My informal survey among my friends were polarizing: either they loved it or thought it was ugly. After almost a week of driving, I began to grow attached to the Root Beer metallic-colored Element with its chopped and angular demeanor. The roof is highlighted by several shallow channels that run the length of the roof breaking up the smooth surfaces of the rest of the vehicle. Maybe this was Honda’s styling attempt to hide the fact that it’s a rectangular box. Although it looks like the roof height is short (probably due to the short windows), it’s deceiving while providing ample headroom as mentioned before.
The Honda Element is unique in design which sets it apart from some of the more conventional small crossover vehicles – except for maybe its long, lost cousin the Scion xB. What else does Honda consider to be competition? The Toyota Matrix XR, Mazda 3 Touring, and the Saturn VUE XE… all front-wheel drive models, all with similar engines sizes, but varying features. Likening it more to the Scion, the SC definitely loses the price battle by thousands of dollars as well as losing in the residual value battle after 5 years (33% vs. 41%, respectively). The Honda does have a slightly larger cargo area, and many standard features that are not even options on the Scion. Is it worth the $7k premium? Hmmm, well after 5 years, the residual value of the Scion is about $1k less than the Honda. You could use that extra $7k as a down payment for a Honda CBR600RR motorcycle that gets twice the highway mileage! If you’re looking for driving dynamics, you can’t go wrong with the Mazda … it’ll drive circles around the Element.
I enjoyed the torquey engine zipping around town, but I’m a bit surprised that the 2.4-liter engine is so thirsty (18/23 city/hwy mpg). I’m not sure how much gas remained in the 15.9 gallon tank, but the gas warning lamp began to glow at 240 miles. That’s not much considering most of its competition have highway figures in the upper 20’s to low 30’s achieved with 2.4-liter engines, as well. The design is edgy and fresh, and I got used to it appreciating how it stood out against the crowd. I didn’t drive the non-SC Element so I’m not sure if the rear tail hop is an issue across both models or just limited to the SC. The bouncing rear end is my main complaint. If Honda can do something about the hop and also improve the gas mileage, the Element SC would be a utilitarian winner melding comfort and functionality in a unique package.
|Honda Motor Company of America: Cars, Sedans, CUVs, Trucks – http://automobiles.honda.com/|