By Arv Voss, Motor Matters

Subaru's got a new Crossover Utility Vehicle for active lifestyle buyers -- the 2013 XV Crosstrek. It's affordable, highly capable and sized to serve as the ideal car for drivers looking for moderate off-roading.

Starting at $21,995, Subaru's new XV Crosstrek is offered in just two trims: 2.0i Premium and the upscale 2.0i Limited. Both models are powered by Subaru's 2.0-liter, 16-valve inline, flat-opposed (Boxer) four-cylinder engine with Dual Active Valve Control System. The engine cranks out 148 horsepower along with 145 lb.-ft. of torque.

Driving force is delivered to all four wheels through Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive systems by either a five-speed manual gearbox with incline start assist or a Lineartronic CVT automatic with a driver-selectable six-speed manual shift mode, including and steering wheel shift paddles.

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is attractive and sporty in appearance, displaying a low shoulder line and blacked out "B" and "C" pillars, giving it an almost coupe-like persona heightened by a low 0.35 drag coefficient. Ground clearance is 8.7 inches and towing capacity is limited to 1,500 pounds.

My driving partner and I piloted the 2.0i XV Crosstrek Premium in road terrain that virtually every active lifestyle enthusiast will encounter, from crawling in commute traffic, open freeway driving, and extensive off-roading through rain and rugged inclines.

Perhaps the XV Crosstrek is not a vehicle suited for serious rock-crawling or traversing the legendary Rubicon Trail, but it's certainly up for fording small streams and tackling slick-covered roads and muddy trails with gusto.

While very sporty and fun to handle, the XV Crosstrek is also highly functional. The seats seem a little firm at first, which is soon offset by the support they provide. Exterior mirrors have been moved from the "A" pillar to the door, improving outward visibility, which turns out to be excellent.

Ride quality is comfortable and compliant, even over rough terrain, and the handling characteristics serve up an athletic and sporty feel with good steering response and vehicle stability. And of course Subaru's symmetrical AWD system performs flawlessly on both slippery wet and rough dry surfaces.

The 2.0-liter engine is normally aspirated and does not have direct injection, which Subaru believes is an unnecessary expense, but it delivers an energetic acceleration response none-the-less, along with fine fuel economy at 25 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway. The CVT, though not my personal transmission choice, performs smoothly in either its fully automatic mode or when utilizing the paddle shifters its "manual" gears sensation.

Versatility is key with the 60/40-split rear seat backs that fold flat for a level load surface. The Crosstrek has plentiful storage nooks and the roof rail system comes with a 150-pound load limit.

The 2.0i XV Crosstrek Premium comes with cloth upholstery, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth audio/phone connectivity and USB port/iPod control, and an available All-Weather Package with windshield wiper de-icer, heated exterior mirrors and heated front seats.

The 2.0i Limited model adds leather-trimmed upholstery, a six-speaker audio system with larger 4.3-inch display and HD Radio with iTunes tagging capability, automatic climate control, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, Lineartronic CVT, the All-Weather Package, a Rear-Vision camera and auto-on/off headlamps.

Standard features for both trim levels include: 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels in a dark gray painted surface and machined edges; raised suspension; roof rails with available cross rails; fog lights; power moonroof; cargo-area tray; touch-screen GPS navigation system with SMS text messaging capability, XM radio and XM NavTraffic; seven airbags including driver's side knee airbag; and whiplash protection front seats.

SPECIFICATIONS

2013 SUBARU CROSSTREK PREMIUM

VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD compact CUV

BASE PRICE____________________ $21,995 (as tested: $22,790)

MOTOR TYPE___________________16-valve 4-cylinder w/SMPFI

DISPLACEMENT_________________2.0-liter

HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 148 at 6200 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 145 at 4200 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________ CVT

OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 175.2 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___34.8 ft.

CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,175 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY_________________ 15.9 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway