Loyal customers of the Honda brand may find many reasons to like the all-new Accord Crosstour cross/utility vehicle, including its world-class engine and DNA shared with the Accord sedan.

But the styling is bound to alienate some potential buyers, with its oversized rear end, grille and wheel wells.

Customers will decide whether the Crosstour's styling is ahead of its time — or behind the times. Many Honda fans have spoken online and aren't impressed.

Subjective matters aside, the new CUV offers a potent mixture of performance and compact functionality, with a well-executed interior and clever storage, including a removable (and washable) storage box below the cargo floor.

The 5-seater is Honda's attempt at a CUV that is more “cross” than “utility,” at least compared with the Honda Pilot. Although technically a CUV, the Pilot boasts old-school SUV proportions.

Now on sale, the Accord Crosstour is in the same more-car, less-SUV vein as the Toyota Venza, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Traverse and Nissan Murano.

The Crosstour is based on the Accord, Honda's best-selling midsize model. Consider the Crosstour a successor to the Accord wagon, discontinued years ago. It may look like the Acura ZDX, but Honda says it comes from a different platform.

Adding Accord to the name could allow Honda to include sales of the vehicle with those of the sedan and coupe, shrewdly boosting Honda's chances of topping the rival Toyota Camry, this year's best-seller in the Ward's Upper Middle car segment.

The auto maker targets 40,000 annual sales of the Crosstour.

The CUV is about 60% similar to the Accord sedan, sharing the same chassis, engine and instrument panel.

The wheelbase is 0.10 ins. (2.5 mm) smaller than that of the sedan, but it's longer overall. The Crosstour also is wider and 7.6 ins. (19 cm) taller, in keeping with its CUV proportions.

The same double-wishbone front and rear multi-link suspensions from the Accord sedan are deployed in the Crosstour. Honda embedded a rebound spring inside the axis of the front-suspension damper to lessen body roll and improve linear handling.

Brakes are borrowed from the Accord sedan, but the front calipers have two pistons (instead of one for the sedan), and the rear rotors are larger.

The Crosstour is powered by Honda's 3.5L SOHC V-6, a Ward's 10 Best Engines winner for 2008 and 2009, making 271 hp and 254 lb.-ft. (344 Nm) of torque.

As in the sedan, the engine incorporates Honda's Variable Cylinder Management technology, which turns off two or three cylinders in certain driving conditions.

VCM works imperceptibly, but does it improve real-world fuel economy?

During the media test in suburban Detroit, an AWD Venza, with Toyota's 268-hp 3.5L V-6 and no cylinder deactivation, delivers 21.6 mpg (10.9 L/100 km), compared with 22.2 mpg (10.6 L/100 km) on the same 7.9-mile (12.7-km) route in a Crosstour with AWD. The Accord V-6 sedan returns 25.2 mpg (9.3 L/100 km) on the same loop.

Over a 48-mile (77-km) route through Ann Arbor, an AWD Crosstour manages an impressive 25.6 mpg (9.2 L/100 km).

Honda boosts fuel economy by using a humidity-control feature, which shuts the air-conditioning compressor off in low-humidity situations, and by machining instead of punching the facing discs of the 5-speed automatic transmission's fourth and fifth gears, reducing friction.

The Accord Crosstour feels like the sedan, although the latter handles more crisply with its lower center of gravity and firmer steering.

But the Crosstour behaves more like a car than the Venza, thanks to the Honda's lower seating position. The Toyota feels brawnier and more truck-like.

The Crosstour's interior is typical Honda: high-quality and well-executed, with few fit-and-finish foibles. Only minor gaps between panels are noted in pre-production testers.

The CUV's coolest aspect is its interior, specifically its 1.9-cu.-ft. (0.05-cu.-m) plastic cargo box, concealed under the load floor with handles for easy removal. The floor panels also are reversible, with durable (and washable) hard plastic on one side and carpet on the other.

The Crosstour prices above the competition, ranging from $29,670 for a font-wheel-drive EX grade to $36,220 for an AWD EX-L trim with navigation. Destination and handling is an additional $710.

The Venza begins at $27,800 for a FWD model with V-6, and a less-expensive 4-cyl. model is available. Honda expects 80% of sales to be the EX-L trim.

Often, the only missing ingredient for a new Honda is gotta-have styling. The auto maker has managed nicely with its current design philosophy, but imagine the impact of a dramatic overhaul.

Until that happens, models such as the Crosstour will struggle to reach their market potential.