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May 18, 2010 > Auto Review: Honda Element

Auto Review: Honda Element

Last week we had a 2010 Honda Element SC (Street Custom) as our test drive vehicle. My wife and I were both a little disappointed with the Element experience. We found the ride in the front seats very stiff and bouncy. In the back seats, the ride was uncomfortable with small bumps in the road transmitted directly to the passenger's body. One reason for the stiff ride was that we had the SC model. Honda's engineers designed the springs and shocks to be 30% firmer in the SC when compared to other Element models.

Both the front and rear seats were hard, flat and provided very little support. There was not much leg room for the front seat passenger. One good point was that there was a lot of leg room for the rear seat passengers. Also, all the doors open very wide, so it is easy to get into and out of both ends of the Element. The outward visibility was excellent, and it is easy to see anything going on when you are backing up.

All Elements share an aluminum double overhead variable timed cam, 4-cylinder engine that displaces 2.4 liters. It delivers 166 HP and 161 pound feet of torque to the front wheels through a 5-speed automatic transmission. Element's engine uses regular unleaded gas. The transmission's control system is designed to prevent "gear hunting" on hilly roads. A 4-wheel drive system is available to enhance traction in slippery road conditions.

The Element comes in three trim levels: the LX, EX, and the SC. Then you have your choice of front wheel drive or the four wheel drive. The 2-wheel drive Elements delivered 20/25 MPG in their EPA testing with 4-wheel drives at 19/24 MPG.

The lowest cost model (two wheel drive LX) starts at a base price of $20,525. A very easy to use satellite-linked, navigation system is an additional $1,700. This option includes a rear back-up camera. The 4-wheel drive system is an additional $1,250 and the most expensive 4-wheel drive EX starts at $25,585. All models have an additional $710 destination charge.

One of the neatest options on the Element is the "Dog Friendly" pet accommodation system. It allows pet owners to carry their dogs and cats in safety, comfort, and convenience. The system starts with a nylon-webbed car kennel that keeps Fido in the rear cargo area and protects him and his humans if an accident occurs. The area has a soft floor covering, a fan to circulate the air back there and a spill resistant water source. The finishing touch is a ramp off the tailgate so Fido can walk into the Element; you don't have to lift him up. The system's MSRP is $995.

The LX and EX models use a water-resistant, urethane-coated utility floor and seat fabric that resists moisture to make them easy to clean. The SC has a carpeted interior.

From a driving standpoint, the Element has a fair amount of torque steer under acceleration. It is not bad, but it is noticeable. I would like to try one of the other Element models to see if the ride is better, but didn't have a chance to do that. All in all, the Element has a good reputation for reliability and would be a good choice for a young family.

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