Yesterday, I flew into Seoul ahead of a tour of Kia’s various factories, research and development facilities and global headquarters in its homeland.

The impressive rise of Kia and sister brand Hyundai in Europe has made headlines over the past five years, but home customers probably wonder why we’re making such a fuss. After all, over here in South Korea, the local brands are firmly established, with their models topping the domestic sales charts each month.  

As a coach driver whisked us to our hotel with a nerve-jangling amount of determination and a loose sense of lane etiquette, I surveyed the passing vehicles, of which there are plenty in downtown Seoul.

Kia and Hyundai models dominated, in the same way that the UK’s traffic is usually heavy on Ford and Vauxhall badges. Some model names were familiar – Sorento, for example – but others less so, such as the Kia Morning, which is the local name for the Picanto, or K5, which is the Kia Optima.

The occasional premium Audi or BMW punctuated the traffic flow, and recent sales figures suggest the big European brands are gaining traction in this Asian market, but, unlike in Europe, the home brands hold their own in the big saloon stakes, too, with cars such as the Hyundai Grandeur and Kia K9.