SEAT are not the first to split off part of their production into a separate marque, as they are now doing with the Cupra brand, but unlike rivals they have taken a slightly different route.

Toyota did it successfully (after many years) with Lexus as did Citroen with DS and Nissan tried a little less successfully with Infinity but all went down the Luxury route.

SEAT is splitting off Cupra as a linked but separately marketed range, although here the USP is sporting performance.

At a recent driving day held in Liverpool I got to try two examples of this new approach, Cupra versions of the Ateca SUV and SEAT’s best-selling Leon hatchback.

First I got into the Ateca which in top spec Cupra format boasts almost 300bhp and can do 0 to 62 in 5.2 seconds on its way to a top speed of 153.

Impressive stuff saying the small SUV only has a 2-litre petrol engine which is linked to an excellent 7-speed auto gearbox.

Also impressive is the sound which comes out of those striking twin double exhausts when you put the car into sport mode and the way it gets down the road when you put your foot down.

I got the chance to take the Nevada white metallic beast for a trip to the seaside to get some pictures on the beach at Southport and give its 4×4 system a thorough check out… and with the sun shining and all that power on tap being behind the wheel was a very pleasant experience.

This was helped by a luxurious leather and alcantara interior and a long list of toys including an uprated sound system, top class infotainment touchscreen, connectivity and quality materials throughout.

Now as you would expect there is a price to pay for all this and the Cupra version of the Ateca is the range topping model so comes in at £37,845 on the road compared to the base model 1.0 TSi Ecomotive which is around £18,000. Also in terms of fuel consumption the Cupra will do up to 43mpg while near to 60 is possible in the Ecomotive – although it does take twice as long to hit 62 mph.

But compared to the opposition the Cupra fares very well in terms of performance for your pounds, so if you want a stand out SUV that has show and go it could be the one for you.

Back at the Liverpool drive day and I swapped the Ateca Cupra for an even more performance focused machine, the Cupra Leon ST- R. With even more horsepower that the Ateca (almost 350) and a seven-speed DSG gearbox puls four wheel drive this hot hatch can hit the 62 mark in 4.7 seconds and go on to 155mph.

In Blackness Grey metallic it looked the part as well – leading to some traffic light encounters with the boy racers of the city who found its racy looks somewhat challenging.

However, some common sense, and Liverpool’s love of the speed camera slowed things down a bit and despite the temptation I think my licence has emerged intact.

SEAT was in Liverpool with a wide range of their vehicles, including some from their historic fleet, as part of a European tour so motoring journalists could try out their products and they also took the opportunity to unveil the future in the shape of their E_-Born all electric Golf-sized hatchback, the electric version of their Mii supermini and their planned PHEV the Formentor, which are all expected to be available next year.

This ties in with SEAT’s claim to have the youngest average age customer base in the UK and they boast of growing their dealer network so that 92 per cent of the population are within a 35 minute drive of a franchise. Also coming next year is a new Leon version, which will be big news for SEAT.

With sales growth of 12 per cent in the UK last year the Spanish manufacturer is somewhat bucking the current downward trend in the car market and with such exciting new and upcoming vehicles on offer it is not hard to see why.

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By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth