2008 Honda Element

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Review: 2007 Honda Element

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Honda revises its Element to keep it up to date.
Pros:
  • More features
  • New sporty SC trim level
  • Utilitarian
Cons:
  • Lazy highway performance
  • Rear doors don't open independently of front ones
  • Occasional jittery ride

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.

Well-Equipped
All Elements are well-equipped. Even the base version has air conditioning, tilt wheel, cruise control, height-adjustable driver's seat and split folding/flip-up rear seat. The AWD versions add a large rear sunroof that tilts up and can be removed.

List prices range from $18,900 to $23,495. The EX starts at $20,910 and the SC begins at $22,695.

More Power
Horsepower of the sophisticated dual overhead camshaft 4-cylinder engine has been raised by 10 to 166. Acceleration is spirited in town, although the Element is fairly heavy for a 101.4-inch-wheelbase vehicle at 3,433 to 3,661 pounds. A larger, more potent engine would be welcome because performance is strictly average above 65 mph.

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.

New Transmission
A slick 5-speed manual gearbox remains standard, but a more modern $800 5-speed automatic transmission replaces a 4-speed unit.

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.

New Features
New for all versions are freshened exterior styling and a new instrument panel, steering wheel and radio.

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.

Enhancing Entry
A new seat belt system for the front seats enhances entry and exit for rear passengers. Rear-hinged side doors open a full 90 degrees, leaving a wide entrance. But they're hard to reach and close from the back seat. Also, rear doors don't open independently of front doors, creating awkward entry/exit situations in tight parking areas.

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
The new SC has "street custom styling," but—alas—no additional power. It does have a sport-tuned suspension and a ride height lowered about an inch. It also has a front console with beverage holders, revised grille, projector beam headlights, carpeting in seating areas and a monochromatic color scheme with painted bumpers and trim.

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.

Roomy
There is plenty of room for four tall occupants, with especially impressive rear seat space. The roof is sky-high and the windshield is huge. The Element, itself, is rather tall and thus calls for a little extra effort to get in the functional interior.

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
Steering is precise and best in the SC, which has a faster steering ratio. The SC also has stiffer front/rear stabilizer bars that work with the Element's all-independent suspension to provide sharper handling. The brake pedal has a nice linear action.

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.

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BB06 - 7/30/2014 10:32:02 PM