2010 Honda Element Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Honda Element

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyers Guide

2010 Honda Element: I Found No Bones to Pick with this nice, honest vehicle with a niche-market twist.

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2010 Honda Element

Niche marketing? You want niche marketing? Honda will show you niche marketing -- the 2010 Element with the Dog Friendly™ package. For dog owners and lovers, only. Well, it might work for cats, but given the usual enthusiasm shown for car rides by felines I've known, don't count on it. And wear thick leather for protection from claws and teeth…

The dog package is really pretty simple, and amusingly whimsical. A kind of doggie tent zippered kennel with a padded floor (complete with dog pattern cloth) fits in the cargo area behind the rear seat, and a folding ramp for Rover's access is stored under that. A 12-volt DC rear ventilation fan helps keep third-row canine passengers cool. The kennel is big enough for one medium-sized dog -- think Golden, Lab, or German Shepherd -- or a couple of smaller ones, and is rated for dogs up to 80 pounds. It promotes canine safety by keeping dogs in place, and out of the way of the driver.

The Dog Friendly package is available in the Element EX, and other than the dog equipment, a Dog-Friendly EX is just like any other Honda Element EX. Well, one minor detail -- with the kennel in place the rear seats can't be folded into the sides of the car. Plan ahead on that and it becomes a non-issue. Dog-Friendly joins the existing ski, snowboard, bicycle, and other "lifestyle accessory" packages that make the Element useful.

Other changes to the Element for 2010 are minor, and of the usual mid-product cycle variety. Meaning minor exterior and interior styling revisions. It's offered in well-equipped LX and upgraded EX trim levels with front- or Honda's full-time Real-Time™ single-range four-wheel drive and an interior with water-resistant seat fabric and easy-clean rubberized floor mats or sportier SC FWD form with a stiffer suspension and exclusive, sportier interior and exterior trim. The most noticeable difference from earlier models is the new-style Honda grille, as seen on the Pilot and Accord. All models have a 2.4-liter, 166-horsepower four-cylinder engine matched with a five-speed automatic transmission.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I've just finished a week with a new top-of-the-line Element EX 4WD with the Navigation and Dog-Friendly Packages. I don't have a dog, so I invited a neighbor's cat to check out the rear accommodations. He walked up the ramp, sniffed, and wandered away. You were expecting anything different? Human accommodation, as ever, is roomy and comfortable. It *is* the box it came in, but that's the Element's charm, and despite its boxy shape, it's relatively stable in strong winds. It can hold a lot, of whatever and whoever you may want to put inside, be that people, sports equipment, camping gear, bicycles, snowboards, or dogs. Access is easy thanks to the door arrangement. And the floor is low, so humans don't need a ramp. Add the easy-clean interior and the removable cooler in the EX's center console, and there is no vehicle like it.

2010 Honda Element APPEARANCE: Whimsical looking and seriously useful, the Element keeps the "box" in "two-box design". The basic shape continues unchanged, with a new grille and headlights keeping it in line with the rest of Honda's crossovers and sedans.

2010 Honda Element COMFORT: That external boxiness has its advantages, inside. There's no shortage of room for four, plus a dog or two in the back. Honda claims 64 possible seating configurations, from four-passenger crossover to twin-bed base camp. Add more with the dog kennel. The high roof, low floor, side doors that open to make a B-pillarless portal on each side, and flip-up/flip-down clamshell tailgate mean easy access for anyone and anything, large, unwieldy items included. The EX's center console has a removable cooler section, and bottle holders are found in all doors. Front and rear seat fabric is water-resistant FXC™ (Fabric for eXtreme Conditions), meant to be easily wiped clean. Urethane floor material is likewise easily-cleaned, as are the rubber dogbone mats that are part of the dog pack. The manually-adjustable front seats are comfortable, and the instrument panel places the main instruments in a stylish and non-glare three-ring pod in front of the driver, with the navigation screen, manual climate system controls, and shifter all easily reached in the center stack. The nav system includes a useful backup camera. The EX's leather-rimmed, tilt-adjustable steering wheel has cruise and auxiliary audio controls. An open tray above the locking glovebox provides useful storage for small items, with an overhead console, large door pockets, and that center console/cooler adding more storage. Compared to the LX, the EX gets an upgraded audio system, 270 watts, seven speakers including subwoofer, MP3 and WMA CD playback, auxiliary jack, and with nav, USB audio input.

2010 Honda Element SAFETY: Every Element has four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake distribution, Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSAŽ), front side airbags with occupant sensing, and side-curtain airbags in addition to dual-stage front airbags, side-impact door beams, three-point safety harnesses for all seating positions, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

2010 Honda Element RIDE AND HANDLING: Built on Honda's ``Global Compact Platform,'' the Element is structurally similar to the CR-V, and a cousin to the Civic. There is no truck in its ancestry. Its rigid unibody structure and fully-independent suspension, with modified MacPherson struts in front and double wishbones at the rear, gives it car-like ride and handling characteristics. Just don't expect to keep up with a Civic Si. ``Real-Time 4WD'' gives extra traction when needed, and even in 4WD trim the turning circle is small, for great maneuverability. Under acceleration in the rain, the front wheels begin to slip, and then some of the engine's torque was transferred to the rear wheels. End of slippage, and a very secure feeling.

2010 Honda Element PERFORMANCE: With its long history of high-revving performance engines, Honda is not exactly known for making powerplants with strong low-end torque. Yet this is exactly what the 2.4-liter aluminum alloy four-cylinder in the Element has, and it is exactly what a vehicle like the Element needs. With maxima of 166 horsepower (at 5800 rpm) and 161 lb-ft of torque (at 4000), and a broad, flat torque curve from the i-VTEC variable valve lift and cam phasing system, power is available when needed or wanted. "Drive by wire" electronic throttle control helps integration of engine and transmission electronics, for seamless shifting. The five-speed automatic features grade logic control to reduce hunting between gears. Fuel consumption, at around 22mpg overall, is moderate, and much better than that of a "real" SUV.

CONCLUSIONS: Honda's 2010 Element EX is for the dogs...and their humans.

SPECIFICATIONS
2010 Honda Element EX 4WD

Base Price			$ 25,585 with Nav System
Price As Tested			$ 27,295
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dohc inline 4-cylinder
				 with i-VTEC variable valve lift
				 and cam phasing system
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			166 @ 5800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			161 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		101.4 in. / 169.9 in.
Curb Weight			3648 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		22.0
Fuel Capacity			15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				P215/70 SR16 Goodyear Wrangler
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, VSA, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent double wishbone
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				  on-demand single-range 4-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		19 / 24 / 22
0 to 60 mph				9.6  sec
Towing Capacity				1500 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Dog-Friendly™ Package 			$ 1000
Destination Charge			$  710

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