Sony's new mid-ranger takes the design DNA and performance of the Xperia X and transforms it into a more affordable package.

Mobile World Congress

So we've already seen the Xperia X and Xperia X Performance, Sony's two new hero phones that broke cover today at Mobile World Congress . The regular Xperia X looks like a great mainstream phone, while the "Performance" version brings the power of a Snapdragon 820 into the mix. But what about the traditional mid-range space? Well, Sony isn't ignoring the need for more affordable phones, as evidenced by the budget-conscious Xperia XA, also unveiled today in Barcelona.

The Xperia XA is pretty easy to identify as a Sony phone, with its symmetrical design and metallic trim. From a distance, it's easily confused with its more expensive sibling, the Xperia X. To spot the differences between the two, you'll need to examine it more closely.

Sony's new mid-ranger takes the Xperia X's looks and recreates them in a traditional polycarbonate shell. The phone's front sports the same slick glass front as the X, with a gentle slope towards the edges, while downscaling to a 720p resolution at 5 inches. That's a relatively low number even in the mid-range space, but what the Xperia XA lacks in resolution it makes up for with impressive brightness and colors that really pop.

Xperia XA

It might feel like plastic, but in any of its four colors this is a good-looking phone.

The outer frame of the phone is a familiar sight, with Sony's traditional circular power button on the right edge — no fingerprint scanner this time — along with volume and camera shutter keys. The back panel, which flows gently into the trim — and while it looks vaguely metallic, it feels very much like a polycarbonate shell.

Like its big brothers, the Xperia XA's 5-inch size makes it easy on hands and pockets, and the razor-slim horizontal bezels also make for some striking visuals. It might feel like plastic, but in any of its four colors — white, graphite, lime and rose gold — this is a good-looking phone.

On the inside, the XA is powered by a MediaTek Helio P10 processor, an octa-core chip using ARM's low-power Cortex-A53 cores. It's also packing 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, along with microSD expandability. So it's firmly a mid-range handset, but performance leaves nothing wanting, with apps loading quickly and smoothly in our brief time with the phone. Once again, two-day battery life is promised from the phone, which packs a 2,300mAh internal cell.

As for imaging, the Xperia XA includes a 13-megapixel rear shooter along with the redesigned camera app from the Xperia X, giving you a wide array of shooting modes and manual options for ISO, exposure levels and other variables. It's not as fast to focus as the X, but once it's there, it's capable of firing off images in rapid succession. Around the front, there's a more standard 8-megapixel sensor reporting for selfie duty.

Xperia XA

In an age when many mid-ranger still don't arrive with the latest version of Android, it's reassuring to see Sony shipping the Xperia XA with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, in addition to the latest Sony UI. As we've discussed before, Sony has a pretty light touch when it comes to customizing Android, with major additions to Marshmallow including its own apps, a stylized lock screen with a large clock widget, and re-tooled Material Design dialer and messaging apps.

It's not always easy to get excited about a mid-range phone, these being more about which compromises a manufacturer has put in place than a singe stand-out feature. But the choices Sony has made in the Xperia XA all make sense, and as a result it's looking like a promising phone indeed.