It's bigger than a hatchback, smaller than an SUV and faster than most crossovers. It's the Honda Accord Crosstour and, after driving it for four days, I came away wondering why Honda bothers marketing the CR-V when this car is so much better in pretty much every way. The only advantage the CR-V has over the Crosstour is a base price of Dh90,000, compared with Dh135,000. But the extra Dh45,000 will give you a much better car.
Both cars are family taxis, both offer a little extra height in traffic compared with a hatchback or saloon, and neither have any business going off road, but the Crosstour wins hands down in terms of space, comfort, practicality, power, luxury and design. The exterior design is instantly reminiscent of the Porsche Panamera. Let me first say that the Panamera is a design you're either going to love or loathe and, personally, I reckon that anything with more than two doors isn't really a Porsche. But when I saw the Panamera in the flesh (or metal), I had to begrudgingly admit that it is a nice design. And now you can have a similarly handsome car for Dh231,000 less than the cheapest of these four-door Porsches. But with bags more practicality.
When I picked the car up, I was shown a very clever boot. Stay with me on this - the floor was divided into panels that can be positioned carpet side up or tough plastic side up. If you have a dog or a tendency to throw anything wet or dirty into the back of your car, the plastic side will wipe clean. Lift up the middle panel and there's a removable plastic storage tub, perfect for muddy shoes, a wetsuit or anything else you don't want to put down on the soft leather upholstery.
Unlike the CR-V, it is dead simple to fold down the Crosstour's back seat to transform the car into a van. With the back seats up, there is plenty of room for two tall friends behind the driver. A quick flick of a lever and everything gently drops down, revealing enough room to make you the person that always gets asked to help friends move house. The CR-V had two of us struggling to figure out how to fold down the seats and we ended up forcing a TV cabinet across the back seat and hoped we didn't scratch the leather. In the Crosstour, however, the lovely leather remains intact if you are moving a big load.
Another clever feature is, of all things, the spare tyre. It is stored on the underside of the car at the back and its storage case is tilted downwards. This means that if you suffer the misfortune of being rear-ended hard, the tyre won't come flying through into the back seat and will instead come down on the road. But cleverest of all is the Variable Cylinder Management technology in the 3.5L V6 engine, which provided ample power effortlessly on the motorway. It is a very busy engine indeed, constantly monitoring whether you're in stop-start traffic or you're cruising along, and it will save fuel by shutting off any cylinders that aren't strictly required.
It sounds a bit like the car is taking over from the human, but the only way you can tell that a few cylinders have been taken out of action is the flashing of the word "Eco" in green next to the speedometer. The performance remains blissfully unaffected. The Crosstour costs Dh105 to fill up but I found that a full tank lasts for more than 500km before the orange fuel light came on; very impressive for a car that weighs 1,840kg.
My only quibbles with the Crosstour are the sort of things that I hope Honda quickly sorts out for the next model. Firstly, they can lose the Sports mode. All it does, like so many other alleged sports modes, is stiffen everything up to the point that it feels uncomfortable and use more fuel. If you've ever seen the episode of the teen comedy The Inbetweeners, where Simon takes his first car, a gutless Fiat Cinquecento, up to 100 miles per hour and as he hits the ton, yells "My arms are hurting!", that's pretty much all this Sports mode will do.
A six-speed automatic gearbox would have been nice too - and would result in even better fuel economy. With full-time four-wheel drive, the car feels seriously stable, as stable as anything to come out of either the Audi or Mercedes-Benz factories, but an extra gear, especially with the paddle shifters on offer, would be welcome. Finally, a reversing camera would be a nice, helpful touch. You do get plenty of bang for your buck with the Crosstour and the price is still excellent value for money, but like any car this size, there are blind spots when you're in reverse. The wing mirrors tilt down when you're in reverse to help give you a better view out the back, but there were still a few nervous moments when I was going backwards. At a base price of Dh89,900, the Kia Mohave offers a really good reversing camera that pops up in the rear view mirror and this would have been the icing on the cake for the Crosstour.
But after my lukewarm reaction to the Honda CR-V, the Crosstour was a pleasant surprise and, if there is any justice in this world, smart families will realise that the extra Dh45,000 will go a long way towards achieving many kilometres of happy, comfortable motoring. email@example.com