Review: 2007 Honda Element
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The Honda Element was slightly ahead of its time and seems more mainstream now than it did several years ago because it fits nicely in the booming market for crossover vehicles, which combine SUV and car attributes.
The Element arrived in December, 2002, and Honda hasn't changed its basic personality since then. It's a boxy, versatile vehicle aimed at a young active lifestyle crowd, although older buyers have been drawn to its practicality.
The first entry-level Element didn't even have an audio unit or speakers because Honda felt many young buyers would just remove a low-line system and replace it with a high-line one.
There is a sound system in the base 2007 Element LX—an AM/FM/CD player with four speakers. The midrange EX trim level has a high-output 7-speaker audio system with an AM/FM tuner, CD player with MP3/WMA capability, auxiliary audio input for MP3 or digital devices—along with steering-wheel audio controls. It also has XM satellite radio.
The Element rides on a modified, strengthened version of Honda's last-generation (2002-2006) compact CR-V SUV chassis. It has front-wheel drive and all versions except the sporty new SC trim level are offered with all-wheel drive. However, that AWD system lacks low-range gearing for rugged off-roading.
List prices range from $18,900 to $23,495. The EX starts at $20,910 and the SC begins at $22,695.
There's also torque steer (front darts a bit to the left or right) during fast initial acceleration, especially on slippery roads. However, steady highway cruising is no problem, although the boxy body causes noticeable wind noise above 65 mph.
Estimated fuel economy with the manual gearbox is 21 mpg in the city and 24-25 on highways and 21-22 city and 26-27 on highways with the automatic. AWD trim levels are heavier and thus deliver the slightly lower EPA-provided figures, although only 87-octane gasoline is required.
The neatly designed engine compartment has easily reached fluid filler areas, but one must hold the heavy hood open with an old-fashioned prop rod.
There's also a new anti-skid system and front-seat side airbags. Side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor are standard on all versions for the first time. And there are anti-lock all-disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake distribution systems.
Relatively few people check tire pressures, so the tire-pressure-monitoring system is handy. And there is new keyless entry for the LX.
The LX and EX have new headlight and grille styling, and the EX has standard painted fender cladding surfaces and door handles.
Sporty New SC
Uniquely shaped painted side sills and slimmer roof moldings enhance the SC's lowered appearance.
The SC has 55-series tires, vs. 70-series rubber for other versions and 18-inch (vs. 16-inch) wheels. The larger SC wheels are a Honda division "first" as a standard feature. Honda figures that younger SC buyers would get larger aftermarket wheels and tires, anyway.
The SC is offered with exclusive Root Beet Metallic paint, which really makes it stand out with its alloy wheels.
There are many storage areas for such items as cell phones and CDs and areas for large beverage containers.
White-on-black gauges enhance their legibility, but some may feel they are too deeply hooded. Front seats are supportive and more comfortable than the rear ones, which have short bottoms. The shifter handily juts from the lower dash area.
Sharper SC Moves
However, the SC's stiffer suspension and wider tires occasionally cause a bumpy ride on side streets and a jittery one on uneven freeway surfaces. More comfort-minded drivers may want to opt for the LX or EX with their softer suspensions and wider-sidewall tires.
Cargo space is good behind the split rear bench seat, which flips to the side to create a larger cargo area. Folding rear seatbacks lets them be flattened to create a lumpy bed, or the seat can be removed.
The cargo door's upper half flips forward, while the bottom half drops down pickup-truck style to create a low load-in height.
Honda has made the latest Element more attractive, but more punch at highway speeds would be welcomed.