Trying to Figure Out what the Honda Crosstour IsBy Bill Visnic November 12, 2009
Criticism of its unconventional looks nothwithstanding, Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s new Crosstour 4-door hatchback seems to be causing a stir in the marketplace as consumers try to determine just what the Crosstour is - and how to categorize it versus other types of vehicles.
Cross-shopping data from Edmunds.com indicates prospective Crosstour buyers are all over the map in terms of vehicles they are considering in addition to the Crosstour. Early indication shows most seem to view the Crosstour as either a wagon or a crossover. Through September, apart from the more conventional 2- and 4-door variants of the Accord, the vehicle most cross-shopped against the Crosstour was Toyota's Venza.
But one question Honda may find itself asking is whether the Crosstour will generate incremental sales - or if it is simply giving its own customers another alternative: three of the top four vehicles cross-shopped against the Crosstour are other Hondas.
One thing seems certain: shoppers seem to think domestic automakers have much of an analogue to the Crosstour. Of the 25 vehicles most cross-shopped against the Crosstour, only two were domestic nameplates, the Chevrolet Equinox crossover and the Cadillac CTS (most likely the new CTS Sport Wagon).
Getting Comfortable With The Looks
After the first images of the Crosstour were released, Honda spent considerable time defending the wagon-nee-crossover's unconventional looks and configuration.
Honda isn't alone in this endeavor. BMW AG finds itself in the same boat with the new hatchback variant of the 5-Series sedan, the Gran Turismo (stylistically, the two models are more than a little similar). BMW has from the start been on the defensive about its X6 crossover. And Honda's premium Acura division has its own new and difficult-to-categorize hatchback sedan, the ZDX - unsurprisingly, a car also high on the list of vehicles being cross-shopped against the Crosstour.
At Edmunds.com's Carspace forum, much of the criticism of the Crosstour focuses on its appearance and proportions. "Looks like the Pontiac Aztek has an ugly stepsister," said one comment. Many believe the car is too large - underscoring some of the confusion many professed longtime Honda loyalists indicate about what Honda is trying to accomplish with the Crosstour (and the now-fullsize Accord sedan).
Far from all comments are uncomplimentary, however, reminding that judgment about styling truly is subjective.
Honda is seeking to establish the Crosstour in two ways: as a new top-of-the-line for the Accord model range - the Crosstour comes only in the top EX trim, offers only V6 power and starts at $29,670, although an all-wheel drive Crosstour clears the $36,000 mark - and as a more functional bodystyle.
Wagon Or What?
Edmunds.com's cross-shopping data indicate it may take some time for buyers to decide where the Crosstour and its ilk will settle into the automotive spectrum.
If discounting the other Hondas against which prospective buyers cross-shopped the Crosstour, vehicles considered cut across all party lines: the Toyota Venza is most visibly a wagon (with crossover overtones) and the consideration of compact and midsize crossovers such as the Subaru Outback, Toyota RAV4 and Equinox are understandable.
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Yet other vehicles cross-shopped against the Crosstour include a heavy representation of import sedans such as the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Volkswagen Passat and Nissan Maxima.
The industry not long ago was enamored with calling unconventional vehicles "segment busters." Although the overused (and abused) term now is passe', it seems to apply to the Crosstour and the raft of other hatchback sedans that seek to bridge the gulf between conventionally configured 4-door models and higher-riding crossovers (themselves conceived as more car-like alternatives to SUVs).
Customer reaction will prove whether that gulf really needs to be closed by vehicles such as the Crosstour and 5-Series Gran Turismo or whether buyers are fine with the making the choice between a sedan and a crossover. - Bill Visnic, senior contributing editor
1. Honda Accord Crosstour: wagon, crossover, what? (courtesy American Honda Motor Co. Inc.)
2. Ill-proportion is in the eye of the beholder (courtesy American Honda Motor Co. Inc.)
3. BMW is taking heat for its own new hatchback sedan, the 5-Series Gran Turismo (courtesy BMW North America Inc.)