2008 Honda Element Review – More Bounce to the Ounce

Expert Reviews Honda

2008 Honda Element
By Gary Chan


  • Torquey engine
  • Nimble
  • Rigid structure


  • Hop around rear
  • Gas mileage
  • Notchy shifter

One of the definitions from Yahoo’s online dictionary define “box” as: A container typically constructed with four sides perpendicular to the base and often having a lid or cover. Now add a motor, wheels and some seats and you have the Honda Element. The styling is a bit funkier than a simple box, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to drive and the utility of the interior.

2008 Honda Element

Driving Impressions
Jump into the firm, relatively flat front seats, and start ‘er up. Don’t forget to depress the clutch (all the way down!) or the car won’t start. Sitting relatively high, you have a great view of the road and the surroundings in front. The large side mirrors are helpful, but the rear view mirror is useless … a rear vision camera might help prevent running over things shorter than the lower edge of the rear windows. The dash is somewhat futuristic with its blend of shiny plastic trim and embossed plastic and vinyl. Though the Honda dash looks nice, you’ll see inconsistent gaps between surfaces and release marks on the plastic trim pieces.

Overall, the Element SC is a pleasure to drive … acceleration is brisk for a 166-hp vehicle that weighs 3,500 lbs. After driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser for a few days right after the Element, I appreciated the sharper steering and solid structure of the Honda. Just be prepared for a firmly suspended vehicle that transmits bumps back to the driver. The rear is independently-suspended and I expected better bump absorption than a solid axle. Maybe there’s not enough weight at the rear… who knows? Realizing the hop-happy rear-end, I had to be careful going over speed bumps. Otherwise boxes in the rear cargo get more air time than my 8-year old cousin getting to know her new box-spring mattress.

Wind noise is apparent as the windshield is almost vertical, and the side mirrors are large rectangular books in the path of the wind.

2008 Honda Element - Wide-Opening Cargo Doors 2008 Honda Element - 26 cubic feet of cargo space 2008 Honda Element - Removable, Flip-Up Rear Seats

Overall, I really liked the utility value of the car. I was able to wrestle (by myself) one of the back seats out of the vehicle and the missing seat made it easy to roll in my road bike (sans front wheel). Wrestle is an apt description of the multiple levers/pull handles that have to be used in order to remove the seat. And then it’s heavy and awkward to hold. I’m sure with two people and a bit of practice, one could remove both seats in just a minute or two. Having both rear seats removed you’re rewarded with a tall, boxy and functional space with a flat floor. Honda conveniently provided chrome plated tie down rings placed conveniently throughout the rear cargo area.

The projector beam headlights are among the best by providing a void-less blanket of light.

I spoke of the uneven gaps in some of the dash pieces, but relative to a BMW 335i, they were minor! I saw larger, uneven gaps in the fit of the ashtray (and other dash pieces) on the BMW … and that car lists at almost $50K. You’d have to look hard on the Element to notice the gaps which speaks highly of a vehicle less than half the cost of the Bimmer. The doors of the Element close solidly and absence of the B-pillar does not diminish the structural rigidity of the Element. Squeaks or rattles during the test drive were non-existent. Road noise does make it way into the cabin, but this could be due to a limited amount of sound dampening materials on the floor and firewall.

(Continued on page 2 – Interior Comfort | Performance | Handling )
(Continued on page 3 – Styling | Value | Conclusion | Ratings )

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  • Louise says:

    I just purchased my second Honda Element. I LOVE it. I have the 2010 with the dog friendly package. The Element is really zippy, good excelleration for a small engine. Great interior flexibility with seats and rear stowing. Cute – not ugly like some of the other boxy vehicles.

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