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REVIEW: In Accord family, well-established sedan tops upstart crossover

Odds are that a Honda Accord will be on your shopping list when you're in the market for a family sedan. It's one of the nation's most popular cars. This year, the sedan and coupe are joined by the Crosstour, which Honda calls a "crossover utilit...

Odds are that a Honda Accord will be on your shopping list when you're in the market for a family sedan. It's one of the nation's most popular cars.

This year, the sedan and coupe are joined by the Crosstour, which Honda calls a "crossover utility vehicle" but might call a sedan with a hatchback -- or even a wagon.

Whatever it's called, it has the more voluminous cargo- carrying ability of a wagon -- as much as 50 cubic feet with the rear seat back down. It has the quiet, comfortable ride -- the overall gracefulness of the sedan and coupe -- but an exterior shape that badly impairs rear visibility, especially at night and in wet conditions.

For 2010, Accord sedans begin at $21,765 with freight -- coupes at $23,265 -- both with four-cylinder engines, making 177 horsepower in the least-expensive sedan and 190 horsepower in the priciest sedans and all coupes -- the differences due to their respective exhaust systems. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the four-cylinder engine at 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway.

The Crosstour comes only with the six-cylinder engine, and it starts at $30,380 in front-wheel drive and $34,730 with all-wheel drive.

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The 3.5-liter V-6 in both testers is EPA-estimated at 19 mpg and 29 mpg in the sedan -- 17 mpg and 25 mpg in the all-wheel drive Crosstour. I averaged about 25 mpg in both testers.

Honda says the Crosstour has "specific spring rates, shock absorbers and stabilizer bars" to accommodate its greater weight. Still, it doesn't feel as nimble as the sedan or coupe.

Nearly identical dashboards in the sedan and Crosstour have the same flaw: The heating-AC controls are divided, with some to the left and others to the right of the stereo controls, making for a symmetrical look but putting the airflow and fan-speed controls far from the driver.

The Crosstour's sharply angled upper and lower rear windows are divided by a horizontal bar that impedes rear vision on the road and in backing. The very thick rearmost roof pillar on the right side makes it difficult to check whether the adjacent lane is clear for a left-to-right lane change.

All three Accord models have a top, five-star, federal government rating for frontal- and side-impact crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the sedan good in frontal and side protection but hasn't finished testing the Crosstour yet.

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AS TESTED:

2010 Honda Accord Sedan and 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour

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Vehicles tested:

--Engines, both: 3.5-liter V-6, 271 hp.

--Fuel: Regular

--Transmissions: five-speed auto; sedan, front-wheel drive; Crosstour, all-wheel.

--Safety: Six air bags; 4-wheel disc brakes with antilock, stability control and brake assist; tire-pressure monitoring; daytime running lamps, fog lamps.

--Places of assembly: Sedan in Lincoln, Ala.; Crosstour in East Liberty, Ohio

--Trunk-cargo, rear seat backs up: sedan, 14 cubic feet; Crosstour, 25.7

--EPA fuel economy estimates: sedan, 19 mpg, city; 29 highway; Crosstour, 17 and 25

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--Prices as driven: sedan, $31,815; Crosstour, $36,930 both with freight

--Bottom line: A near-perfect sedan; a disappointing wagon

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