Downside: The Saab 9-2X and Subaru WRX are mechanical twins. That could hurt the luxury-laden 9-2X in a price-sensitive market where the less costly, less spiffy WRX might prove more appealing to buyers light of pocket.

Ride, acceleration and handling: For the 9-2X, there is delight in every category. Frankly, I could do without the bump and grind of the WRX's ride.

Head-turning quotient: The 9-2X looks good, even with its functional, modified hood scoop. The WRX looks ugly. Its oversized hood scoop and rear spoiler, although functional, hint at something approaching adolescence.

Body style, layout: The 9-2X is a front-engine, all-wheel-drive, four-door, hatchback wagon. It is available in two trim levels -- base Linear and upscale Aero.

Capacities: The 9-2X seats five people. Trunk capacity is 27.9 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 61.6 cubic feet with the rear seat down. Fuel capacity is 15.9 gallons. Premium unleaded gasoline is recommended for the Aero.

Mileage: I averaged 25 miles per gallon in the tested 9-2X Aero in highway driving.

Engines/transmissions: The 9-2X Aero gets a 2-liter, 227-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. The Linear gets the normally aspirated 2.5-liter, 165-horsepower engine. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for both cars; a four-speed automatic is optional.

Safety: Side air bags and Saab-designed active head restraints.

Price: Base price on the tested 9-2X Aero is $26,950. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $25,603. Price as tested is $29,905, including $1,950 in options and a $695 destination charge. Dealer's invoice price with options and destination charge is $28,092. Base price for the Linear is $22,990. Dealer's invoice is $21,841.

Purse-strings note: Compare with the Subaru WRX. Do you want luxury or performance, or a combination of both? At what price?