The Honda Accord Crosstour, a hatchback offshoot of the Accord sedan that early web audiences suggest was struck — bludgeoned, really — by the ugly stick, delivers an Accord-like experience through and through. Fans of the sedan who need some extra cargo room might want to put it on their shortlist.

The masses may balk over the Crosstour's looks, but I suspect the disdain will subside over time. I have bigger concerns: namely, that Honda makes the car out to be some sort of marriage between luxury and versatility. On each, it comes up short.

Honda positions the Crosstour up-market of the Accord sedan; the current-generation sedan was last redesigned for the 2008 model year. Its V-6 engine is standard in the Crosstour, as is a five-speed automatic transmission. Trim levels include the well-equipped EX and gussied-up EX-L. All-wheel drive, unavailable on the sedan, is optional on the Crosstour EX-L. I tested both the EX and EX-L.

Quite the Grilling

When Honda first released images of the Crosstour, it didn't take long for web denizens — across Facebook, Twitter and blogs like our own Kicking Tires — to cry foul. Readers called the car "hideous," "disgusting" and, my personal favorite, "a Crossturd." Not long after Honda launched a Crosstour Facebook group, a rival page appeared: the New Accord Crosstour Haters' Group. (It's still a flyspeck, with 95 members as of Oct. 28. That same day the Crosstour page had 6,703 fans.)

The lightning rod seems to be the car's grille, a supersized version of the Accord sedan's. In most photos it looks pretty garish. Honda's response: The Crosstour is bigger than the sedan, and in person that grille — and the rest of the car — doesn't look so bad.

Honda's right. In person, the Crosstour is not, in fact, ghastly. The brand's recent design controversies — from the Ridgeline pickup truck to the Accord sedan — usually find eventual acceptance, mostly by dint of tens of thousands of those cars hitting the road. No doubt the same will become true of the Crosstour. But it's still a very odd-looking creature. The nose is heavyset; the profile looks forced, with a bulbous tail and too much front overhang. I found the rear to be the lone good angle, so you may want to always park snout-in.

Dual tailpipes, chrome exterior appointments and 17-inch alloy wheels are standard. EX-L models add 18-inch wheels.

Moving Around

Accord fans will be happy to know the Crosstour is much the same to drive. The seating position is comparable — I sat back-to-back in the sedan and Crosstour and couldn't tell an appreciable difference — and both cars share the same 3.5-liter V-6. The engine has decent grunt, but around town you may question whether there's really 271 horsepower behind the grille. Acceleration comes smoothly enough, though it feels a few protein shakes shy of Toyota's 3.5-liter Venza and a full training regimen short of the Nissan Murano — really this league's Rocky Balboa.

Pressed hard, the Crosstour musters good highway passing power, though the engine sounds a bit raspy when doing so. At least front-wheel-drive models mask torque steer — where the steering wheel shimmies under hard acceleration — at all speeds.

Honda says the Crosstour's five-speed automatic resists shifting during corners better than the sedan's does. I didn't notice any undue upshifts, and it doles out downshifts with little lag and no gear hunting. In the rush toward responsiveness, however, some of those shifts can feel a bit abrupt.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, and the pedal elicits strong response. Honda tuned the Crosstour's suspension for better comfort versus the sedan — itself on the firmer side of family cars — and the resulting ride should suit most drivers. I drove a Venza with 20-inch wheels back-to-back with a Crosstour wearing 18s, and ride comfort seemed about even. I also didn't notice a marked difference in ride comfort between Crosstours with 17s versus 18s.

The steering wheel transmits a weighty, secure feel on the highway. Quick turns bring about some body roll, but it's no worse than in the Venza. More vexing, particularly for city drivers, will be the Crosstour's turning circle: At 40.2 feet, it's on the wide side. The Venza turns in 39.1 feet; the Subaru Outback does 36.8 feet. Even with its largest available wheels, the Murano crossover tops out at 39.4 feet.

Rather than use the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive from Honda's Acura division, which routes power to individual wheels to enhance handling, the Crosstour has a simpler on-demand all-wheel-drive system that sends power rearward only when the front wheels lose traction. Optional on the EX-L, it adds 183 pounds. I evaluated front- and all-wheel-drive Crosstours, and the extra weight doesn't render a major difference in acceleration.

The EPA-estimated gas mileage is 18/27 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 17/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. Honda's V-6 has a cylinder-deactivation feature to improve mileage, but if fuel efficiency ranks high on your priorities, the Venza and Outback both offer four-cylinder engines that get 3 or 4 mpg better overall. Why doesn't Honda offer a four-cylinder Crosstour? The automaker says the mileage improvements from using the sedan's 2.4-liter four-banger would have been too marginal to justify it. (In the sedan, the difference between the four-cylinder and V-6 amounts to 2 mpg.)

EPA Gas Mileage (Combined City/Highway, mpg)
Automatic transmissions
Volkswagen Passat Wagon--25Premium (recommended)
Subaru Outback20 - 24--Regular
Audi A4 Avant23--Premium (recommended)
Toyota Venza21 - 2322 - 24Regular
Honda Accord Crosstour2021Regular
BMW 328i Sports Wagon2021Premium (required)
Nissan Murano2020Premium (recommended)
Ford Edge1920Regular
Volvo V70/XC701821Regular
Source: EPA data for 2010 models

The Luxury Problem

Relative to a Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima, the Accord sedan feels high-rent. But Honda priced the Crosstour closer to luxury-brand cars, and there isn't enough that sets it apart from its modestly priced sedan counterpart. Move up the Crosstour trims and similar money can fetch a Volvo V70, Audi A4 Avant or BMW 328i Sports Wagon — relatively unadorned versions, to be sure, but cars all cut from a nicer cloth.

In that league, the Crosstour is, well, just an Accord. Plastic window pillars, cheap finishes below eye level, frosted gray trim — these can fly in a $23,000 family sedan. Not one that starts around $30,000. The Venza's interior, in contrast, feels distinctly richer than those in the Camry and Crosstour. The Murano could pass for a model from Nissan's Infiniti luxury brand. The Crosstour needs gussying, plain and simple.

What gussying Honda did do, at least, works. The Crosstour-specific blue gauge lighting looks sharp, and the leather upholstery in EX-L models feels suppler and better cushioned than the cowhide in the Accord sedan. Honda says it's the same grade of leather but has a new pattern, with vertical seams instead of the sedan's gathered look. Either way, it comes off as higher quality.

The front seats have good thigh support and plenty of adjustment range. Like the sedan, the Crosstour has impressive headroom and legroom in the backseat, and the seats sit high enough off the ground to be comfortable. The Venza and redesigned Subaru Outback offer comparable backseat room, but most entry-level luxury wagons — particularly the 328i Sports Wagon and A4 Avant — have fairly cramped backseats.

The Versatility Problem

All might be forgiven if the Crosstour presented a lot of versatility, but it falls short there, too. For starters, cargo volume suffers from the raked tail, which lops off a lot of room behind the rear seats. There's more than you'd get in the trunk of an Accord sedan — and Honda says that with the seats down, the Crosstour can accommodate longer items than some of its major competitors — but relative to the range of wagon and crossover alternatives, the Crosstour still doesn't offer a particularly spacious setup.
Cargo Volume Compared
Base priceCargo behind 2nd row (cu. ft.)Cargo behind 1st row (cu. ft.)
Subaru Outback$22,99534.371.4
Toyota Venza$26,27534.470.1
Ford Edge$26,92032.269.0
Nissan Murano$28,05031.664.0
Volkswagen Passat Wagon$28,39535.861.8
Honda Accord Crosstour$29,67025.751.3
Volvo V70/XC70$33,55033.372.1
Audi A4 Avant$35,35028.050.5
BMW 328i Sports Wagon$35,40016.248.9
Source: Automaker data for 2010 models

The cargo area does have a few nifty tricks, among them an under-floor storage well and spring-loaded seats that fold down when you pull a handle in cargo area. But on the whole, the versatility story just doesn't add up. Chunky D-pillars and a small rear window obscure visibility. The backseats in a number of competitors — including the Venza, Outback and Murano — can recline; the Crosstour's does not. Honda says towing capacity tops out at 1,500 pounds. That's 500 pounds more than the Accord sedan but well short of the Venza, Murano and Edge, which all tow up to 3,500 pounds. The Crosstour's 6-inch ground clearance is 0.3 inches higher than the sedan's, but it falls short of the Murano (7.4 inches), Venza (8.1) and Outback (8.7). That will matter to snow-conscious drivers.

Safety, Features & Pricing

The Crosstour has yet to be crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; its body style is different enough that the Accord sedan's ratings do not apply. Standard features on the Crosstour include six airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system.

The $29,670 Crosstour EX comes well-equipped, with dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, a moonroof and a CD stereo with an MP3 jack. I'm flummoxed why $30,000 doesn't get you a USB input for full iPod/MP3 connectivity — a feature fast becoming standard across cars of all stripes, including the Venza. In the Crosstour, USB connectivity requires stepping up to the $32,570 EX-L, which also adds heated leather seats, an upgraded stereo and larger wheels. A navigation system with a backup camera runs $2,200, while all-wheel drive runs $1,450. Both are available only on the EX-L, but you don't need one to get the other.

Check all the factory options, and the Crosstour runs about $36,000.

Accord Crosstour in the Market

There are some cars that don't add up at first — but a certain brand of likability emerges, defying plenty of other reasons to win you over. Case in point: The Infiniti EX35 we tested last month.

The Accord Crosstour is not one of those cars. Styling aside — because if you've read this far, it clearly isn't an issue — the pieces just don't fall into place. It's not particularly grin-inducing to drive or sit in. I question the cargo area's Home Depot capacities. It's expensive. That elusive sense of likability? I'm still waiting for it.

Honda has a strong contender in the Accord sedan, and the Crosstour may still work for Accord faithful who want more cargo room and can't bear to consider anything else. For the premium Honda charges, though, I have a tough time justifying its draw versus all the other wagon-things you could get.

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