Introduced in the United States in 2003, the Honda Element arrived
after two years as a concept vehicle called the Model X. It was
designed by several young engineers who wanted to develop a versatile
vehicle that fit a young crowd’s outdoor interests — skiing to cycling,
camping to the recreating at the beach.
The small sport utility with its unique box-like style was an immediate hit. Its
initial marketing gimmick was two-fold. With its “suicide” doors and
second seat configuration, cycling enthusiasts could transport a bike
or two width-wise in the cabin.
Likewise, when bikes and other cargo were removed from the Element,
the base model’s interior could easily be cleaned — with a garden hose.
All of the indoor was plastic or rubber and thus easily washed.
The base model is still “washable.” But most of the Element’s seven
trims now have upgraded cloth seats and other standard features are not
the best for garden-hose applications.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
In previous years of testing the Element, I drove the utilitarian
vehicle in more inclement conditions. It was one of the first cars I
reviewed in 2004. At the time, its box-like and two-tone exterior got a
lot of attention.
This time around, there were no long treks, and nothing during my
week with the car was out-of-the ordinary. With Nissan, Kia and Scion,
among others now in the box-car selling business, the Element no longer
stands out as an oddball.
The best features are the rear doors, which open to 90 degrees.
Unfortunately, the rear doors, reminiscent of “suicide doors” of
yesteryear, don’t open unless the front doors are opened first. But
when the rear doors are opened, a cavernous area is offered.
The spacious cabin is complemented by ideally placed shelves, trays
and variously sized compartments. There’s also a large push button for
Front seats are comfortable and situated for good front and rear
vision; Back seats aren’t as nice and back-seat passengers feel a lot
Instrumentation is straight-forward, with good-sized dials and buttons.
Head and leg room are good, but not great considering the spaciousness of the rest of the cabin.
Halogen headlights and power side mirrors are nice, but the exterior
remains largely the same as previous recent years. Rear tailgate opens
to smallish cargo areas when the seats are up.
Like its predecessors, the 2010 Element isn’t about speed. It’s
about functionality, and that’s what the Element does best. It gets
down the road without worry. For its size, it has a tight turning
radius and braking is firm.
The Element isn’t particularly quiet, with wind rush and other road noise particularly noticeable at freeway speeds.
Storage compartment layout.
Expected better gas mileage averages.
Side doors can’t open unless front doors open.
Acceleration: 0-60 mph (8.6-10.8 seconds, depending upon transmission).
Airbags: Driver and front passenger front and side and front and rear side curtain.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
Fuel economy (EPA estimates) 20 mpg (city), 25 mpg (hwy).
Government Safety Ratings (stars): Frontal crash (driver 5, passenger 5); Side crash (driver 5, passenger 5); Rollover (3).
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $26,020.00
Price As tested: $26,730.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
Web site: www.honda.com.
What Others Say:
“This boxy, small SUV has responsive handling, but the ride is very stiff and choppy, and
road noise is pronounced. The large roof pillars compromise outward
visibility, and the driving position is awkward.The spacious interior
has a washable, plastic-covered floor.” —- Consumer Reports.
“The Element isn’t so much an SUV as a motorized gear tote for active lifestyle’ types. It sacrifices
some convenience to rear doors that don’t open independently of the
front doors. Neither posh comfort nor serious off-roading are on its
agenda either. It is, however, a roomy and adaptable little wagon with Honda’s expected solid workmanship.” —- Consumer Guide.
“With its box-shaped interior, wipe-clean floor and removable
seating, the Element offers plenty of practicality at a reasonable
price. However, it’s utilitarian wrapper may put off buyers for whom SUV —- Edmunds.com.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“There’s no such thing as a bad Honda, but the Element doesn’t
really shine in any area, like the Accord, Fit and Ridgeline. It’s a
workhorse that’s really not for off-road treks. It’s a versatile but
far-from-stylish SUV with good cargo capabilities and keen modified suicide doors. Better gas mileage averages would add to its utilitarian appeal.”
James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For
Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online
publications and is also the editor of TheWeeklyDriver.com. A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike — to nearby coffeehouses. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.