I RECENTLY got together with many of my colleagues in the Northern Motoring Writers Group to mark the organisation’s 50th anniversary – and supporting our celebrations were those awfully nice people from KIA.

Set in an exclusive North Yorkshire country house hotel the event was an opportunity to drive the Korean manufacturer’s latest model line-up – particularly their EV, PHEV and HEV cars… which would have seemed very futuristic to those who set up the NMWG in 1973.

Five of the original group who began their car testing lives in the likes of Vauxhall Vivas, Ford Escorts and even the dreaded Austin Allegro were present to pass on their wisdom and bear testament to how much cars have developed over those five decades.

No car company is more advanced than KIA, which was unheard of in the UK back in the 1970s. I selected four of their line up to try, and re-try, starting with the tremendously popular Sportage SUV, the HEV GT-Line 1.6 FWD version.

Now I spent a week with the Sportage earlier this year and was impressed with its design, performance and equipment… and it looks like a lot of others like it as well judging by the numbers that have appeared on our highways.

£35,270 on the road buys you 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds from the petrol and electric engine combo plus a top speed of 120mph – but even more importantly in these belt-tightening times almost 50 mpg.

If you need even more economy then a full EV may be the way to go. The first of three was KIA’s popular Niro, which has been with us for a few years now but has been upgraded and refreshed a number of times.

The latest version is the EV 4 which has a 201bhp power train giving 0 to 62 in 7.8 seconds, a top speed of 103mph and a range of up to 375 miles in city driving – 285 on combined use.

Again kit levels are high for the £42,295 price tag including LED lighting, heated seats all round in ‘vegan’ leather (powered in the front), a smart power tailgate, heads up display plus two 10.25” driver info and entertainment screens, sat-nav, air con, wireless phone charging and much more.

Then it was on to the Niro’s big brother, the more recently launched EV 6, which again I had tested earlier this year.

They have kept the model range simple – just one battery size (77.4kWh) driving a single 226bhp rear-wheel drive motor or two for a more powerful (321bhp) all-wheel drive set up.

This KIA is not only more powerful than rivals it is lighter so no surprise then that the 0 to 60 time is just 6.9 seconds with a top speed of 114mph.

There are also just three well equipped trim levels – Air, GT-Line and GT-Line S. Air is rear-wheel drive only so you need to step up to GT-Line for all-wheel-drive.

As it is designed from the start to be an EV, the heavy battery pack is set low down giving improved handling and that single rear drive motor means lots of space for a generous passenger compartment. This EV also has a few tricks up its sleeve including reverse charging, where it can supply up to 3.6kW through an adaptor with a three-pin socket – enough to power a freezer during a power cut or even to top up a lesser EV.

The EV6 Air starts at £45,245 rising to £48,245 for a rear-wheel-drive GT-Line and £53,645 for our GT-Line S. A front motor for more power and four-wheel drive adds another £3,500. A super-hot 4×4 577bhp GT version is also available for £62,645.

And finally it was the turn of KIA’s cute small SUV the Soul. This is a car I had not tried before but it proved just as competent and characterful as its stable mate EVs. At £39,045 on the road the Soul has equivalent performance with 62 coming up in a very respectable 7.9 seconds on the way to topping out at 104mph.

However, its electric range is even more impressive at up to 402 miles around town and 280 on longer runs. Like all KIA’s EVs a higher power charger is needed to get plug in times that are reasonable with the best getting from 10 to 80 percent in a little under an hour.

Also, like all KIAs, the cars come with a seven year, 100,000 mile warranty.

For more info see www.kia.com

By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth