2008 Honda Element
The automotive landscape is filled with all manner of vehicles. There are performance cars, utility vehicles and luxury cars just to name a few. But perhaps the most off-center are lifestyle vehicles – cars that are made to target incredibly specific demographics. The 2008 Honda Element
is a lifestyle car if there ever was one, and from the get-go has been marketed as a new age utility for outdoorsy young people concerned with the size of their carbon footprint – sort of like a greener version of the Nissan Xterra. For the most part, the Element delivers the goods, too, providing a lot of utilitarian bang for the buck with its multitude of seating options and massive cargo space. Furthermore, a solid list of standard features, good fuel economy and legendary Honda reliability make this a utilitarian car that won’t run your bank account dry.
What's to Like
A mind-boggling 64 seating options give the Element interior versatility unlike anything else on the market, and water-resistant fabric contributes to the outdoor lifestyle appeal of this car. Available all-wheel drive is a useful option for those who need the car for winter driving.
What's Not to Like
The rearview mirror combines with the tinted rear window to create poor vision out the back, and due to a driver’s seat that doesn’t lower very far, the diving position can be awkward for taller drivers.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
From the driver’s seat, the Element feels massive with its high roofline and tall, thick A-pillars. The dash sits in front of the driver as a massive, flat expanse that ends at the large, nearly vertical windshield. Despite its somewhat unruly appearance, the Element is easily handled thanks to a light steering rack. The five-speed manual has a light, easy clutch and the 2.4-liter engine is happy to rev with either transmission, doing its best work above 4,500 rpm and easily providing enough power for freeway passing. In the SC, the lower and stiffer suspension can be relatively uncomfortable over worn and uneven city surfaces, though it does feel taught on smooth highways.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Element is powered by a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which produces 166 horsepower and 161 lb-ft of torque. It can be fitted with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, which drives the front-wheels in SC guise. Don’t be discouraged if you’re looking for all-wheel drive though – Honda sells both LX and EX models equipped with a four-wheel system.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
The Element SC comes with a lot of upgrades befitting of its young, hip demeanor, including a copper-colored instrument panel, “tattoo print” patterned seat fabric, 18-inch wheels and a 270-watt, seven-speaker sound system with MP3 compatibility and an auxiliary audio input jack. A security system is also available as an add-on. Honda offers plenty of accessories for the Element, most of which are inline with the car’s active lifestyle mantra, including items such as kayak, snowboard and surfboard racks, as well as several different interior cargo organizers.
Key Technology Evaluation
All Element models come standard with Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist system, which uses sensors to monitor the car’s handling and applies the brakes as necessary should you overstep the car’s limits. Four-wheel ABS also comes standard, as does a tire pressure monitoring system. The engine is equipped with Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve timing for an optimum mixture of power and dollar-saving fuel efficiency.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Thanks to its relatively lightweight design and four-cylinder LEV-II engine, the Element returns good fuel economy, yielding 20-mpg city and 25-mpg highway when paired with an automatic transmission. Manual transmissions deliver slightly less, netting 18-mpg city and 23-mpg highway.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The Element SC gets a flashier interior than the LX and EX models, with copper-colored accents and gauges. Driver’s sit above the long, flat dash as one would expect to in a minivan. The Element is crammed with storage bins, feeling very utilitarian.
From the outside, the Element’s tall, boxy and generally unorthodox design looks part van, part CR-V crossover, but lends itself to a large, airy interior. The Element SC gets larger rims with low-profile tires as well as a lowered ride height, giving it a more urban, modern appearance.
Market Segment and Pricing
Element pricing starts at $18,980 for a standard front-wheel drive model and increases to $22,775 for the SC. Element accessories weigh in at a few hundred dollars each, so don’t expect to pay too much over $24,000 even if you get generous with the options sheet. This puts the Element in the ring with a wide range of competitors such as the Chevrolet HHR
, Ford Escape
, Dodge Journey
, Subaru Forrester
and Saturn Vue
What We Think
The Honda Element might have a somewhat quirky personality, but it certainly maintains its ultimate goal of being a practical, eco-friendly car for those who lead active lives. If you’re the kind of car owner who likes to have options, the dozens of possible seating combinations should keep you satisfied, and four-cylinder fuel economy and a relatively low base price only add to the car’s appeal.