around a while…but hasn’t received the respect it deserves — and this time I’m not referring only to diesels. What I’m talking about is hybrids.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder



NAPA VALLEY, Calif. — Do you honestly think that because of high gasoline prices the sport utility vehicle market is a dinosaur? Revise your thoughts. The all-new fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder is in the flesh to dispel the myth and it’s doing so with superb design and style. The original Pathfinder, introduced more than 25 years ago, became an instant success and achieved the reputation of being the “perfect family adventure vehicle.”

2013 Buick Enclave



BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Five years may not seem like much in the overall span of time. However, in the case of the Buick Enclave it’s been the length of an evolution. First debuted as a 2008 model in May 2007, the Enclave is a prime example of a vehicle whose instant success more than doubled Buick's annual sales volume.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo



LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Buick Verano sedan is a very good small Buick, based on the Chevrolet Cruze/Chevrolet Volt platform taking the well-executed Cruze to a new level of refinement. The Verano fits right into the new Buick mold of smaller, firmer cars with European design and flare, and with more interior refinement than Buicks of the preceding two or three decades.