NOVI, MI – 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 well-regarded Accord sedan.

But the styling is bound to alienate some potential buyers, with its oversized rear end, grille and wheel wells. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the customer ultimately will decide whether the Crosstour’s styling is ahead of its time – or behind the times.

Many Honda fans already have spoken online and aren’t impressed with the sheet metal.

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 the Honda brand’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.

On sale Nov. 20, the Accord Crosstour is in the same more-car, less-SUV vein as the Toyota Venza, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Traverse and Nissan Murano.

As its full name suggests, the Crosstour is based on the Accord, Honda’s best-selling midsize model, which includes sedan and coupe variants.

Consider the Crosstour a late successor to the Accord wagon, discontinued years ago. It may look like the new Acura ZDX CUV, but Honda says it comes from a different platform.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s John Mendel, executive vice president, says the Accord name brings customers into the showroom, even if they buy something else.

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, says chief engineer Osamu Takezawa.

The wheelbase is 0.10 in. (2.5 mm) smaller than that of the sedan, but it’s longer overall, 196.8 ins. (500 cm) vs. 194.1 ins. (493 cm). The Crosstour also is wider and a whopping 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, and specially tuned. Honda embedded a rebound spring inside the axis of the front-suspension damper to lessen body roll in turns and improve linear handling.

’10 Honda Accord Crosstour EX-L with AWD
Vehicle type Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 4-door cross/utility vehicle
Engine 3.5L SOHC V-6 with aluminum block/heads
Power (SAE net) 271 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 254 lb.-ft. (344 Nm) @ 5,000 rpm
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Bore x stroke (mm) 89 x 93
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 110.1 ins. (280 cm)
Overall length 74.7 inches (190 cm)
Overall width 74.7 inches (190 cm)
Overall height 65.7 (167 cm)
Curb weight 4,070 lbs. (1,846 kg)
Base price $29,670-$36,220
Fuel economy 17/25 mpg city/highway (13.8-9.4 L/100 km)
Competition Toyota Venza, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, Chevrolet Traverse
Pros Cons
Clever storage Unattractive styling
Handles like sedan Steering not as firm
Engine world-class VCM mpg gain nominal

Brakes for the CUV 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 for improved stopping. 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 drive here, 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).

Takezawa says Honda boosts fuel economy by using a humidity-control feature, which shuts the air-conditioning compressor off in low-humidity situations, and machining instead of punching the facing discs of the 5-speed automatic transmission’s fourth and fifth gears, reducing friction 10%.

The Accord Crosstour feels much like the sedan, although the latter handles more crisply in corners with its lower center of gravity and firmer steering, as does the Venza. 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. (54 L) 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. It’s a great feature for messy cargo.

Also ingenious in the cargo area are two door-like handles that, when pulled, fold the rear seats flat. Other creature comforts include a USB port (EX-L trim only), 10-way power driver’s seat and a moonroof.

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

In comparison, the Venza begins at $27,800 for a FWD model with V-6, and a less-expensive 4-cyl. model is available. The FWD Edge, with V-6 only, starts at $26,920.

Honda expects 80% of sales to be the EX-L trim.

So often for Honda, the only missing ingredient for a new vehicle 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.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com