By on August 16, 2016

2007 Honda Element EX, Image: American Honda

“About twice a week, I’ll come out to the parking lot and see that somebody’s left a note asking to buy it,” Peter said, chuckling. “But the only reason I’d sell it would be to get a newer one. And the prices on those are even crazier. So I’ll keep it. Forever. It’s my car for life, no matter what else I buy or own or whatever.”

A devoted ultra-marathoner and trail-runner who thought nothing of running 30 kilometers on Saturday and then doing it again on Sunday, Peter was the photographer assigned to me on a recent project for another media outlet. He was (obviously) hugely fit, extremely disciplined, and very much in love with his car.

But what kind of car could inspire that kind of affection from a guy like Peter, to say nothing of all the parking-lot stalkers who keep trying to buy his car? Is it a Boss 302? A 458 Speciale? A pristine MkIV Toyota Supra Turbo? I’m afraid not. The belle of Peter’s ball is a homely little box of a car that, when it was new, rarely left a showroom without the assistance of a massive trade allowance, a flatbed tow truck, or possibly both.


element

This is the best example I can give you of the ineptitude with which the Honda Element was marketed and sold: after years of buyers complaining that the little box barely had enough power to keep up with West Coast freeway traffic, Honda introduced the “Element SC” with much fanfare. The Internet went crazy. Finally, a supercharged Element! One with enough power to go up a hill! No dice. The Element SC wasn’t supercharged. It didn’t even have any more power than the other Elements. It was just called the SC. And it cost more. Woo hoo.

It was always going to be a niche vehicle — how else can you describe a Civic-based box van with a max combined payload of 675 pounds? — but the Element’s first few years on the market were fairly successful.

And then Honda simply stopped paying attention.

After a half-hearted mid-cycle refresh at the five-year mark, the Element was left to die on the vine with no successor. As with the S2000, “lack of buyer interest” was the widely-cited reason; but since when did Honda buyers have any interest in buying something that hadn’t changed much for seven years? How popular do you think the 2008 Accord would have been if it had still been on sale in 2015?

I don’t know if the Element was always supposed to be a one-night stand, but I do know the car stirred strong emotions in its customer base. I had the opportunity to walk the glass-walled skyway that separated the front door of Honda’s East Liberty plant, home of the “E,” from its cafeteria. For perhaps a thousand feet, there were customer testimonials and letters about the little Honda box pasted up in such density as to block the sun and give the whole skyway a rather eerie feel.

As with those other Honda enthusiast flirtations, the NSX and the S2000, the Element has experienced a very strong second act in the used market. It’s extremely popular with the outdoor crowd of mountain bikers, campers, and hikers, thanks to its open interior and rubber-lined durability. A company called Ursa Minor will turn your Element into a pop-up camper for six grand. In conversation on the topic, Peter spoke of the Ursa Minor conversion in the sort of hushed tones once reserved for the discussion of saints’ relics. It’s easy for even a serial-Kimpton-ist like yours truly to see the appeal. You can live on the road forever in such a vehicle, while enjoying quarter-million-mile Civic-esque reliability and getting 25 miles to the gallon — not the eight you’d get from a truck-based camper.

Ursa Minor Camper, Image: Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor Camper

No surprise, then, that the Element has an NSX-ish level of retained value, particularly for well-maintained AWD examples with dealer service history. Also like the NSX, it’s the only Honda product that has any presence whatsoever with its particular buyer demographic. Last week, I rode a motorcycle from Portland to Denver via Wyoming and South Dakota (more on the later) and I found myself sharing the road, and a variety of restaurant parking lots, with dozens of Subaru Outbacks owned by outdoorsy types. These people are dead-set loyal to the Subaru; at a craft-beer place in Jackson, WY, I saw five Outbacks parked in a row. The sixth car? It was a Forester. But the Element also has nontrivial market and mindshare with these people, many of whom are fabulously wealthy but have a hereditary po’-mouthed approach to automobiles.

Whether they realize it or not, Honda needs to continue to do business with those people, in large part because the trustafarians will still be driving eclectic cars to Aspen long after most of us are fighting in the streets with our children at our feet. This argues strongly for the return of the Element, in one form or another. The only problem is that demographic can be overly fond of buying its cars used.

If there’s hope in that regard, it might come from the final conversation I had with Peter on the subject. “I looked at an Xterra, you know … too small inside. Just looked at a 4Runner, too. Same problem. And the Outback they sell now, well, doesn’t seem like much of an Outback. I’d buy a new Element if they’d bring it back.” Questioned as to price, his only response was, “Whatever it costs, I guess, if it’s not crazy.”

So there you have it. Bring back the Element, Honda. Earn the love of 30,000 people a year who will grow up to drive matched pairs of Acura MDXes. Get back in the game. If you can afford to do the HR-V, then you can definitely afford to do this. And since we’re in the forced-induction element, maybe now’s the time to make “Element SC” a reality. Sure, it would have to a turbo, but if Audi can put “V6T” on the side of supercharged cars, you could put “SC” on the tailgate of a turbo van. Everything’s up for grabs in $THE_CURRENT_YEAR! There are 36 genders! Cats and dogs living together! And brand-new cars with rubberized interiors! Call it the Element … of Surprise!

[Images: American Honda, Ursa Minor]

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178 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: What The Hell-ement?...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I can’t read this because it’s Baruth. But I must read it because it’s Element. But I can’t read it because it’s Baruth. But… *pop*

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I just said this the other day. Both the Element and the S2000 need only minor updating and to be put back into production. The amount of space inside an Element is ridiculous, and so is the legroom for rear passengers.

    And like mentioned, used prices are at used Acura MDX level (which is silly).

    Not mentioned however, was that the SC was only available with FWD – a stupid decision to make.

    • 0 avatar
      cornellier

      “the SC was only available with FWD – a stupid decision to make.” Only stupid if you think having 4×4 is relevant in an urban area where Civics, Corollas, and 3s happily ply the roadways year in year out, given correct tires. Oh yeah, that was everybody.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      The SC was a lowered, carpeted Element. If you wanted AWD, why the hell would you go for the SC?

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Rear seat leg room is ridiculous indeed.
      The elevated floor relative to the seat cushions put my knees up high, and put all of my weight my butt rather than the backside of my thighs. Reminded of of Corvair back seats in that regard.
      Being a platform mate to the CRV I was stunned that my cousin’s Element was so much road noisier and harder riding than a friend’s concurrent CRV. I would only guess that Honda was trying to convey a fashionable ruggedy-trucky ride for marketing reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      slap

      I didn’t even look at one because of the low max payload. Bump it up to at least 1,000 lbs.

  • avatar
    patlc2000

    The reason it never got a major refresh is not one of the executives from Japan or America could figure out why anyone would want one. Everyone from engineering, manufacturing and marketing loved them but they don’t count.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    I was looking at one. But remember, if I like a product then it has to die.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I even have an ad idea ready for the new S2000.

    Black screen, with something like “January 2019” fading into view.

    LED halo lamps illuminate in the middle, aggressively and only a hint of fascia can be seen.

    At the bottom, simply “S2.0” in stylized red S with chromed 2.0.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I know one owner of an Element purchased new AWD model and bright orange. I know she drives many many miles during the course of a year so I keep expecting her to have to replace it but no dice.

    There was a brand new CR-V in the central office lot a few weeks ago and I thought “oh she finally had to get a new vehicle.” But no, a day later there was that bright orange Element again.

    The problem with “cult classics” (whether they be cars or movies or whatever) is that it is almost impossible to recapture the magic a second time around. (Citation: Caddyshack 2)

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “after years of buyers complaining that the little box barely had enough power to keep up with West Coast freeway traffic, Honda introduced the “Element SC” with much fanfare. ”

    What the hell?

    I never owned one, but I did drive a friend’s once, and the Element was honestly closer to “zippy” than “slow”.

    Unless someone has found a far faster West Coast freeway than I’ve ever seen, an Element should never have had a problem; I wouldn’t expect one to be problematic even at Arizona or Idaho “80 is too slow” speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      No, it could use more power. Especially when fully loaded with people and camping gear. Perhaps a current 7- or 8-speed transmission with lower gearing in 1-4 would fix it just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Element could certainly move with enough speed to keep up on any freeway, but otherwise it was very close in acceleration feel to my Volvo 240. Which of course is as fast as any BMW or Porsche out there as we all work through the same traffic jams and under the same speed limits.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      It was less about outright max speed, than about comfort and grace. Above 70, it was, per mu recollection, around 10 times louder than the Mazda 6 people like to call noisy these days. Quieter and more composed than a Unimog trying to keep up with it, but not than much else. Other than sustained pedal to the floor freeway drones in the mountains, it really is a great car for what it is. If you do live and park in San Francisco, and do occasionally (more than that you’ll have hearing damage) drive to Jackson and Colorado to do whatever trustafarians do away from home, it’s probably about perfect. Ditto if you’re still doing Tri on San Diego, I suppose.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        This. I have a 5-speed Element, and if you let the motor rev it’s quick enough getting up to speed. It’s not a great highway cruiser, but up to 70 it’s tolerable. I like mine, but Pentastar Caravan is much quicker, holds more cargo and passengers, and gets about the same mileage. Can’t match an Element’s quirky charm, but the market for quirky charm isn’t that huge. I do think Honda might move enough of them to make it worthwhile.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          As noisy as the Element might be, nothing compares to the excreable Jeep Compass base model I had as an Enterprise loaner while my car was in the body shop this week! Same miserable four-pot as the Avenger (though the six-speed slusher redeemed things a little), terrible driving position. Not as bad as said Avenger (which was also a body-shop rental, which I’ve said qualifies as the worst car I’ve ever driven), but only just.

          There must be a racket to supply Fiatsler’s worst to Enterprise renters who are going through Nationwide Insurance (for whom Enterprise is their captive rental agency, just as Safelite is for glass repair); presumably, Nationwide’s rate is heavily discounted. If there’s a “next time,” especially if the accident is my fault (which this wasn’t — my agent and I opted for subrogation), I’ll ask for whatever the usual intermediate car is, and pay the difference.

          The Element seems to have the same cult-following as the old Pontiac Aztek (sp?) Honda could probably do well riffing one off the next-Gen CR-V.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “And the Outback they sell now, well, doesn’t seem like much of an Outback.”

    What does that even mean and how on earth do you sell a car to someone operating under this logic?

    Granted, there is nothing on sale today that combines AWD with a hollowed-out bread van like the Element, but I would think an Outback combines utility and creature comforts well enough to tempt someone out of a wheezing Element.

    If Honda were to reintroduce this rig, would it sell well the first year or two owing to pent up demand by these folks, and then become lot poison? CRVs have staying power, I’m not sure this does.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I think if you were to dig into that comment you’d get a fair amount of nonsense that would boil down to “it’s too well-equipped and the interior feels too nice.”

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        There are some people (I know some in my family) who have serious problems if they enter a car and think “This car is too nice for me.”

        I don’t know what that syndrome is called, but it’s real and it affects their purchases. Even if you take price out of the equation.

        Pleebistic Basicism Disorder, perhaps.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          I think I may have that disorder.
          But I prefer to think that I’m being pragmatic, and that filling the interior of a car with sticky dead cows and electronics to the point that it sounds like the inside of a coffin at 100 mph somehow kills the ‘fun’ of driving, and is an invite to all sorts of distractions and electrical gremlins.

        • 0 avatar
          Tosh

          This car is trying too hard to be nice, so it must be hiding something!

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            I’m thinking more ‘someone spent a lot of hours picking interior materials for this car, and those hours could have been spent testing the engine and drivetrain’ . Even more so if the cars cost about the same. I do admit more japanes companies should hire someone to test seats and driving positions in general.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Catholics? But seriously, I love the look of base cars, but still want a few amenities like PS/PB/PW/PL/AC. And a sunroof. That’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      “I looked at an Xterra, you know … too small inside. Just looked at a 4Runner, too. Same problem. And the Outback they sell now, well, doesn’t seem like much of an Outback. I’d buy a new Element if they’d bring it back.”

      I agree with 30-mile fetch. His logic dictates that he’d find something wrong with a new Element because he flat out says that the 4Runner is too small inside despite it having 22cu.ft more of cargo space with the seats up and 15cu.ft more with the seats down. The CR-V essentially matches the Element’s interior space.

      • 0 avatar
        Carzzi

        It’s not merely interior volume (which may well be greater in the 4Runner): it’s the layout. Considerations like low tailgate lift-over height, high roof-height, clamshell doors, less wheelwell & driveshaft intrusion, ease one’s cargo handling effort from physical strain and tetris-skills. It’s less taxing, at the end of a 50-mile mtn bike ride or hours of surfing, to load your bikes/boards into an Element than to deadlift ’em into a 4Runner/Taco.

        Similar advantages make the Honda Fit a packaging marvel relative to its footprint.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          I did the bike inside the car thing for a little while. It is pretty much my least favorite way to carry a bike due to the mud and muck that gets in the car and the partial disassembly that is required to fit the bikes inside without having something rubbing against an interior panel. I’ll take hitch mount each and every day.

          • 0 avatar
            Tosh

            I’ll also take your hitch mount and whatever’s on them each and every day.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Ah, yes, Tosh, because it is totally impossible to smash and grab a bike out of a car. *sarcastic thumbs up*

            My hitch rack is locked to the car and the bikes are locked to the hitch. Just like anything else, if someone wants it bad enough, they will get it. If I have a bike overnight somewhere, it comes in the house or hotel with me.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            That’s the point of the Element’s rubber interior and boxy-as-in-box interior shape.

            Another boon, is how folding down both the front and rear seats, turned them into two “beds.” In a car way to short to sleep behind the front seats, even if everything behind them folded flat. Being of the opinion that everyone should carry at least a minimalist dwelling with them, turtle style, this was the most important selling pint as far as I was concerned. This was also what Ursa Minor picked up on and developed further.

            I think Honda will eventually do another Element. Young Japanese seem to be going gaga over creating living accommodations (some even semi permanent…..) in cars as small the Kei. Compared to that, a CR-V form factor is a veritable Transit Van.

    • 0 avatar
      kefkafloyd

      Those people were longtime Legacy wagon customers (which the Outback basically was, except with more body cladding an an extra boost of ride height) who were left out to dry by Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      caltemus

      The current generation grew in size, but not weight, so the body panels are thinner. The car has an overall “tinnier” feel than the previous gen. They also fell a long way from the styling of the last generation, in my opinion. They are closer to a generic crossover/people mover and less of a scrappy offroad-car thing that appeals to outdoorsy types.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        All true, but this guy’s criticism of other vehicles suggests none of that matters to him. The original Outback was small, but he thinks the current 4Runner isn’t big enough. He’s in love with an aging Element, so “tinny” and awkward styling isn’t likely a concern. The original Outback was nothing like his Element, if it were being sold today he probably wouldn’t like it.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      I took the “not an Outback” to mean it’s no longer a lifted wagon and it’s more of an Explorer-shaped CUV.

      Is there a real difference between this body style (http://blog.caranddriver.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/2016-Subaru-Outback-e1433190158530.jpg) and this one (http://st.motortrend.com/uploads/sites/5/2015/05/2016-Ford-Explorer-XLT-side-profile.jpg)?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I think it means

      “large, high doors, SUV styling, mandatory CVT in the United States.”

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The Element is today’s Type 2, and appeals to more or less the same audience, adjusting for two generations of social change. The camper conversion just proves it.

  • avatar
    Yesac13

    There’s already an Element replacement running around right now:

    The Honda Ridgeline. The new one that came out this year. The only true difference from the Element is that it has a bed. But hey, that bed… tons of storage underneath the bed floor! Tows decently, too. 4 doors and the rear leg room may be comparable. Easier to drop a muddy bike into that bed than inside…

    I suspect that to attract these Element customers further in the future, Honda will just drop in an AWD 2.4 hybrid system* into the Ridgeline and call it good enough. Slower than the V6 but probably still quicker than the Element. There’s more money in the Ridgeline and I think it sells faster than the Element ever did.

    * (FWD with electric motors driving the rear wheels – this will kill off traditional AWD – I call it now – the upcoming new CRV may even have this system…)

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I have been ‘calling’ that awd system for years. It really makes sense to get rid of the driveshafts under the floor by now, to make even more room inside the car, and maybe improve the economy a little.

      • 0 avatar
        IAhawkeye

        Your not really saving too much complexity or room though. You still need the batteries which will take the space of the driveshaft, and you’ll need to add a regen system of some sort to keep those batteries charged. Unless you had a different idea on how to make this all go.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          Well, but unlike a driveshaft the batteries can be placed almost anywhere. The AWD system in a CR-V is used for maybe 10-20 seconds 10-20 times a year, so we’re not exactly talking a Tesla battery pack either.

          • 0 avatar
            IAhawkeye

            This is true, depending on where you live and the weather you drive in.. Idk how much a battery pack, motors, and related systems weigh, but I’m guessing the that system is close enough equal to the way they do it now to not make such a system worth the effort. They might get there soon, but they’ve been working with those CR-V style part-time systems for a long time. Until it becomes so much x-amount more effiencent to have FWD/electric systems they probably won’t change.

          • 0 avatar
            fvfvsix

            @IAhawkeye – the MDX will be getting the exact system you describe as not being worth the effort in December. The most obvious benefit is the 27MPG city EPA estimate. Also note that the Highlander hybrid and RAV4 / NX Hybrid have similar systems. So, I’d happily take the other side of your bet.

    • 0 avatar
      tsoden

      yeah but the Ridgeline doesnt get 23MPG….or does it?

      • 0 avatar
        Carzzi

        The new Ridgeline very well might. The J35-engined ’16 Pilot certainly can.

      • 0 avatar
        Yesac13

        Its rated for 26/19 Highway/City. Or 25/18 Highway/City for the AWD versions.

        That does not sound too impressive but it is not far off the AWD versions of the Element, tho. This is for a 280 hp V6 with a 6 speed automatic. That’s more impressive compared to the 160-165 hp and a 4 or 5 speed automatic for the Element. Real world, I guess slightly worse in city and better on the highway. The Honda Odyssey gets impressive mileage for a minivan and the Ridgeline uses a similar powertrain.

        The Ridgeline is big compared to the Element so many Element buyers will not bother with the Ridgeline. It’s possible that Honda will bring back the Element after they redo the CRV this year or next year. I think it’s unlikely. The Element didn’t sell well after its first few years. Used customers are safe to ignore – they did not buy new in the first place…

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The Ridgeline is, compared to the Element, a Big.Effing.Car. The Element is a Civic. the Ridge, a stretched Pilot. Also, the Ridge (and Pilot), has too high a floor. You can’t get hunched over, change into a wetsuit, headroom without crashing into your San Francisco garage door.

      The Transit Connect is the closest thing to the Element currently out there. Just a bit too blue collar for the Element driving “proletariat” hauling two day stubble and North Face gear between Jackson Hole and the Revolution Cafe. And, no awd, ground clearance nor larger circumference wheels for the little Euro Ford. But, with the Ecoboost, a better freeway right across the 80.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Interesting .
    .
    Is it impossible to manufacture and sell 30,000 vehicles a year and not make a profit ? .
    .
    If they make $ on every one , it would seem wise to keep cranking them out .
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      30,000 of a slight variation on a bigger selling one is fine. 30,000 of something unique enough to require each and every one of Honda’s insane number of dealers to make meaningful investments, gets trickier. Honda claimed they let the Element go, when the CR-V went to a from factor that would require an updated Element to share less with it’s more mainstream sister.

      I still think we’ll eventually get another one. Many young Japanese engineering types seem to be developing “Elementish” affections, and given how their demographically induced scarcity, means every company have little choice but to let them have their way, an America friendly “Element” 2.0 will eventually come out of it.

      • 0 avatar
        spreadsheet monkey

        Can’t Honda just make a rubber-floored version of the latest generation CR-V with less sound deadening and a goofy-looking front end, and call it the new Element?

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw one of these. I can distinctly remember two worn out, attraction-challenged Aztecs in the past couple weeks, but not a single one of these.

    I make no apologies for not being a huge fan of this car, even though I’m a total northwest kind of guy. I guess when you only sold around 15,000 of these the last few years of production, there aren’t many around to be had on the used car market.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Honda is weird some times. Well, ok, all the time. It’s almost like they are just probing for new customer groups, and if someone bites, they make it for a while and sell it to a few enthusiasts. Then they get bored, or they see that it is an evolutionary dead-end and kill it before it gets too expensive to keep facelifting for an eternity.
    And it is working. There are probably more people out there talking about the S2000 and Element, and NSX than there was back then they were actually in production. Chances are this can happen to the Crosstour too, but they have probably doomed the Ridgeline from being really interesting by making a 2nd. generation of it.
    ( Well, some people will keep loving the ‘original’, and complain for eternity that Honda ‘ruined it’ by putting it on a CUV/minivan platform and made it look boring.)

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    “Whether they realize it or not, Honda needs to continue to do business with those people, in large part because the trustafarians will still be driving eclectic cars to Aspen long after most of us are fighting in the streets with our children at our feet. ”

    Jack- eclectic or electric?

  • avatar
    golfnotgolf

    This vehicle puts people in the same position as those who own a first gen Scion xB or FJ Cruiser. There is simply nothing available new which those owners would consider purchasing to replace their beloved box.

  • avatar
    srh

    My brother and I have both been looking at Elements for years. But of course they are high mileage and pricey on the used market. I’d buy a new one in a heartbeat. There are precious few vehicles that can fit gear + upright bikes inside. I know quite a few avid cyclists who will never get rid of their Elements for that reason. I couldn’t find one so ended up in a Ford Transit instead. It was a distant second choice.

    Incredibly my ex-wife’s outback was able to swallow two full-size (61cm) road-bikes in the trunk area (back seat still up!). But that required removing the seats and both wheels. Fine for traveling for a day, but not convenient for that ‘after-work ride’, and of course a bit greasy-prone.

  • avatar

    Never thought the Element dream was ever fully realized. The original concept now completely eclipse by the FJ Cruiser.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    you know Pontiac was shunned by bringing out the Aztec… claiming it to be the ugliest vehicle produced… and yet shortly after Honda came out with the Element…. and yet most went YAY!

    I never understood this… I was never offended by the Pontiac… yeah it was quirky, but the original element was simply butt ugly. Only when they removed the grey fenders and replaced with body coloured ones did I think it was somewhat palatable…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The Aztek was also adored by it’s small owner base. That doesn’t mean GM should bring it back though.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Agree that once the grey plastic bits went away the Element actually looked decent. It was kind of a nicer Scion xB. I know it goes away from it’s outdoor mission but these things look fantastic when lower slightly and sitting on more aggressive wheels. It has the JDM micro-van look.

      As far as the S2000 goes I assume since the answer is always “Miata” Honda just gave up. Real shame. They should have made a shooting brake version just to be different.

    • 0 avatar

      I never quite got the giant hatchback on the Aztec. It took away the best part of a CUV/SUV – being able to hold as much stuff as possible.

      I do love the idea of a vehicle that can be equipped with a tent and a cooler in the console, though.

      • 0 avatar
        SnarkyRichard

        Walter White liked the Aztec . Until he traded it in for 50 bucks . Vince Gilligan hit the nail (ugly forgettable car that no one would want) on the head again with Better Call Saul and his Suzuki Esteem ! He must have asked himself -“What car could be worse than a Pontiac Aztec?”

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I love the Element. Not just because its weird, but because of its virtues and, maybe because its weird, too lol. It certainly doesn’t look like anything else out there.

    Ive said it before, I’m not a crossover fan…except the Element. Its superb at what its supposed to be.

    I found a 4wd/manual trans model on eBay last year. I was in love, lol. Just not with the going price…

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I didn’t know that Honda made 4WDs.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        They make it in Real Time.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          AWD then. 4WD has hi and lo.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            At least in the US and Europe, you can have 4wd without a low range. It’s hard to really know what the technical difference is anymore, with even traditional 4wd systems like those in the Land Cruisers offering a center diff (although lockable. Perhaps that’s a workable distinction…) in some models.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            It’s all semantics. Al, what would you call the transfer-case based system in my old Mazda MPV then? It had selectable RWD/4WD with a center diff that could be locked, but no low range.

            Yes the Honda’s slip-then-grip RT4WD system is not a mechanically locking 50/50 system, and would more appropriately filed into the category that we usually describe as ‘AWD.’

            It isn’t all black and white, and some people use different nomenclature and that’s fine.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I just call em all “Four spinnies.” Nobody questions it.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            stuki, gtemnykh,
            We also have those AWD with a lower first, generally hooked up to an auto.

            To me and most in our part of the world we have CUVs, this Honda is a CUV as it the Sorento. CUVs only used to come in AWD, until a decade or so ago here in Australia. Any CUV with 2WD was called a wagon.

            A SUV has 4WD, this has hi and lo range for to tackle quite arduous terrian. I’ve also seen some terrible SUV 4WD with front ends that act as bulldozers. I saw one video of a new F-150 FX-4 driving down a muddy field with the mud only as deep as the side wall and the front end was bulldozing a path. Not good. CAFE causes this.

            Although I’ve seen some AWD vehicles in places that makes me wonder how they got there.

            My friend has a AWD Forester and he takes it down rough dirt roads. He’s learning to get the most out of it. Hopefully he’ll see the light and go out and buy a small SUV with a little diesel.

            Back in the old days in the late eighties and nineties AWD vehicles were mainly for the ski set in Sydney and Melbourne when they drove to the ski fields for weekends. You always saw them with the skis on their Roller roof racks.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            All you didn’t answer my question, how would you classify my old MPV that lacked a low range? Not 4wd?

          • 0 avatar
            rocketrodeo

            There are driveshafts to both front wheels? Check.

            There are driveshafts to both rear wheels? Check.

            Does your need for precision semantics override your ability to count?

            Check.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    I wanted an Element sooooo bad, they were too expensive when my parents were looking at cars for me(at least in good condition) and now that I’m done with school and have a job and so on, their gone. Too bad. I’m more of truck guy, but there’s just something about them I couldn’t help but love. I’ve looked them up on like Autotrader and the prices people want are outrageous, so sadly unless they bring it back I’ll never have one :(

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    My brother had an AWD Element that he loved to pieces. He indeed is the outdoorsy type – it runs in our family – and he loved the flip-down tailgate and the washable interior. It was perfect for his use case. The removable seats meant tons of storage. He could easily throw in his bikes, guns, or fishing gear without worrying about the car because he could just hose it down afterwards. The only reason he doesn’t have it anymore is because somebody t-boned him and totaled the car.

    He now has a Subaru Forester that he begrudgingly likes because Subaru’s oil-burning has caused him no end of grief, and the local dealers kept giving him the run-around on fixing it. If he had to buy a new car right this second, I don’t know what he would get. Maybe the new Ridgeline would be up his alley.’

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Why is oil-burning, alone, considered such a catastrophic problem? It amounts to adding a $10 quart of oil (assuming synthetic) every few weeks. Not ideal, but I’ve never understood people who won’t buy a car because of it.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        At its worst the car was burning so much oil that he couldn’t make it a few hundred miles without putting in a quart. That’s not good. It’s since been fixed, but it was the Subaru dealers that were giving him the run-around on warranty that he was annoyed at more than the car.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Yeah, that is pretty bad. I’m accustomed to cars that will burn a quart over an oil change interval or at worst 2-3000 miles.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I DREAM of only burning a quart of oil in 2000 miles.

            Instead it’s more like 2.5 quarts every hundred miles, depending on the heat. More oil in summer, less in winter.

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      If your bro actually hosed down the inside, he ruined the interior.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        I don’t think he actually unleashed a raw hose-full of water into the interior (as i’m sure only Jeeps could actually take that), more that he could wash it with a bucket of soap and water instead of dealing with carpets. But that’s not what the words “hose down” imply, so yeah, thanks for catching me on that.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      There is no run-around from Subaru itself on fixing oil usage on FB25’s – the dealers are the bad-guys on this one. Subaru will replace the short block after a failed consumption test and not quibble about it one bit but the dealers who do the work don’t like the “warranty work” and the related compensation to do the fix. They start by giving owners a hard time with oil consumption tests by overfilling the engine at the start of the 1200 mile test. Subaru say more than 12oz of oil lost in 1200 miles equals test failure and a new short block and an extended engine warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        I agree, which is why i mentioned the dealers specifically in my comments.

        What you described is literally what happened to my brother. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some inter-dealer communications on that.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    The element had just the right amount of quirk but the known quantity of Honda reliability behind it.

    Ubiquitous indestructible K24 engine? Check.
    Available AWD? Check.
    Outstanding available manual? Check.
    Great on gas? Check.

    Add the super-flexible interior configuration, upright seating, compact form factor, and rubber flooring and you get an outdoorsy person’s dream car. I’ve known a few people who had them and they all loved them. I’d consider one for myself if their depreciated value wasn’t so high.

    I’ll just sit here with my other non-updated, value retaining, canceled Honda instead. I still need a daily driver though.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      The rubber flooring looked cool. A lot of owners had the idea that they could simply hose out the interior. Bad idea. Apparently there are wires under the rubber flooring (which leaks) and things short-circuited.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Four or five years ago I bought a used 2003 Honda Element – silver with the gray bumpers. With the short wheelbase it was pretty godawful on the highway. The expansion joints would make the car bob up ‘n’ down in a rather sickening fashion. It was also loud with road noise galore.

    This was also a very stripped down version – no ABS, no cruise control, and no armrests. The 2.4L was certainly no beast, but performance (butt-o-meter) and mileage was better than the second-gen Scion xB I briefly owned.

    Positives? The back space with the seats out was huge. With ’em in, it was a great place to nap since the seats could be folded flat.

    I ended up selling it, using it for a trade-in on a MY01 Accord Coupe that I ended up hating. But at least the Accord had ABS, better seats, and cruise control. And no motion-inducing highway sickness.

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      I bought my 2003 DX for that reason, a stripper with 4wd and 5 speed manual.
      Had dealer add AC and storage arm rest for $17k before TTL.
      Added my own stereo and EX wheels soon after.
      Now I’m at 175k miles and feels worn out but still looks good inside and out.
      The last few years I’ve been tempted to trade in, but there is nothing out there that I want to replace it with.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Earn the love of 30,000 people a year…”

    There probably aren’t quite that many of them. And those who do feel the love will lose the romance if the price point is set at a level that the car has a chance of being profitable.

    Demand in North America is too low to make it worthwhile. That requires either charging more for it (more margin) or else finding overseas markets for it (more volume). You can file both of those under Ain’t Gonna Happen.

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    Thanks for The Who reference, Jack.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    I owned one (bought it from my brother to help him out) for a few years and frankly the lesbians who own them can keep them.

    I’d eat my shoe if an AWD Element got 25 mpg regularly. That said, they don’t really drop below 19 mpg. They’re really coarse, noisy, and their AWD system isn’t really that good at moving it off road. It’s a soft roader.

    Element still popular? File it under b***ches be crazy.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      yamahog,
      Why and what made you invest your hard earned cash on this!

      Why not just go out and buy a Nissan van thing or one of those Fiat Doblo Ram badged sh!tter vans?

      It would of been cheaper.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        Well I bought it in 2009 and solid it in 2013 and the car was incidental to the deal.

        I bought it so my brother could get a truck (which worked better for him) and I had just got an offer I couldn’t refuse on my Elantra. I drove it for 30k miles and someone offered me 2k less than I had paid for it. I decided to take the money and run because it had an issue with the radio that the dealer couldn’t fix under warranty and the manual transmission sucked in sub-zero temperatures (like getting locked out of 2nd gear) even with amsoil / redline in the gearbox.

        But all the maintenance that my brother deferred caught up with me. I must have dropped like $2k into the car because of random stuff he didn’t do (the brakes seized up and something rusted and something needed to get resealed).

        Luckily, the Element held its value well and I got into a nice Lexus LS which was older than the Honda and the Hyundai combined, it had more miles than the Honda and the Hyundai combined, and its given me fewer issues than either the Honda or the Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar
      LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

      Average fuel economy for the Element, according to Fuelly, is just a hair under 22 MPG. Most get 20-24 MPG. So 25 on the highway has got to be attainable, especially if you’re cruising below 70 miles an hour and your tires aren’t too mushy.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    These Elements are as attractive as those little EU work vans.

    A niche market, what types actually buy this?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do believe the prospective Hyundai Santa Cruz customers will come from this terrible little thing. Yuk, fugly or what.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    ” Last week, I rode a motorcycle from Portland to Denver via Wyoming and South Dakota (more on the later) and I found myself sharing the road, and a variety of restaurant parking lots, with dozens of Subaru Outbacks owned by outdoorsy types.”

    “Dozens”? More like “hundreds of thousands” here in Denver. And millions in Boulder. The common element (no pun intended)? Eighty percent spend their time blocking the f**king left lane on I-25. Put a Forester in the fast lane and the odds of it being a crawler approach 96%. (see footnote 1)

    Left lane banditry…it’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.
    __________________________________________________________
    (footnote 1) WRXs are, of course, exempt…

  • avatar
    mikedt

    3 co-workers had Elements and every one of them would have bought another one if only Honda had continued making them.

  • avatar
    Macca

    Here’s a novel about my experience with the Element…

    Nearly a decade ago, early into my professional career, marriage and first-home ownership, I found myself shopping *GASP* CUVs. I was convinced that I needed something with more cargo space for hauling home-related stuff than my 2002 G20 provided and my spreadsheet-solves-everything side pointed me toward the Element. This was just as the SC was introduced, and once I saw one in metallic brown (I think it was called Root Beer) I knew I had to have one. I knew the SC wasn’t mechanically different, but it was slightly lowered, had larger, attractive wheels, and a unique interior treatment.

    I purchased my Element SC in January, during one of those typical brief Oklahoma winter warm-ups that get you thinking about spring just before plunging back into the depths of winter. This timing is important.

    Shortly after getting it home, a cold front swept through and temps dipped back into the 30s. My first drive in the cold was a solid lesson in buyer’s remorse. The cacophony of rattles was deafening in my week-old car. Some I could trace and knock out with felt tape, but one in particular was mind-blowingly awful. It was a loud random clicking sound that seemed to emanate from the dash – but it turns out it was the windshield. Just Google “element windshield rattle”. If I recall correctly, it was due to the windshield gasket actually entering some sort of stick-slip failure at a very specific temperature range. Pages and pages on Element owners’ forums documented a collective inability to remedy the issue at the dealer. As it turns out, many Hondas and Acuras from that era suffered from the issue. Some folks claimed that their issue was the black plastic cowl rattling on the windshield, but I had no such luck. (also Google Acura TL windshield rattle for grins).

    Not only that, but my driver’s side door was noticeably loose on the car (misaligned) and would shift and knock about while driving. Warm weather offered no reprieve from the rattles, either, as then the rear hatch hinges would violently (and randomly) *pop* over uneven surfaces (e.g., roads). Turns out this was another common issue.

    Adding insult to injury, the K24 was wheezy and grossly underpowered for a 3,500 lb car. I routinely saw about 18 MPG in town no matter how I drove it (which, frankly, was always slower than I would have liked) – which should come as no surprise given it was an underpowered flat-faced box. Also, the pocket doors were super awkward in a typical parking spot and proved difficult for loading cargo from the side.

    So, after 8 months of absolutely hating my new car, I dumped it for an ’08 Mazda3 GT, which I still have today. Gotta say, that Element combined with my brother’s Odyssey’s issues from the same era really turned me off of Honda for a while. I’m now considering the MDX as our family hauler – maybe I should hold off until a particularly cold day to test drive.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes, there are a few of us who have been poisoned by the Honda Kool-Aid. My only Honda – an 05 Odyssey – got traded a week after I scored a small settlement from my lemon lawsuit against American Honda.

      Today, I’d consider giving them another chance, except that all of their cars are so homely now.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I think you folks are still gulping the Honda Kool-Aid.

      It amuses me that when someone gets a bad (or in some cases a poorly chosen) domestic car, they say they will never buy another one, want to kill the dealer and all his relatives and nuke some or all of Detroit.

      Honda owners (I know, I have one in my family) will maybe buy a Subaru, Hyundai or (gasp!) a Toyota in “retaliation”, but after a while, they’re back in front of the F&I guy at a dealership willing put money down on another Honda.

      I bet crack dealer wish they had that kind of influence on their customers…

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      We had a friend with a Root Beer SC. Fantastic color.

  • avatar
    Hoodedhawk1

    I’ve owned three Elements, an “03 AWD, an ’06 2WD, and an ’08 SC, and I didn’t keep any of them for more than 18 months. I can’t really explain what happened each time, but the Element is one of those vehicles I felt like would fit my lifestyle, I’d buy one and drive it for awhile, I’d be reminded of its limitations, then I’d sell it. 12 months later I’d see one and begin to imagine that I’d been wrong, and I’d buy another one only to be disappointed and the cycle would begin again. I haven’t owned one in five years (been driving a crew cab pickup with a camper shell which is much more conducive to what I need), but every time I see an Element, I can’t help but think what might have been. The selling point on the pickup was ultimately comfort and MPG. Moving into the crew cab I only lost 3 MPG and I gained real 4WD and the ability to tow a pop up. I also gained some comfort (I’m a big guy). I still like the idea of the Element but I’m one of those guys that bought the Element to replace a Vanagon, so I dream of the a return of a functional, rugged, and affordable VW van.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Elements really get around 18-22 mpg – not 25 – which is minivan gas mileage but in a smaller package. No thanks, and I don’t need AWD.

    For me, much of the appeal of the Element was found in my 05 Scion xB. It always got 30-35 mpg (weighing 1100 lbs *less* than the Element), was exceptionally roomy, and was cheaper to buy.

    The xB1 wasn’t for everyone, but its spiritual successor today is the wildly popular Kia Soul.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    This car and the FJ Cruiser I cannot figure why they stopped making them.

    Live in Idaho and the FJ is everywhere, and I wanna say has increased in value on the used market.

    And then you look at the 4Runner….ancient platform, antiquated engine and gearbox….sales also up.

    I have a small feeling that Honda and Toyota canceled these cars just a couple years too soon for the absolutely on-fire CUV/SUV craze.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I find it interesting that EVERY picture chosen for this story on the Element neglected to show the plastic cladding covered abomination that marked the first few years of production, having a higher plastic covering per available square inches of the vehicle than a 2002 Chevy Avalanche and a 2002 Pontiac Aztek combined. Entire front and rear fenders, roof sills, front and rear clips in their entirety, covered in horrid gray plastic.

    To respond to customer feedback, you could later on get it in horrid blue plastic.

    The marketing around the Element was just — horrid. But just like the Pontiac Aztek, the Element has a huge, loyal fan following that love their ugly ducklings. Also worth noting that a huge part of the buying demographics were former Buick owners, who liked the price, the utility, the seating position, easy entry, visibility, and how they felt cool with the grand kids.

    Never mind that the weak 4-banger under the hood could barely eek out 20 MPG city/highway.

    https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=2000+honda+element&view=detailv2&&id=91EF92EF2278360C68E99B2665ED272A9D33B483&selectedIndex=8&ccid=3qszG8gI&simid=608029579096293426&thid=OIP.Mdeab331bc808f49573a2818684803fa6o0&ajaxhist=0

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I’ve never seen evidence of the Element registering with former Buick owners, or anyone else old enough to be a be of a generation prior to X. Jack’s description of Element drivers is pretty spot on, although there are also plenty of women that drive them to their outdoorsy activities. I do recall Scion xBs being big hits with retirees, as well as pretty much everything else that can be considered a tall car. The Element is just too unconventional, and older folks can foresee what a headache suicide doors will be before they sign on the dotted line.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        http://www.edmunds.com/autoobserver-archive/2010/12/honda-kills-boxy-element-after-9-year-run.html

        Scroll down to the last paragraph. The buying demographic for the Element was decidedly gray haired. There were numerous stories about average buyer age, etc. etc.

        In the used market that may have shifted, but when produced and new, it was Buick buyers buying box on wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Here is a Fortune mag piece that reports the same.

        http://archive.fortune.com/galleries/2011/autos/1110/gallery.boxy_cars.fortune/4.html

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        And a third story…

        http://www.tflcar.com/2010/12/rip-honda-element/

        Google is your friend.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Every bot that regurgitated your factoid cited Jessica Caldwell as their source. Who was hers? Have you ever seen anyone over 50 years old get out of an Element? Has anyone? Not many people were buying them, but the ones that did were a lot more like the target audience than they were like Buick buyers.

          http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/honda-discovers-its-not-so-easy-getting-generation-y-element

          It had one of the youngest average buyer ages of any vehicle in the US. The Element died because it didn’t appeal to all the older people who have money to buy cars. Caldwell is a joke, one that you fell for.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You probably should have noticed that the Edmunds article was published 7 1/2 years after the Autoweek article.

            That should make it clear that as the sales collapsed, the demographics changed with them. As the younger lifestyle buyers bailed out, the older price-sensitive ones were the ones who were left.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            You should probably have noticed that all the sales came in the first few years of production. Even if old people bought the last three years worth of Elements, it wouldn’t have brought the overall average new Element buyers age up to Buick levels. Have you ever seen an old person driving an Element?

            http://archive.fortune.com/2010/12/10/autos/honda_element_rip.fortune/index.htm

            The average age of an Element buyer climbed from 42 to 52 by 2010. Buick is bragging that their average buyer age has fallen from 60 to 59 over the past five years. Ex Buick drivers weren’t ever shopping for Elements. apatget bought Jessica Caldwell’s ‘expertise’ because it fits his fantasy. Older doesn’t necessarily mean old as car buying went after the credit crunch.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I note that the buyers age increased over time.

            You prove me wrong by posting an article that states that the buyers age increased over time. Well done.

            Per Caldwell:

            “This vehicle was positioned as a ‘dorm room on wheels,’ but it never quite got the hip reputation it seeked. Instead of appealing to young people looking to haul surfboards and bikes, it turned out to be more popular with senior citizens who liked the Element’s interior space, versatility and relatively low price tag.”

            That’s pretty accurate, although admittedly a bit confusing for you sensitive types. The median age was much higher than it was supposed to be due to the lack of young buyers. The chunk of the buyer pool that should have been in its 20s mostly wasn’t.

            Your own article said that the car was targeting Generation Y, which would have been 25 and younger when the car was launched. That obviously didn’t happen, not even from the start.

            You don’t end up with a median age of 52 without having a considerable number of older buyers, although I will agree that she oversold her point for effect.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            “Also worth noting that a huge part of the buying demographics were former Buick owners, who liked the price, the utility, the seating position, easy entry, visibility, and how they felt cool with the grand kids.”

            This is what I was responding to. 52 year old former Buick owners? Were they reincarnated? When the economy tanked, younger buyers couldn’t buy Elements and so almost nobody did. We’re talking about 12,000 sales a year towards the end compared to 82,000 sales when there were jobs for college grads. 42 year olds weren’t Gen-Y in 2003, but it was as young as average ages for car buyers went. Average ages for all car buyers shot up in 2008 because of difficulties working age people faced getting financing and paying for new cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Enclave owners skew younger (for Buick.)

            In 2007, they averaged 53. https://www.cars.com/articles/2007/08/buick-enclave-i/

            Last year, they averaged 54. http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/automotive/sc-cons-0528-autocover-buick-lexus-youth-20150522-story.html

            Buick’s average age is still above the industry average, but it is lower than it used to be now that there is less emphasis on badge engineering and barge sales.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Honda would have to up the side protection, earlier Elements were weak in side collisions where the rear suicide door meets the main doors.

    Still, they should bring it back as a Kia Soul competitor, even if the stylists would ball their eyes out at designing something with straight lines.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      New Hondas have straight lines. And round lines. And lines where no car has ever needed them before. I shudder to think what the new Civic hatch designer would do given a brief for a new Element.

  • avatar

    Seriously? The Outback is a pretty solid car. Peter needs to get his head out of his ass. I’ve got a newer 3.6R and it’s both comfortable and competent.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      If you think an Element driver would consider a 3.6R loaded Outback, you’re sorely mistaken.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      He’s one of those types that say theyd buy a new car under very specific circumstances, yet they nevery truly will.

      Dont matter how great new Subbies are, if its not a brown stick shift rwd Element with a $5k discount it aint theirs.

  • avatar
    thelastdriver

    In all these comments I’ve seen nobody mention the Aerostar AWD — another amazing box with no direct successor.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    If I weren’t living in downtown Chicago, I’d absolutely be looking at an Element right now.

    As it is, the wife and I finally agreed on a CX-3 (hooray for dodging the HR-V bullet!).

  • avatar
    bkrell

    As an ultrarunner, I can confirm there are always at least a handful of these among the Subarus at every race. I have an ’02 CR-V I’ve owned since new and is a mechanical twin of the Element. The things don’t die. They make Subarus look like Dodges in that regard.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    In 2006 I purchased a brand-new Element EX-P with AWD and a manual transmission to relieve my Evo VIII from the pressures of daily driving duties. I truly enjoyed driving it and ten years later it is still providing service for my youngest son. As my children got older and started driving themselves, it became the “kids’ car” which they drove to high school, football practice, band practice, and probably got laid in due to the exceptional room with the seats either removed or folded flat. It helped me make two house moves, swallowed my 29er mountain bikes without having to remove the front wheels, made innumerable trips to the county dump, and even allowed me to pick up an entire load of kitchen renovation items (cabinets, sink, hardware) from Home Depot. It was supremely utilitarian.

    When I first got it, other Element owners would wave and smile, but that diminished over the years as the cult of owners diluted into the general population. It was fun to drive with the smooth manual transmission, but passengers didn’t enjoy the choppy ride due to the short wheelbase. I even made a six-year-old carsick in the back once. Fuel mileage averaged 22 MPG, and I never ever saw better than 24 on pure highway driving. When you have the aerodynamic properties of a brick, expectations are low.

    Reliability was stellar for the first eight years. But then at 90,000 miles things started to break. Starter, clutch, breaks, the entire front suspension, and two rocker arm position sensors were are replaced. I’ve sunk $6000 into repairs in the past two years. Interestingly enough, my VWs (a coupe of GTIS, an R32, and a couple of Touregs) that I’ve owned in the same period of time have all been more reliable and have incurred no repair costs out of warranty.

    I liked the first Element so much I bought a second used 2006 EX-P to supplement the duties of three teenagers in the house at one time. That was an AWD automatic and not nearly as fun to drive. I sold it when the last child left the nest and was pleasantly surprised at how much these cars commanded on the used market.

    So yeah, I’m an Element fan and have a sadness is that Hinda abandoned an intriguing concept that so many owners understood. But that’s Honda, isn’t it?

  • avatar
    5thbeatle

    Jack (or possibly Mark)- thanks for taking the time to fill out the “contact dealer” section on that Element’s CarGurus page. That gave me a good laugh…

  • avatar
    islander800

    We own a 2004 Element all wheel drive that we purchased new and it is the best all around vehicle we’ve owned. The seats are very comfortable (best rear seats of any vehicle-period), the interior configurability is amazing and with the same 2.3 litre drive train as an Accord, it’s plenty powerful enough. It did a trip with four adults and all our luggage in a Tulle soft roof bag from Vancouver Island to San Diego return no sweat, cruising at 75 mph all day long effortlessly while getting 25 – 27 mpg. I think those saying it’s underpowered are a bit too critical.

    Ours has 50K miles after 12 years on the road (!) and, having lived its whole life on the West Coast, is almost like new with regular Honda maintenance. It feels like maybe a four-year-old vehicle and, after spending a few bucks recently changing belts, hoses and all fluids, it’s good for another six years of trouble-free driving.

    Would I sell it? No.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Don’t care about the Element. I want to hear about the bike trip. Was that your longest so far?

    Nothing like a ride that crosses time zones to think about how you’d do it differently next time.

  • avatar

    I definitely see the appeal. It’s exceptionally functional, and looks like it. It also drives nicely. I didn’t need Jack’s article to feel that way, although I very much enjoyed reading it.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I just drove my parents’ Element yesterday. It wasn’t the first time, but the first time I exceeded neighborhood speeds or 1 mile in distance.

    It’s a 2003 EX AWD auto, silver/gray, that they’ve owned since new and it now has 143k miles. When it was new I sat in the rear seats and recall having plenty of room not just in leg space but also in width. This is most likely because they dispensed with the pretense of having a center seat in the rear. For a while this made sense because it allows the rear seats to each fold up against the side wall of the vehicle, but before long my parents (empty-nesters who are now in their early 60s, so stereotypical Element purchasers) removed the rear seats entirely and it exists as a 2-seat microvan.

    My mom wanted me to take it and fill it up with gas, because she hasn’t pumped gas herself in about 25 years and my dad’s working out of state on contract during the week but has recently been forced off the road by a retinal tear.

    The gas station is about 3 miles from their house, through a small town and then merge onto a divided 4-lane. Before I left the garage I was shocked at the sound and feel of closing the door. I had to reopen and close it again because I wasn’t sure the door properly latched. Yeah, it always sounds that crappy. The stereo is a horrible muddy mid-bass booming mess but it’s better than listening to the myriad squeaks and rattles. Once up to 60mph (FINALLY!) it was quite loud. Acceleration was a bit worrisome, but just barely adequate.

    Ride and handling was odd; the suspension seemed rather stiff as if it was intended to carry more load (it isn’t) and jarred a bit on minor bumps. Steering was as ponderous as my 88 Dodge with loose steering gear and worn-out rag joint in the intermediate shaft. It wandered significantly and corrections felt darty. Body lean was noticeable and concerning. The seating position for the driver is quite odd. There’s no thigh support at all, which is at least partially because you’re forced into a knees-up seating position as the seat is high enough off the floor to prevent you from stretching your legs out but low enough to the floor to prevent you from sitting with your femur perpendicular to your torso. This may have been exacerbated by my 6′-2″ height which is slightly biased toward leg length, but for a time I designed chairs and noticed the odd seat height with respect to the vehicle floor.

    The seat height is almost perfect with respect to the ground outside, being a slight drop down to sit in for me but probably an even slide over for anyone between a 5′-4 woman (my mom, or my 11 year old) and an average height male. Getting out is different, and I don’t know how people acclimate themselves. It must be something you learn to deal with, but my size 12s kept getting tripped up on the sill when exiting. The Civic floorpan has a higher door sill height than the floor board similar to most small unibody cars. The seat height feels much more similar to my Odyssey or my pickup, both of which have no such sill. Because of the aforementioned odd seat height relative to the floor and knees-up driving position, this forces your knees WAY up for your foot to clear the sill. My parents never complained, but I figured for as easy as it is for older folks to get in it’s doubly hard to get out and that would have at least made some noise.

    As stated my dad works out of state during the week and puts over 800 miles a week on a vehicle. He’s an electrical engineer doing specialty electrical testing and field installation and has expensive tools and equipment he must carry. His last employer provided an Express van and then a boxy Escape for this, but he currently must field his own vehicle. Theoretically the Element should be ideally suited for such a role, carrying tools that are not too heavy nor too large and frequenting soft-road locations (substations etc). Neither of my parents has come out and said, but I believe subconsciously they know, there are myriad good reasons my dad is racking up miles on their 2004 Odyssey EXL (yes, they bought both at the same time) instead of taking the Element for work. The Element is simply too compromised for extended livability, even within its intended niche. Only die-hard fanboys need apply.

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