So Long, and FarewElement!

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
so long and farewelement

The Honda Element sold 67,478 units in 2003, its debut year. Not a bad start for a car that had many of the elements, pun intended, of the “old Honda”: it was fun, iconoclastic, and extremely well-designed for some very specific tasks. When the CR-V moved into a third generation, there was no Element to match it, and when that happens at Honda, it’s usually a sign of SIDS (Special Interest Death Syndrome), a disease which affects non-boring automobiles produced by Japanese manufacturers.

SIDS struck the NSX, the S2000, and the Accord Hybrid. Now it’s claimed another victim.

Element sales have been in the basement for years, and the “SC” model, which did not have a supercharger, didn’t really help matters. So as of today, it’s bye-bye to the chunky cubic Honda. No replacement is in sight. After production ceases in April, the East Liberty plant will focus on building the CR-V and the lumpy Crosstour.

If you want an Element, act (sorta) fast. And you might really want one, you know: mountain bikers and their ilk have known for a while that nothing really matches an Element when it comes to dirt-proof interior space and four-cylinder economy. Don’t expect that a Nissan Cube or Scion xB can do the same things; they can’t. And if Honda had bothered to update the car, we suspect they’d still be selling well.

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  • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Dec 04, 2010

    Bye bye to the least ugly vehicle in Honda's lineup. Don't sing me the praises of the CRV's goofy double smile and arched side windows on a squared SUV profile, or the Civic's perilously plunging windshield line. These shapes are bizarre to the eye, conflicting with each other. At least the Element's form and function were well matched. I though the windows were too small, giving a mini-Hummer sense of bunker security, but I liked the upright windshield. Out here in the West, "fast" windshields admit unwanted solar heat and collect even more sand and rock wear marks, making them a pain to peer through. More windows, please-- but less windshield!

  • Thx_zetec Thx_zetec on Dec 05, 2010

    Wheatridger made comment I agree with: the Honda Civic windshield is a terrible design that places form over function in a major way. I live in Arizona, and AC is major issue, many cars can't keep interior cool because there windshields are huge solar heating panels blasting out massive amount of heat. Driving south at 2PM with temp at 118F the small 4 cyl powered AC has tough time without about a k-Watt (!) of thermal power dumped in. WTHF What The Heat Flux! On top of this the windshield reduces visibility, esp. at night with headlight glare. At night on crowded road about 20% of the vehicles coming in other lane are jacked up SUV and Trucks with their "driving" lights on - much worse through sloped glass. Finally they are much harder to clean. One final comments, someone above said "I know there is always a strong niche market for function over form" Sad but true. Function has become a niche, and style mainstream.

    • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Dec 05, 2010

      Laid-back windshields are such an unacknowledged design issue that we don't even have a term to describe them. I've heard the word "fast" used, and that's appropriate. These windshields used to be the un-ergonomic price of driving a supercar. In a Civic, it's only the suggestion of a supercar. I'm aware of how pedestrian safety standards and eco-areo imperatives lead towards this design, also. So our windshields look and act more like sunroofs. Don't you just know the studios are cooking up designs with no windshields at all? We'll all lie on our backs and steer by video screens. I'd never consider a modern Civic for this reason alone. My New Beetle has the same vast dash problem- you can place two large boxed pizzas side by side on the dash, and the sun will keep them warm. The car's windshield angle, though, is surprisingly upright. IMHO, only the retro cars (MINI, PT Cruiser, Ford Flex) deliver the rare delight of a windshleld oriented for the best driver visibility, plus a set of Japanese noodle boxes like the XB, Cube and Element.

  • Tedward Tedward on Dec 06, 2010

    Nothing does what a Honda Element does, but the one in my family has been a complete and total piece of sh*t. We're on something like rear rotor set #5 or 6, awful suspension jangles and clanks abound, and the transmission is awful. I hate this thing every time I'm not moving apartments, but on those (very few) days it saves me a ton in rental costs. It's just too bad it always claws that savings right back in mechanical failure. Cons: reliability (and Honda techs have told me I'm not a one off with these issues), materials quality, automatic transmission (everything about it), poor fuel milage, and a heavily front biased and slow reacting awd system (zero development work obviously went into this). Pros: relatively direct steering, light weight for purpose, cheap and cheerful feel overall, NOTHING touches the cargo layout, great design for urban driving (corner awareness, turning radius), super cheap awd, bold exterior design. It's a toss up, not sad to see it go, but I'll miss seeing this niche filled in the general automotive landscape. Maybe Ford will do an awd transit.

  • OldWingGuy OldWingGuy on Dec 07, 2010

    I thought the Element was God's gift to the motoring public. What a great idea. For me, the problem was the price. By the time you put AWD and an automatic in it, you might as well get a CRV. Or a 4x4 truck. I know Honda makes some good stuff, but yeesh, they sure know how to charge for it. (check out their lawnmowers, or $3k snowblowers, or motorcycles...if its a Honda, it's pricey )