Honda Crosstour: Attractive package inside and out

By Lary Coppola

The all-new 2010 Crosstour is Honda’s latest Accord model, and what’s known as a CUV — Crossover Utility Vehicle. Let’s politely call it what it actually is, a hatchback Accord. The Accord Crosstour will fill the slot in between the CR-V and Pilot.

Someone I spoke with recently tried to make a strong case that with the Crosstour, Honda has finally gotten the Accord right. I never thought there was too much wrong with the original, and this vehicle is aimed at a different buyer than the Accord. But the Crosstour has a lot going for it.

A few years back, Honda’s market research found a large number of buyers — anticipated to be 20-somethings starting families and empty nesters — would want an Accord-size vehicle that wasn’t a truck, was handier than a sedan, and sportier than a mainstream CUV, and they would want it right about now.

Since planning a new vehicle takes years, and anticipating what car buyers will want and need in the future is less than an exact science, it’s a major crapshoot every time a new vehicle is introduced.

Were they right? Time will tell.

Model Lineup: The Crosstour comes in two trim levels, with front-wheel-drive standard. The Crosstour EX starts at $29,670, while the more upscale EX-L sells for $32,570. The all-wheel-drive (AWD) package is only available on the EX-L, starting at $34,020. Adding navigation adds another $2,200 to the sticker, for a total of $34,770 with 2WD and $36,220 with AWD.

Walkaround: Although visually similar to the recently introduced Acura ZDX (Honda owns Acura), the Crosstour doesn’t share the ZDX’s platform, instead, riding on a modified Accord chassis.

The Crosstour is what is known in Europe as a five-door — a four-door sedan with a hatch making five. It’s somewhat ironic, that after years of rejecting the hatchback (well, there was the Gremlin…), the auto industry is slowly moving back toward what’s always been the most practical sedan design.

The Crosstour differs from the Accord sedan in several ways besides the obvious sloping roofline. There’s a beefier more aggressive looking grille, two-inch wider stance (although there’s about an inch less room inside), a 110.1-inch wheelbase, more weight — 299 to 487 pounds more than Accord sedans. It’s the only Accord to offer AWD — as basic as it may be — and has two additional inches of ground clearance than the Accord sedan for foul-weather and bad-road driving. The sloping rear roof gives the 2010 Accord Crosstour a very distinctive look — especially in contrast to the flat-roofed, Camry-based Toyota Venza or Ford Flex.

Interior: The Accord Crosstour EX comes pretty well-equipped, with standard features that include dual-zone automatic air conditioning with second row ventilation, auto up/down driver and front passenger side windows, moonroof, steering wheel-integrated audio controls, 360-Watt AM/FM 6-disc audio system with seven speakers, compass and outside temperature indicator, cruise control, easy fold-down 60-40 split rear seat back, 17-inch aluminum wheels with 225/65 R17 all-season tires, hidden removable utility box, rear privacy glass, projector beam headlights with auto-off, fog lights, chrome door handles, body-colored power side mirrors with defrost, and more.

Upgrades on the Accord Crosstour EX-L include leather-trimmed seating surfaces with heated front seats, leather steering wheel, leather gear shift knob, memory driver-side seats, memory side mirrors with reverse tilting capability, auto day/night dimming rearview mirror, auto on/off headlights, Kevlar cone speakers, aluminum dome-type front tweeter speakers and a USB audio interface, 18-inch aluminum wheels with 225/60 R18 all-season tires, cargo privacy cover, and HomeLink transmitter.

The seats were unusually comfortable for a Honda, offering good lumbar support, and the instrumentation includes some cool blue lighting. The center control console, which houses the navigation system and backup camera display, looks like it came straight out of an Acura RL rather than the standard-issue Accord controls.

While its coupe-like styling somewhat limits cargo volume, the Crosstour was designed with cargo hauling in mind. It doesn’t want for cubbies, bins and other storage, featuring an 8-inch deep under-floor Hidden Removable Utility Box with a reversible lid, and under-floor bins that mirror the popular feature in the Honda Ridgeline pickup. A big, removable and washable center bin is flanked by two smaller ones, and the covers of all three can be reversed, offering carpet or a durable hard-plastic surface.

The hatch is just much handier than a trunk, and space behind Crosstour’s back seat is twice the size of an Accord sedan trunk.

Safety features include the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which enhances occupant protection and crash compatibility in frontal collisions. Additional safety equipment includes Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist; side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor; driver’s and front passenger’s side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS); dual-stage, multiple threshold front airbags; and active front seat head restraints.

Under The Hood: Power for the Crosstour is courtesy of Honda’s 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 engine — the same motor as the Accord sedan. It delivers 271 horses and 254 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. It’s mated to a five-speed automatic that shifts briskly and smooth. No four-cylinder engine is offered.

The AWD system, which Honda dubs Real Time, is the same one used on its CR-V and Element small SUVs. Basically, it’s a front-drive system that transfers some power to the back wheels when, and only when, the front wheels slip. While it responds quickly, AWD always provides better stability and traction if it anticipates and can power all the wheels a moment before they lose traction, rather than after. The system is lighter and cheaper than more sophisticated AWD setups, but it worked fine in some very wet winter weather.

Behind The Wheel: The Crosstour has one of the best combinations of ride comfort and bump-smoothing I’ve found in almost any test car I’ve driven in awhile. It handled some tight, two-lane blacktop twisties at speed surprisingly well, and acceleration was adequate in traffic and on the freeway. Both are surprising, given that extra weight usually degrades handling and slows acceleration.

Steering had a comfortable feeling of quick turning response, and wasn’t too heavy or sluggish, while the 4-wheel disc brakes felt above average. Towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.

Gas mileage on our two-wheel-drive test EX-L was rated at 18/city and 27 highway.

Whines: There’s no stowage for the covers if you overfill the storage bins. You have to leave them loose in the vehicle, or at home. The navigation system was annoyingly slow to load, but worked well otherwise. An old-school type parking brake handle, rather than a pedal, hugs the center tunnel.

Bottom Line: I liked the Crosstour a lot. It drives great and is stylish, comfortable and practical. Our loaded test model stickered at $35,480, although the Crosstour is anywhere from $2,865 to $3,665 more than similarly equipped Accord sedans. But for you get and all the Crosstour can do, you just can’t beat its bang for the buck — especially when you factor in Honda dependability.