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AUTO REVIEW: Honda Accord Crosstour suffers high base price, sloppy interior

DETROIT -- Honda's 2010 Accord Crosstour midsize hatchback offers arresting looks and plenty of passenger and luggage room, but suffers from poor interior quality, large blind spots and a high price.

DETROIT -- Honda's 2010 Accord Crosstour midsize hatchback offers arresting looks and plenty of passenger and luggage room, but suffers from poor interior quality, large blind spots and a high price.

Honda created the Crosstour to be a flagship model for its popular Accord midsize sedan.

It's an intriguing decision, given that Americans don't generally like big hatchback cars.

The Crosstour isn't likely to change that, despite a roomy and practical interior, plenty of power, good fuel economy and more standard features than the sedan.

Badly fitted interior pieces, a limited field of vision and prices that encroach on luxury models weaken the Crosstour's appeal. The Crosstour's bulbous rear styling is polarizing.

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The Crosstour competes with crossovers and wagons like the Ford Edge, Subaru Outback, Toyota Venza and Volkswagen Passat.

The Crosstour is the latest addition to Honda's midsize Accord family, but it's no bundle of joy.

Honda hopes the eccentric Crosstour will spice up the Accord lineup, which is settling into a sedate middle age. The poorly executed hatchback seems more likely to tarnish the sedan's image.

That's assuming anybody notices the Crosstour at all. Saddled with high prices and faults that are surprising in a Honda, the new model feels more like an asterisk than a real addition.

Prices for the Accord Crosstour start at $29,670 for a front-wheel drive model. The least-expensive all-wheel drive Crosstour costs $34,020. All Crosstours come with a 271-horsepower, 3.5-liter, V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission.

I tested a well-equipped $34,770 front-drive Accord Crosstour EX-L with a navigation system. All prices exclude destination charges.

The Crosstour competes with vehicles like the Ford Edge, Subaru Outback, Toyota Venza and Volkswagen Passat station wagon. All have lower base prices than the Crosstour.

Some 2.2 inches longer than an Accord sedan, the Crosstour has a roomy and comfortable passenger compartment and good cargo space. It also offers good fuel economy and responsive handling.

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The materials in the Crosstour's interior look and feel lovely, but fit together poorly. The gaps between pieces of trim on the transmission tunnel look like a kid's wood-shop project.

The interior provides a large and comfortable passenger space. The front and rear seats both have plenty of head and legroom. The seats are comfortable.

The Crosstour has 25.7 cubic feet of luggage room behind the back seat. With the seat folded flat, capacity rises to 51 cubic feet. A large compartment under the load floor is particularly useful.

The Crosstour can carry far more stuff than the Accord sedan, but considerably less than the Edge, Outback, Passat wagon or Venza.

At about 30 inches, the liftover to the cargo space is about as high as that on bigger crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse.

The hands-free phone system's voice control is inadequate. It can't read entries from your phone's address book.

You have to recite every name and number in your directory to the car before it executes a simple command like "call home." The navigation system's voice control is not that bad, but still slow and too complicated.

The system is easy to program manually, but ambient light makes the screen hard to see in daylight.

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A greater visibility problem arises from the Crosstour's large blind spots. The car's broad C-pillars make changing lanes an act of faith.

The rear window is small. A horizontal bar between its upper and lower panes blocks part of the view.

The Crosstour's engine provides good power. The front-drive model I tested tended to squat on its rear wheels and exhibit some torque steer in heavy acceleration. Vibration through the accelerator pedal was noticeable from around 1,700 to 2,450 rpm.

The front-drive Crosstour's EPA fuel economy ratings of 18 m.p.g. in the city and 27 m.p.g. on the highway are slightly better than a FWD six-cylinder Edge and roughly match the Venza.

It falls several mpg short of the less-powerful four-cylinder Passat wagon. The Outback does not offer a front-drive model. The AWD Crosstour gets better mileage than the Edge, and matches the Outback and trails the Venza slightly.

The Crosstour's handling is good. It sticks to fast curves with ease. The suspension cushions bumps for a smooth and comfortable ride.

The steering feel is excellent, with good feedback and response. The brakes have good feel and plenty of stopping power.

The Crosstour has odd proportions born of the car's long hood and high, bustle-back tail. There are some nice touches, however, including flowing rear fenders reminiscent of the Bentley Continental GT.

The 2010 Accord Crosstour has its good points, as a kindly aunt might say of an uninvited cousin arriving late and demanding a seat at the family dinner table.

It hasn't done anything to earn an invitation to come back, though.

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OVERVIEW:

Honda Accord Crosstour 2WD EX-L with navigation

--Front-wheel drive five-passenger midsize hatchback

--Price as tested: $34,770 excluding destination charges

--Rating: (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK) (out of four stars)

--Reasons to buy: Room, comfort, fuel economy

--Shortcomings: Interior fits, blind spots, price

Ratings guide:

(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK) Best in its class

(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK) Above average

(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK) Competent

(ASTERISK) Below average

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KEY FEATURES

Antilock brakes; electronic brake distribution; brake assist; electronic stability control; front-seat side air bags; rollover-sensing curtain air bags; active front headrests; navigation system; rearview camera; Bluetooth hands-free phone compatibility; leather seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel; 360-watt seven-speaker audio system with AM/FM/six-disc CD changer, USB interface, auxiliary input jack; dual-zone climate control; power sunroof; steering-wheel audio controls; 10-way power driver's seat with memory; four-way power front passenger seat; heated front seats; 18-inch alloy wheels; universal garage door opener.

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COMPETITIVE EPA FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS

(Automatic transmission models with six-cylinder engines. Front-wheel drive unless noted.)

--Honda Accord Crosstour: 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway/21 mpg combined

--Ford Edge: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined

--Subaru Outback (all-wheel drive): 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined

--Toyota Venza: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined

--Volkswagen Passat wagon: 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25 mpg combined

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COMPARATIVE BASE PRICES:

(Automatic transmission models, not including destination charges)

--2010 Ford Edge Limited: $33,220

--2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited: $30,995

--2010 Toyota Venza V6: $28,100

--2010 Volkswagen Passat Komfort wagon: $28,755

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SPECS:

--Front- or all-wheel drive five-passenger midsize hatchback

--Engine: 271-horsepower, 3.5-liter, variable timing, 24-valve, DOHC V6

--Transmission: Five-speed automatic

--Price range: $29,670-$36,220 excluding destination charges

--2010 Honda Accord Crosstour EX-L with navigation

--Vehicle type: Front-wheel drive five-passenger midsize hatchback

--Base price: $34,770 excluding destination charges

--As tested: $34,770

--Safety equipment: Antilock brakes; electronic brake distribution; brake assist; electronic stability control; front-seat side air bags; rollover-sensing curtain air bags; active front headrests.

--Engine: 3.5-liter, variable timing, DOHC, 24-valve, direct-injected V6

--Power: 271 horsepower at 6,200 rpm; 254 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm

--Transmission: Five-speed automatic

--Fuel economy: 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway

--Wheelbase: 110.1 inches

--Length: 196.8 inches

--Width: 74.7 inches

--Height: 65.7 inches

--Curb weight: 3,887 pounds

--Where assembled: East Liberty, Ohio

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