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Intended to accommodate the lifestyles of the young and active, the 2007 Honda Element is a spunky small SUV with a thoughtfully designed interior wrapped in a unique shell.
Spacious interior, optional all-wheel drive, smooth four-cylinder engine, balanced handling.
Only seats four, clamshell doors hinder entry/exit for rear-seat passengers.
Available Element Models
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The Honda Element has been updated significantly for 2007. It's a littler quicker this year thanks to a 10-horsepower increase and a new five-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous four-speed. It should be safer, too, thanks to new safety equipment, including standard stability control and side curtain airbags. Previous Elements had door-mounted front seatbelts that made exiting the rear seat a bit of a pain; that's been fixed this year with integrated front seatbelts. There's also a new design for the instrument panel. Finally, Honda has come out with a new Element SC trim level that has a lowered ride height and a few unique exterior and interior styling details.
Now in its fifth year, the 2007 Honda Element is still one of the most distinctive vehicles on the road. Of course, its exterior shape, which one might suspect was penned by designers who watched too many Borg episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is the attribute that strikes first. It's relatively short -- 7 inches shorter than a Civic sedan, actually -- and surprisingly tall. And behind that cubist shape is a level of versatility that's pretty much unmatched by any other small wagon or SUV.
Rather than have a conventional four-door setup, the Element's rear doors pivot backward a full 90 degrees. There's no B-pillar, so opening both side doors creates a very large portal in which to easily load passengers or bulky cargo. In back, the tailgate lowers like a pickup's and is split from the upper glass. The theater-style rear seats provide plenty of legroom and can be configured multiple ways. Remove the rear seats and you've got a midsize-SUV-like 75 cubic feet of cargo space to work with.
Honda envisions the Element's versatility and optional all-wheel drive as making it the ultimate niche vehicle for active generation-Yers wanting to cart around their surfboards and mountain bikes. Certainly the Element will fulfill that role, but plenty of older buyers will find it useful for mundane tasks as well. Its main downside is its lack of family friendliness. It only seats four and those backward-pivoting rear doors can make kid-schlepping a pain. We like the 2007 Honda Element, but you also might want to check out the more traditional Chrysler PT Cruiser or Jeep Compass.
The 2007 Honda Element is a car-based compact SUV. It comes in three trim levels: LX, EX and SC. With the LX, you'll get power windows and locks, an easy-to-clean urethane utility floor, removable and folding rear seats, waterproof front seats and a driver-seat height adjuster. Additional standard goodies include power mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning and a CD player. The EX has all of these features plus alloy wheels, body-color fenders and door handles, an additional cargo area-mounted power point, waterproof rear seats, and an upgraded audio system with MP3 capability, an auxiliary jack and satellite radio. The new-for-2007 SC trim has 18-inch alloy wheels, a lowered suspension and special exterior and interior styling details. Elements with all-wheel drive come with a removable rear sunroof.
For power the Honda Element has a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine, rated at 166 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. The Element LX and EX are available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations, while the SC is front-drive only.
On the Honda Element you'll find four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control and a tire-pressure monitor. Front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are also standard. In NHTSA (government) crash tests, the Element earned a perfect five stars for frontal-impact protection. The IIHS likewise gave a top score of "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection. Updated side-impact results have not yet been published for the 2007 Honda Element and its new side curtain airbags.
Although the Element is wider than many compact SUVs, it is configured to seat four, not five. With stadium-style seating for the rear passengers, those riding in back will enjoy plenty of room and high visibility. With the rear seats removed, cargo capacity is a quite impressive 75 cubic feet. Though the wide opening provided by the clamshell doors is useful, using the rear doors is not as convenient as one might think. To open them, the front doors must be opened first, leading to some annoyance for the front passengers as they always have to open their doors in order to allow people in or out of the rear seating area. Dropping off kids curbside without a front passenger to open the door can be particularly irksome. On the plus side, this year's new seat-mounted front seatbelts take some of the hassle out of disembarking from the Element's rear seat.
The 2007 Honda Element is no speed demon, but it does offer peppy performance, with enough smoothness to make everyday commuting a pleasant experience. From behind the wheel, the Element feels as tall and boxy as it is. The steering offers positive feedback and the wide track keeps the Element stable in evasive maneuvers. The only thing that could detract from the fun on the open road is the wind noise generated by the boxy, high roof.
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