2013 Honda Crosstour

( Photo Courtesy of Kristin Varela/ ) - The Crosstour has been lightly restyled for 2013, but it still looks awkward to many observers.

( Photo Courtesy of Kristin Varela/ ) - The Crosstour has been lightly restyled for 2013, but it still looks awkward to many observers.

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The five-seat Honda Crosstour is like a cross between Cinderella and her ugly stepsisters. Functionally, it's a beautifully hard worker, but it's a little too awkward-looking to get invited to the ball.

The Crosstour's exterior styling is new for 2013, but other changes are few. Compare it with the 2012 version here. If you just can't get past the Crosstour's "unique" look, similar cars worth researching include the Subaru Outback and Toyota Venza.

The 2013 Crosstour comes in four trim levels, or perhaps two trim levels with a choice of drivetrains: There's an EX and EX-L (where the L stands for leather) with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission, and there's the EX-V6 and EX-L V6, which I drove. They have a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard; only the EX-L V6 comes with either front- or all-wheel drive. Check out the front-drive versions side-by-side here.

EXTERIOR

I tried and tried to get over my aversion to the Crosstour's styling, but it just looks like some crazy experiment from a chop shop, with the front end appearing entirely different from the back end. While driving to a school event, a fellow mom said it looked like an old Ford Pinto wagon.

Whether you love it or hate it, one thing that's not arguable is the Crosstour's functionality. Its odd shape makes it easy for both children and grandparents to get into and out of it, and it sports a large and incredibly functional cargo space.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES

The Crosstour's front seats are broad and flat. This, combined with the seat's height — higher than a sedan's — made it extremely easy for my 72-year-old father to get in and out of the Crosstour, despite his limited mobility from cancer treatments. The flip side, however, is that the front seats were incredibly uncomfortable for my husband and me. The flat seat-bottom cushion is rather lacking in … well … cushioning, as is the backrest. With such limited support and no side bolstering, I found myself adjusting and readjusting the seat position throughout my time in the Crosstour, to no avail. The lumbar support in the front seats is far too great, and even with the lumbar adjustment receded as much as possible, my lower back was still pressed too far forward, preventing my shoulders from even touching the seatback. As a passenger, I resorted to shifting in my seat every few minutes to compensate for my discomfort — something not easily or safely done as a driver. While the front seats are well-designed for accessibility, ergonomically they're just all wrong.

Large in-door storage bins in both front doors, a center console just large enough for my iPad Mini (around 8 inches by 5.25 inches) with a second-tier tray on top for smaller items, a small open bin under the center control panel, and a couple of cupholders kept all my odds and ends well-organized.

One thing that wasn't well-organized, however, was the Crosstour's audio system. If I have to reference the owner's manual to figure out how to tune the radio to a specific station, it needs to be simplified.

The Crosstour's wide platform leads to quite a wide backseat. Its 53.9 inches of rear seat hip room matches the Outback but falls short of the Venza, which has 56.5 inches of rear seat hip room. (See all three compared here.) There was plenty of lateral space in the Crosstour for my three daughters, ages 8, 10 and 12, with the youngest in a Bubble Bum booster seat.

While there was enough space to easily fit all my kids side-by-side, with room in between for them to reach their seat belt buckles, the child that got stuck in the middle seat alternated between loving and hating it. The center seating position is on top of a slightly raised hump, which made it difficult for that child to hold herself upright in corners; she was often tilted over onto one of her sisters. This was fun for the child in the middle (like a carnival ride) and completely obnoxious for the sisters sitting in the outboard seats, whose space was regularly encroached upon.

Kiddos in the backseat have access to in-door bottleholders in the rear doors, storage pockets on the seatbacks and a fold-down armrest in the center seating position with two cupholders in it.

The 51.3 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume in the Crosstour is one of its greatest assets. It feels cavernous, even behind the rear seats. In the event you need more space (maybe to inflate an air mattress and go glamping), levers in the cargo area fold the seatbacks instantly. For families that need even more space to haul stuff, the Outback and Venza are even better options, with 71.3 cubic feet and 70.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume, respectively.

The Crosstour does have a few nice, slightly luxurious appointments, such as leather seats in the EX-L trims, heated front seats (another plus for my father, who was quite chilled) in those same higher trims, a large moonroof and a sunglasses holder. The rest of the fit and finish, however, seems a little like a cheap afterthought. You know it's bad when a 10-year-old points out the plastic interior door handles that, as she says, "feel like they're going to break off when you grab them."

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore):Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore):Galore

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent):Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On):Some

BEHIND THE WHEEL

The four-wheel-drive Crosstour I drove, which featured a 278-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, was surprisingly fun out on the road. It had plenty of get up and go, which I wasn't anticipating based on the car's large wagon shape. It drives like a much smaller car, feeling as if it drives itself rather than requiring too much effort from the driver to keep it up to speed on the highway.

There's a great balance of comfort in the Crosstour's suspension with plenty of road feedback to make you feel well-connected to the pavement. Both the steering and braking are light and effortless, without losing any of their responsiveness.

The V-6 Crosstour with all-wheel drive gets an EPA-estimated 19/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined. This bumps up to 23 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive V-6, and 25 mpg for the four-cylinder, which comes only with front-wheel drive.

SAFETY

The 2013 Honda Crosstour is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick, having received IIHS' highest rating of Good in moderate-overlap front, side, rear and roof-strength tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't crash-tested the Crosstour.

As is required of all new vehicles since the 2012 model year, the Crosstour has standard antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control. The six standard airbags include driver and front passenger dual-stage airbags, driver and front passenger side-impact torso airbags and side curtain airbags that extend from the front seats to the rear.

Installing child-safety seats in the Crosstour can be quite tricky. The lower Latch anchors are in the seat bight, but they're obstructed by the placement of the seat belt webbing, causing parents to have to fish around for the anchor. Children in booster seats might also have difficulty with the seat belt buckles, which are on floppy bases, making it difficult for booster-aged children with limited dexterity to buckle up independently. For full details, see last year's Car Seat Checkof the Honda Crosstour, which also represents the current model.

A backup camera is standard on all Crosstour trim levels, and rear park assist sensors are available for another $498. The camera is a huge help due to decreased rear visibility from the split glass in the rear hatch. The rear camera offers three views: a wide, a narrow and a straight-down view, giving drivers the ability to choose the best viewing angle for each circumstance.

Honda's LaneWatch (see an evaluation), also standard in all Crosstour trim levels except the base four-cylinder EX, projects an image of the passenger-side blind spot onto the backup camera screen when you turn on your right-turn indicator. I loved having this extra eye when changing lanes on the highway, but wished for something similar on the left side, as well as a blind spot warning system giving me an audible tone when a car was in my blind spot. That's not available on the Crosstour. Honda has incorporated a larger, wide-angle side-view mirror on the left to compensate.

The EX-L comes standard with forward-collision warning and lane departure warning systems.

See all the standard safety features listed here.

 
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