Honda Element Review
According to market researchers, American car buyers are more likely to ask “will I look cool in this thing?” than “is this the most efficient way to get from point A to point B?” Despite Honda’s rep for building the automotive equivalent of sensible shoes, CEO Kochi Kondo understands that America’s love affair with the automobile gets kinky from time to time. Well if he didn’t before, he does now, after Honda’s bizzaro Element somehow found favor with American grey panther platform refugees. You can almost hear him at the karaoke bar singing “You gotta fight, for your right, to paaaaaarrty!”
The party-in-a-box that Honda named “Element” is seven inches shorter than the CR-V SUV upon which it’s based. As for its sheetmetal, while looking like a cross between a Hummer and an ostraciidae is not in and of itself horrendous, the Elements’ exterior is covered with acres of faux Rubbermaid. The plastic treatment makes the car look like it’s fresh out of a pick-and-pull. No wonder Honda’s started building more elemental (i.e. monochromatic) Elements (for $500 extra).
Unsuspecting Element passengers will attempt to push rubber squares rearward of the rear doors to gain entry. Not so fast, Mr. Bond. Those are not door opening devices. They’re hinges! Yes 007, Honda’s Urban
only Activity Vehicle flummoxes aspiring occupants with rear “access panels” (a.k.a. suicide doors). This eccentricity makes egress in tight parking spots more monumental than Elemental. As Sheriff J.W. Pepper might say: back that Rubbermaid ass up boy, or they ain’t getting’ in.
Once you’ve been properly briefed and belted, your senses will tell you why Honda can sell just about anything, from lawn mowers to jet airplanes to a shoebox-on-wheels: build quality. The Element’s supportive seats are worthy of a far more expensive vehicle. In fact, every point of human interaction– air vents, switches and HVAC controls– have a solid feel that exudes quality. It’s a trick invented by Volkswagen, perfected by Honda.
There is a notable exception to the Element’s cavalcade of ergonomic excellence: yet another cheesy single/double-din radio. An optional subwoofer is probably the least satisfying answer to the challenge of listening to acoustic referencing only slightly better than Ye Olde Close N Play. In fact, Honda’s budget ICE machines must be keeping after-market radio shops in business.
Features designed for generations at the end of the alphabet include a textured urethane floor (which the manual warns you not to hose), rear seats that fold into a “bed” (for people 4’3” tall) and a flip down mini-tailgate (for mini-tailgate parties). Blingmeisters will appreciate the Element’s “copper” accents (in SC trim), “root beer” metallic paint and 18 inch wheels. You can also order an Element with Honda’s Real Time™ (as opposed to?) four wheel-drive system.
Honda fits the Element with their ubiquitous 2.4-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, good for 166hp (up 10hp for ‘07) and 161 ft-lbs of twist. Pitted against 3500 lbs., rest to 60 mph takes around nine thoroughly unspectacular seconds. Unfortunately, full throttle stompage yields typical four-banger thrash.
The Element’s dash-mount stick shift may put out pistonhead noses, but it proves more entertaining than looks, location or rubbery feel would indicate. The five-speed slushbox is more fuel efficient than the manual (22/27 vs. 21/25 mpg) and only marginally less entertaining. The steering and ride are smooth, heavy and vague, and that’s OK. Anyone who wants to throw a 70.4” tall box into turns needs their head/license examined.
Honda claims that “just one glance tells you the Element was built for those who live their own unique way.” Apparently all these unique buyers need to haul large quantities of Styrofoam. With rear seats removed, the Element combines the cargo space of a Ford Transit with the weight handling capacity of a French poodle (675 lbs. max load). The Element will tow 1500 lbs., provided you’re willing to make the already slow vehicle into a four-wheeled glacier.
Young ‘uns descending upon Honda dealers with $20k-ish in hand (or Daddy’s AMEX) will pass right by the Element’s cousin the CR-V. The savvy shoppers amongst them will note that the new CR-V is only slightly more expensive. The extra money buys greater refinement and a fifth seat; better fuel economy, handling, resale value, visibility; and the ability to surmount more than a pebble on the road.
Still, you can’t blame Honda for capitalizing on the fact that common sense is not so common. And it must be said that the Element is an extremely safe vehicle, complete with five-star crash ratings, vehicle stability assist, all the latest braking nannies and airbags plenty. So when the younger set asks older Element drivers what they think about their whip, there is only one possible answer: safe!
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- CEastwood Seven mil nitrile gloves from Harbor Freight for oil changes and such and the thicker heavy duty gripper gloves from Wally World for most everything else . Hell we used to use no gloves for any of that and when we did it was usually the white cloth gloves bought by the dozen or the gray striped cuff ones for heavy duty use . Old man rant over , but I laugh when I see these types of gloves in a bargain bin at Home Cheapo for 15 bucks a pair !
- Not Previous Used Car of the Day entries that spent decades in the weeds would still be a better purchase than this car. The sucker who takes on this depreciated machine will learn the hard way that a cheap German car is actually a very expensive way to drive around.
- Bullnuke Well, production cuts may be due to transport-to-market issues. The MV Fremantle Highway is in a Rotterdam shipyard undergoing repairs from the last shipment of VW products (along with BMW and others) and to adequately fireproof it. The word in the shipping community is that insurance necessary for ships moving EVs is under serious review.
- Frank Wait until the gov't subsidies end, you aint seen nothing yet. Ive been "on the floor" when they pulled them for fuel efficient vehicles back during/after the recession and the sales of those cars stopped dead in their tracks
- Vulpine The issue is really stupidly simple; both names can be taken the wrong way by those who enjoy abusing language. Implying a certain piece of anatomy is a sign of juvenile idiocy which is what triggered the original name-change. The problem was not caused by the company but rather by those who continuously ridiculed the original name for the purpose of VERY low-brow humor.