The Element represents Honda in the entry level sport utility market. But unlike many in this crowded segment, the Element is as unique looking as they come. When an Element drives by, it’s hard to miss, and makes a statement that is designed to appeal to a young and active crowd. The Element gets big props for its versatility and ability to maximize space for people and cargo while retaining a relatively compact size and car-like driving characteristics. The Honda Element is completely redesigned for 2009, with exterior and interior styling changes, as well as new standard and optional equipment. The EX and SC trims get a new modular overhead console with improved storage, as well as an optional voice-activated navigation system with rearview camera and USB audio interface. Additionally, the rear skylight has been discontinued.
The Element keeps the same powertrain offerings as before. The SC features a sports-tuned suspension and steering. All trim levels are equipped with a 166-hp 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, mated to available five-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The Honda Element's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine gets a 10-hp boost for 2007, raising the output to 166 hp, thanks to improvements in Honda's i-VTEC variable valve timing system. The optional automatic transmission is bumped from four speeds to five, which improves engine response. This engine revs freely and likes running near the high end of the tachometer. Yet Honda's i-VTEC variable valve timing system give this four-cylinder good acceleration lower in the rev range, and power comes fairly evenly all the way from idle to the redline on the tach. The shifter is mounted up in the dashboard like in some of the latest rally cars, and it's easy to use. The manual allows a driver to optimize the engine's performance, and it makes the Element more fun to drive. It's more fun than the automatic. The Element is a front-wheel-drive vehicle with a fairly powerful engine, so there is a touch of torque steer: a tugging of the steering wheel under hard acceleration. It's not the least bit troublesome, but in most locales we would choose Honda's Real Time 4-Wheel Drive.
The Honda Element gets some exterior and interior changes for 2009 and also receives some new electronic features. The most obvious change to the 2009 Honda Element is right up front, where the grille has been restyled to mimic Honda's new bold chrome ring look first seen on the redesigned 2009 Honda Pilot. Honda has also restyled the front fenders and squared the wheel arches all the way around. Other than the fresh nose, the Element's easily recognizable look and shape remains, thankfully with much less black plastic than our first testers had back in 2003. A rear skylight previously found on top-shelf Elements has been discontinued. The Element gets redesigned headlamps and taillamps and a new front grille. It now more closely resembles its larger, more sedate cousin, the Pilot. Center-opening swing-wide doors with no B-pillar remain, but a rear sunroof is no longer available. The SC features a different, custom grille, painted bumpers, larger wheels and a lowered stance. Its just-under-170-inch length makes the Element significantly shorter than the Rogue, Escape and Compass.
A rearview backup camera, USB hookup for an MP3 player and GPS navigation with voice activation are newly optional for 2009. The Honda Element is available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations and a choice of three trim levels: the LX, the EX and the (FWD only) SC. The rugged LX is equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, a CD player and air conditioning, while the EX adds further refinements that include alloy wheels, satellite radio, MP3 capability, an auxiliary input jack and a convertible center console with removable cooler box. The sporty SC is exclusively outfitted with a monochromatic exterior, custom grille, 18-inch alloy wheels, unique seat upholstery and piano black interior trim elements. The Element gets a new, redesigned center console, new color schemes, fabric and switchgear designs. The Element EX and SC also get a new three-compartment overhead storage unit. The front and rear seats can be folded or moved — Honda claims 64 different seating configurations — creating a large, open cargo space. The Element's small exterior belies its accommodating 103.6 cubic feet of passenger space and maximum 74.6-cubic-foot cargo area, both of which beat its competitors. SC versions get a carpeted cargo area, while the regular model has a wipe-clean plastic surface. The SC's dashboard is darker and less fanciful, with piano-black trim around the center control panel and vents, as well as on the steering wheel; the seats feature a unique patterned design. Inside, the 2009 Element retains its reconfigurable seats and garden-hose-ready upholstery, but it has been updated with all the latest gadgets. New features include Bluetooth connectivity, Honda's satellite-linked navigation system with voice activation, a rearview camera for automatic transmission models and USB digital media connectivity. Element EX and SC models also pick up a new overhead storage system, which is based on Honda's Railport Vehicle Personalization System. The three-compartment storage area is modular and can be reconfigured based on individual customer needs. SC models also get exclusive Piano Black trim, copper-colored highlights, unique fabrics, and a floor covered with carpet rather than rubber.
Standard safety features on every Element include anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, front side-impact airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitor. New for 2009, the front seats are now equipped with active anti-whiplash head restraints. The Element competes with rivals such as the Jeep Compass, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue. Even with the new SC model, the Honda Element is a utility first vehicle. Read another Honda Element review by Car Connection for more research. It's designed to maximize space and people/cargo hauling options in a fairly small package, with driving characteristics similar to a small sedan and optional all-wheel-drive for a measure of security. It offers easy access for people or cargo, and the wash-an-wear interior on the LX and EX models is great for camping and dogs. For the latest updates on this Honda model, visit the official 2010 Honda Element site.
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