2010 Honda Element EX Review – Honda goes to the dogs with its Pet Friendly package

Expert Reviews Honda

2010 Honda Element EX 4WD
By Mary Ellen Ash


  • Safe and reliable
  • Spacious cabin and seating
  • Rear seats that recline
  • Great utility and cargo space
  • Pet friendly


  • Heavy, cumbersome rear seats
  • Mediocre MPG
  • Limited number of cup holders

Somewhere in the middle:

  • Clam-shell doors

Once upon a time, we thought there were only four elements: earth, wind, fire and water. Now from the gods at Honda, we have been blessed with the fifth – the original Element. In 2003 Honda introduced the Element to the world. And for 2010, Honda was continuing with its quintessential Japanese box car conveniently transformed to suit Americans. It’s packed with über headroom, spacious seating, wide-load entry side doors, and for the first time targets the pooch market. Everyone knows Americans love their pets. The Element’s Pet Friendly package offers a lot of nifty features for pet comfort and safety while still being simple to clean. As with all Elements, this could be your ticket to drive and a new fundamental part of your (transportation) life.

2010 Honda Element EX 4WD

Driving Impressions:

In the urban labyrinths of the modern world, the Honda Element was an entertaining drive. In city driving, the Element was pleasantly nimble, agile and spry for being such a boxy car. It weaves and turns sharply making advanced driving maneuvers a breeze (like stealth parking, shopping-cart avoidance, and such). But there’s only so far you can push a box-on-wheels. The acceleration was as much as can be expected for a car with 166 hp, and 161 lb-ft of torque – just enough to get up to speed without being perceived as grandma behind the wheel, but it will never be a rocket-ship. And with the laws of aerodynamics playing a key factor in highway speed, the Element was stuck in the reasonable speed zone. With its 4-cylinder iVTEC engine, the Element’s acceleration had smooth power delivery throughout its rev range. While this cube on wheels didn’t knock my socks off with its pure speed, it was still fun to push the Element into its upper rev range.

Handling is precise and predictable, but the suspension is definitely on the stiff side. Unladen, that stiffness also means that bumps are more easily felt by all passengers. Just be forewarned, speed bumps should be taken at the recommended speed limit, otherwise cargo carried inside the cabin could leap into flight.

2010 Honda Element rear seats with dog-friendly seat covers

Surprisingly for a box car with rather poor aerodynamics, the exterior noise was minimal and didn’t cause any irritations or detract from the overall driving experience. Conversations could be maintained at a comfortable “inside voice” volume.

As stated by many other Element reviewers, the utility of this vehicle was what makes it stand apart from the rest of its competitors. With 64 seat combinations, the rear seats can flip up, fold flat or fold to the side making it easier to fit in all those awkward items. The only problem? The rear seats are on the heavy side and are cumbersome. On my first try, it took me several minutes of wrestling and cursing before I finally removed one seat. After getting  the rear seats fully removed, you are blessed with even more cargo space – nearly 75 cubic feet total. The Element can haul just about anything you put in it. With its tall ceiling, rugged floor, and lots of hooks to secure items in the rear, throw your gear in the back and rest assured it will get to its destination hassle-free. Of course that was all within reason. With its 675-lb max load capacity inside the vehicle and 1500 lb towing capacity, don’t try to haul anything bigger than a piano.

Build and Styling

Honda has retained the Element’s unique styling for 2010 – boxy, with exterior Rubbermaid plastic highlights, and monochromatic finishes. It’s a super solid, sturdy and rugged crossover. All the panels are smooth with no major gaps – nor squeaks or rattles. All the doors closed evenly and with a nice thud that sounds secure. Inside, the hard plastic and rubber dash will easily stand up to the everyday wear-and-tear. The plastic-covered floor, all-season rubber mats, and outstanding maximum cargo capacity make it an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.

2010 Honda Element EX 4WD

The Element scored high safety marks and is well-endowed for protecting its passengers. Front-seat passengers get front and side airbags and side head curtain airbags with rollover sensor. Traction Control is controlled by ABS and engine management. 4-wheel ABS brakes and electronic brake force distribution is standard. Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA™) electronic stability control uses a combination of engine power reduction, ABS and traction control to maintain vehicle control when the elements and road conditions conspire to make things challenging. And in government crash tests, the Element scored perfect 5-star frontal crash and 5-star passenger crash, and modest rollover ratings.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

Honda’s square dimensions are a boon for larger-than-average people. There are very few cars in which a 6′5″ dude could wear a Cat-in-the-Hat top hat and still not touch the roof. Shoulder and hip room are likewise excellent. The one flaw was that the already average rear-view visibility was obliterated when the rear seats are in their fully upright position.

In the front, the seats perch the driver up nice and high for a good view of the road. Rear visibility is okay, but when the rear seats are down, the view is much clearer. Another nice seating feature was they were all draped in a lovely water-resistant, five-layer fabric which provides outstanding durability and protection so that water simply beads on the surface and wipes away easily. These covers are removable and make cleaning very easy. It’s ideal for the pets and kids.

2010 Honda Element interior2010 Honda Element interior2010 Honda Element Dog Friendly package includes durable, waterproof dog-motif seat covers

The stereo system was a little disappointing since the sound quality was rather bland. It is kind of surprising given the EX comes standard with a 270-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with seven speakers, a subwoofer and a standard connection to XM® Radio. Plus, with an MP3/auxiliary input jack and Windows Media® Audio (WMA) playback capability. Alas, just goes to show you can’t have it all.

But the most ridiculous feature had to be the center console between the front seats. A feature only found in the EX model, supposedly the center console can moonlight as a removable cooler/storage box. While in theory it could be a practical idea, it’s a multi-functional belly-flop. Because of its instability (locking mechanism was junk) and limited upper tray areas (no cupholders, or storage bins), the center console area can’t be used for anything else but a cooler. Can you say “one-trick pony”?

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  • Jenny says:

    The sales were never too high because they priced the vehical to high. For this economy, people just can’t afford $26,000 for a car anymore. Let alone an SUV. More people are going for a Kia Serento or the like because the fuel economy is better.

  • derek says:

    Sadly, Element sales are not strong enough to keep it going. Even though the Element has some useful features, it never was a strong seller for Honda.

  • Honda Civic says:

    This is most useful to all of us.

  • al says:

    What a shame Honda management has decided to discontinue the Element after the 2011 model run. The Element is the only Honda SUV rated as “best pick” by IIHS. Its versatility is unmatched by competitors as is its timeless style and durability (built like a little tank). The Element has become a Honda Icon and hopefully it will return.

  • derek says:

    A big thank-you to Lisa at HSSV for arranging a couple of temporary residents to try out the pet friendly features of the Honda Element. Harley and Abbie were perfect models and happily jumped in to lend a friendly paw.

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