Subaru has achieved remarkable success in North America over the past two decades by creating variations of its two basic models, the compact Impreza hatchback and the pricier Legacy sedan.

At the heart of all its models are the Boxer 4-cylinder engine and the all-wheel-drive system that defines the brand.

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Impreza, introduced in 1992, evolved into the Outback wagon in 1994 and the Forester crossover utility vehicle in 1997. Now, Subaru has a newer version of the Impreza called the XV Crosstrek, a high-riding compact that was originally designed for Europe but caught the eye of American dealers.

Subaru calls Crosstrek the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive crossover utility in America, delivering 33 miles per gallon on the highway.

Brochure highlights include standard symmetrical all-wheel drive, high ground clearance, 17-inch alloy wheels and abundant room for passengers and cargo.

Subaru is bringing two versions of the XV Crosstrek to dealers this fall. The Premium trim has a high level of standard features and the Limited adds more luxury and technology.

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XV Crosstreks are powered by a 148-horsepower 2-liter boxer engine, so-called because its cylinders are horizontally opposed, making it flat like a box.

Buyers can opt for five-speed manual transmission or Lineartronic continuously variable transmission.

The review car came with automatic transmission, which shifted without identifiable shift points. However, the engine was a bit noisy on hard acceleration from a dead stop.

The automatic transmission features a six-speed manual mode with steering wheel paddle shifters. That allows the driver to control the transmission via six pre-set ratios. The transmission also allows "second gear" starts to limit wheel spin on slippery surfaces.

Fuel economy figures of 25 city, 33 highway and 28 combined mpg makes Crosstrek among the most fuel-efficient crossovers on the market. All-wheel-drive adds safety to a vehicle but costs a mile or two per gallon in fuel efficiency. Buyers looking for both AWD and fuel efficiency will likely be attracted to the Crosstrek. Think Vermont.

The Crosstrek is an attractive vehicle that will appeal to those who project sporty, outdoor personalities. Black side and wheel-arch cladding, rocker spoiler and roof rails provide contrast to the body color. The higher ride height, body-color roof spoiler and eye-catching 17-inch wheels enhance the car's appeal. Front and rear bumpers and the front grille are unique to the Subaru XV Crosstrek, and dark-tint privacy glass is standard.

Crosstrek's structure features high-strength suspension components that enhance agility, while liquid engine mounts help reduce vibration. The double-wishbone rear suspension features pillow ball bushings for to improve ride comfort, straight-line stability, handling agility and vehicle response.

Both the manual and automatic transmissions include the Subaru Incline Start Assist feature, which will briefly hold the vehicle while the driver pulls away from a stop on a hill.

A standard ECO gauge helps the driver to operate the vehicle as economically as possible.

The interior of the Crosstrek feels much roomier than you might guess from the outside.

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A 103.7-inch wheelbase yields rear seat legroom of 35.4 inches, which is close to the roominess of some midsize cars. With the standard 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded, haulers gain a completely flat load floor with up to 51.9 cubic feet of carrying space. The cargo area has a cover that can be pulled into place or removed, along with a removable waterproof cargo tray, tie-down hooks and grocery bag hooks.

Crosstrek's front seats feature tilt-adjustable head restraints. Large door pockets can hold plastic drink bottles and maps. Several compartments around the center console are available for cell phones, MP3 players, sunglasses or other items.

The XV Crosstrek will cost more than the Forester, with prices beginning at $21,995 for the Premium trim and $24,495 for the Limited. Option packages can drive that higher, of course.

2013 SUBARU XV CROSSTREK

TYPE: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger, compact crossover utility vehicle.

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PRICE: $24,495 base, $27,290 as tested.

WHERE BUILT: Ota Gunma, Japan.

KEY RIVALS: Chevrolet Traverse, Mazda CX-9.

POWER: 2-liter, 148-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine; CVT automatic transmission.

FUEL ECONOMY: 25 city, 33 highway, 28 combined mpg.

WHEELBASE: 103.7 inches.

GROUND CLEARANCE: 8.7 inches.

STANDARD: Leather upholstery, steering wheel and shift handle; automatic climate control system; auto on/off headlights, and a rear seat armrest with dual cup holders; display-type audio system with HD Radio; a rear-vision camera and 4.3-inch display screen; All-Weather Package (heated front seats, heated side mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer); tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth control switches; power windows, door locks and side mirrors; multi-function display with fuel economy information; security system with engine immobilizer; outside temperature gauge; carpeted floormats.

(E-mail Richard Williamson at motorfriend(at)sbcglobal.net)