GOLETA, CA – American Honda is hoping a refresh of its ’13 Honda Crosstour and Acura ZDX cross/utility vehicles will boost demand, following three years of lackluster sales.

Both CUVs have undergone midcycle changes, with reworked interiors and exteriors and added features meant to enhance their appeal to potential buyers, top American Honda officials tell WardsAuto here.

Vicki Poponi, assistant vice president-product planning, says research on the Crosstour showed   “people weren’t exactly sure what it was (because) it was a ‘tweener.’”

Although Honda considers the Crosstour a CUV, some consumers see if as a sedan, she says, which led the auto maker to bolster the vehicle’s “CUV-ness” for ’13. “We wanted to reinforce visually for customers that it was much more capable than a sedan.” So Honda added a more-aggressive-looking front grille to give it a “little tougher” look.

While full details of the ’13 Crosstour are not yet available, a concept vehicle shown at April’s New York auto show had finished sill plates that were “rugged” and added “visual strength,” Honda said at the time.

The new Crosstour will continue to be available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. And because car buyers shopping the CUV have higher incomes than Honda initially expected, Poponi says there will be a more premium feel and level of content.

Honda is promising “heavily revised” trim materials, a new 8-in. (20-cm) in-dash information display, keyless start and paddle shifters for V-6 models.

Like the new, ninth-generation Accord sedan, the Crosstour will get a standard backup camera, as well as offer front-collision and lane-departure warning systems. Honda also will make available its new LaneWatch camera, which projects real-time video of the passenger-side lanes on an interior screen to reduce or eliminate blind-spot-related accidents.

The ’13 Crosstour also has improved rear visibility.

As with the new Accord, the Crosstour’s 3.5L V-6 engine now is matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous 5-speed.

The auto maker initially called for 40,000 annual sales of the Crosstour. But even in its best year of 2010 the CUV fell short, with just 28,851 deliveries, WardsAuto data shows.

Crosstour sales through August of 12,857 units and its 0.85% U.S. market share place the vehicle near the bottom of WardsAuto’s Middle CUV segment. In contrast, the Honda CR-V is the segment’s best-seller with 191,113 units and a 12.6% share of the group.

“The customers that buy the Crosstour absolutely love it,” says Mike Accavitti, American Honda’s marketing chief. “Our challenge becomes finding more people to (choose it).”

Honda is not revealing the Crosstour’s new sales target, but Poponi says the auto maker no longer is shooting for 40,000 units. “We’ve reduced expectations. We want to stabilize and let that just grow.”

Details of the ’13 Acura ZDX are sparse, but Poponi says to expect typical midcycle changes, including an updated exterior and interior as well as added features.

The ZDX shares the Crosstour’s identity crisis, she says, but there is no word yet on whether Acura will deviate from the “4-door coupe” label the CUV was given at launch.

ZDX deliveries represent only a fraction of the Crosstour’s volume. Acura sold 594 units in the year’s first eight months for a 0.76% share, placing it dead last in WardsAuto’s Large Luxury CUV category. The ZDX’s best year also was 2010, with 3,259 units, falling short of initial sales projections of 5,000.

The No.1-seller in the Large Luxury CUV group so far this year is Acura’s MDX, with 33,954 units and a 43.2% segment share.

Both the ’13 Honda Crosstour and Acura ZDX are due in the U.S. this fall.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com