There was a time - not so many years ago - when the paddock at the northern drive day was a very noisy place as cars were fired up and taken out for short test drives.

This week, the annual SMMT event at Wetherby Racecourse was a hive of motoring activity as ever – but the normal noise was noticeably absent.

As many of the vehicles eased away in near silent electric mode, there was a palpable feeling that the new era was closer than ever. As some might say.....it just got real!

Banbury Cake: Images from the SMMT test day north based at Wetherby Racecourse on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Of course, 2030 is a fair way off yet, so there were still some impressive combustion engines on display, notably the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, with a 2.9-litre V6 unit pumping out 510bhp, and the sweet-sounding Porsche 718 Cayman GT4.

But, by and large, manufacturers were keen to show off their latest hybrid or fully electric vehicles to northern motoring journalists, including the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

We drove four cars for half an hour each during the course of the day - all impressive in their own ways.

MG5 EV

With smooth acceleration and decent power at the driver’s disposal, this is an electric vehicle worthy of consideration - especially with its improved range of 250 miles.

There’s bags of internal space too, making it a practical estate-style vehicle, especially when you factor in the 578-litre boot, rising to 1,456 litres with the rear seats folded.

Banbury Cake: Images from the SMMT test day north based at Wetherby Racecourse on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

With prices starting from £25,095, it represents value for money.

In the corners, it feels well-planted and grippy, perhaps thanks to its low centre of gravity, and it will go from 0-60mph in eight seconds, which feels swift.

Peugeot 508 PSE SW HYBRID4 360 e-EAT8

This is a real beauty of a plug-in hybrid, offering a winning combination of good looks, space and great driving dynamics.

The impressive thing about the 508 Hybrid, engineered by Peugeot Sport, is the way it offers high performance while achieving low emissions. In that sense, it’s both an electrified and an electrifying estate, as its dual personality allows you to get what you want from the powertrain depending where the mood takes you.

Banbury Cake: Images from the SMMT test day north based at Wetherby Racecourse on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

It achieves 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, puts out emissions of just 46g/km and has a useable electric range of over 25 miles.

The numbers are good and it feels great when you’re behind the wheel, but that wide range of talents come at a cost – over £55,000.

Corsa-e Elite Premium

Vauxhall’s first-ever all-electric vehicle has a range of 209 miles.

With its orange colour-scheme, the Corsa was certainly among the most eye catching of all the cars at Wetherby Racecourse on Tuesday.

Banbury Cake: Left, the electrified Corsa, top left is the Peugeot 508 PSE hybrid, top right is the MINI Cooper S Sport and, in front of a church, is the MG5 EV

Out on the road, it handled nicely through the corners, with the 136hp engine feeling nicely-powered for a vehicle of this size, offering sprightly performance.

Indeed, with its 100kW electric motor and 260Nm of instantaneous maximum torque, there’s certainly an element of fun to be had.

The 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds feels decent enough, but it’s the 0-31mph time of 2.8 seconds feels really nippy.

Mini convertible Cooper S Sport

In Tuesday's splendid September sun, it felt rather liberating to get the roof down in just seconds on the MINI convertible. With a mix of open-air fun and go-kart style handling, it's a car that brings a broad smile to your face.

The iconic look has been refined with the use of cleaner simplified lines, while the interior boasts some high quality materials and a gorgeous circular display screen that dominates the centre of the dash.

Banbury Cake: Images from the SMMT test day north based at Wetherby Racecourse on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

This sporty Cooper S version was powered by a punchy 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine offering 176bhp. Through the corners, you get a wonderful sense of balance and poise, as the MINI laps up tight corners in much the same way it made mincemeat of the Monte Carlo hairpins all those years ago.