Subaru’s having a big year with new car launches. First the BRZ wowed thrill-seeking drivers and automotive writers alike with performance capabilities that far outpace its sticker price. Now the manufacturer is targeting a slightly more practical but still style-conscious consumer with the all-new 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, an all-wheel drive compact crossover that delivers an unbelievable 33 mpg on the highway. The XV Crosstrek succeeds the Subaru Impreza-derived Outback Sport hatchback and shares the Impreza’s 2.0-liter 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine. But while the five-door Impreza has a more utilitarian design language, the XV’s more flowing lines and signature 17-inch alloy wheels reveal its aesthetic aspirations.

Not that Subaru has ignored the off-road yearnings of its core clientele. The Crosstrek hovers near the top of its class with its 8.7-inch ground clearance, while its high-strength four-wheel independent suspension serves up smooth day-to-day driving with the agility necessary for rougher terrain. The XV comes in two trim levels: the entry-level Premium, which comes with heated front seats and heated side mirrors, and the Limited edition, which dresses up the cabin in leather and adds auto climate control and a rear-vision camera, among other features. A roomy cargo area and roof racks afford plenty of space to get all your gear to your preferred mountain getaway.

The XV’s Boxer engine can be mated to a five-speed transmission or the continuously variable automatic six-speed transmission with paddle shifters, which we tested. Not surprisingly for a 148-horsepower crossover, the XV doesn’t exhibit exceptional acceleration from a standing start or merging into highway traffic. We’d love to see future iterations bring a little more bravado under the hood. Still, on the strength of its agile handling, off-road bona fides and styling swagger, the XV has more than enough power to run at the front of the compact crossover pack.

Starts at $21, 995. Check it out at