September 25, 2007 > Auto Review
For 2007, the Honda Element received many changes highlighted by new exterior and interior styling, the addition of 10 HP and more safety equipment.
From a safety standpoint, front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags for front and rear occupants and Vehicle Stability Assist (skid control) were added to the 2007 models. Supplemental restraint system airbags for the front, 4-wheel disk ABS brakes, and a tire pressure monitoring system were carried forward from the 2006 Element. The 2007 models have been awarded the highest government safety ratings (5-stars) for front and side impacts.
The Element comes with a number of model choices. First is 2-wheel or 4-wheel propulsion. Next, you can choose between a manual or automatic transmission (both are 5-speeds). Then you can choose between 3 trim and option levels. The LX has the black composite fender cladding and rubber floor coverings. The EX adds painted composite fenders that match the body color and a better audio system. The composite fender panels will resist dents much better than steel ones. The 4-wheel drive models also have a 20" by 30" rear skylight in the roof that can be removed to carry tall objects.
The SC (Street Custom) model is only available in 2-wheel drive and has 18" wheels, a sport-tuned suspension (30% firmer), lower ride height, projector beam headlights, carpeted floors, and other small changes.
Sitting in the Element's engine bay is Honda's reliable 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine. It produces 166 HP and 160 foot pounds of torque. The engine uses Honda's proven VTEC (variable valve timing) technology to produce a broad, yet economical power band. Depending on the number of driving wheels and transmission you choose, the EPA mileage estimates vary from 21 or 22 city and 24 or 27 highway. The Elements with automatic transmissions get better EPA numbers that the manual.
The lowest priced Element (LX) starts at $18,900; EX is about $2,000 more. Add $1,400 to the price list for the 4-wheel drive system. The automatic transmission is an $800 option. Base SC starts at $22,695.
Element's interior is well designed and very functional. It is very easy to access the entire interior through the 2 front and 2 rear "suicide" doors. Rear doors have the hinges on the rear side and open in the opposite direction from most other rear doors. The window at the back opens upward to give easy access to a large cargo area. Flip-up rear seats fold flat, fold up and to the side, or can be taken out of the Element. The rear seats weren't all that comfortable, and I would not want to spend 3 or 4 hours in one of them.
Our test Element was an SC model, so it had the firmer suspension, and my wife and I both liked the way it rode and handled. It was peppy and had reasonable acceleration and performance. We did not think the outward visibility was as good as other vehicles in the Element's class. The front seats were very comfortable and all the controls were straight forward and easy to use. We enjoyed our time with the Element, it was fun to drive and would recommend it if you are looking for a vehicle in this class.
By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists