At the risk of reusing a well-worn cliché, the expression: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck," is appropriate here.
Honda officially describes the Crosstour as a crossover utility vehicle - or CUV - but, despite its swoopy styling and fastback pretensions, I know a station wagon when I see one.
Which is fine. All things considered, station wagons offer a pretty decent combination of useable space, economy of operation, and affordability. That's why they've been around since the 1930s.
If you've got a family - or even if you're an empty nester - and need some extra elbow room, but don't want to horse around with an SUV or minivan, a station wagon could be just the ticket.
Based on the Accord platform and officially classed as an Accord variant, the Crosstour is new for 2010 and shares almost no body parts with its sedan counterpart, but does utilize the same V-6 drivetrain. At this point, there is no four-cylinder version.
Displacing 3.5 litres, the V-6 develops 271 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque, which makes it one of the livelier models in this category - whatever that is. The Toyota Venza, which must be considered as a direct competitor, is good for 268 horses, although, performance-wise, these two are pretty much neck-and-neck.
The Crosstour transmission is a five-speed automatic only, and you can choose from all-wheel-drive or front-drive. My tester had the former. This system is about as inconspicuous as these things get and, unless you get caught in deep snow or gravel, you probably won't even know it's there. Incidentally, this is Honda's "Real Time" AWD system, and not the SH-AWD system used in some of its Acura products.
There is only one trim level - EX-L - and the front-drive versions start at $2,000 less than the AWD model. Unsurprisingly, the AWD version is a little thirstier than the FWD: 8.0 L/100 km on the highway vs. 7.2 L/100 km. My test car also had the Navi package, which includes a back-up camera and steering-wheel-mounted controls. It'll run you another $2,000 on top of that, if you get it with all the goodies.
Because all Crosstours are EX-Ls, even the base 2WD version comes well-equipped. For the just-under-$35,000 starting price, you get full leather interior, dual zone climate control system, tilt/telescoping steering, heated front seats, XM satellite radio and the usual power modcons. Basically, the Crosstour has the same trim level as the top of the line EX-L Accord sedan.
Storage capacity is a healthy 1,453 litres with the back seats folded, and the back door is a one-piece affair that opens up like a hatchback. By way of comparison, Honda's CR-V SUV has about 2,064 litres of space. The back seats fold down, 60/40, and there's also a nifty storage compartment under the rear deck, which can be taken out. A nice touch.
In fact, in virtually all departments, the Crosstour has a nice touch. It has that ineffable drivability factor that Honda has been building into the Accord almost since it was first introduced to the North American market, back in - what, 1976? - and is uncomplicated and undemanding behind the wheel.
The V-6 is a titch on the growly side, but nothing extreme. If I had to pick nits, I'd say that the Venza V-6 is smoother with a more refined power delivery, but it's a close call, either way.
I also have mixed feelings about its styling. To my eyes, the back end is too prominent and, well, it has a big booty. So much so that it makes the car look like it has some kind of a lift-kit in the rear suspension. Obviously, it doesn't, but the eye is drawn to the back of the car and the whole effect is kind of unco-ordinated to my eyes.
It's not easy to design a proper-looking station wagon - as Toyota found out when it introduced the short-lived Camry wagon, back in the mid-1990s - but Honda has put an Accord wagon on the North American market before, and, for its time, the old version was a nice-looking vehicle.
Car makers seem to have an aversion to the term "station wagon." Maybe it's because it conjures up corny visions of Ward Cleaver taking Beav and Wally to the ball game, and the Eisenhower era in the United States.
Europeans have no such phobias, and their equivalent, which is known as the "estate wagon," has been a popular model designation across the pond for decades. Honda, in fact, has had an Accord wagon in the U.K. and elsewhere for years. It's better-looking in almost every way.
But there isn't much else to gripe about here. Like just about everything that comes out of Honda, the Crosstour is driver-friendly, nicely built, reasonably nimble and competitively priced.
2010 HONDA CROSSTOUR
Type: Mid-size crossover
Base Price: $34,900; as tested, $38,900
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 271 hp/254 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12.3 city; 8.0 highway (AWD); regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota Venza, Nissan Murano, Volkswagen Tiguan, Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3-Series Wagon, Subaru Forester
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