Full 2010 Honda Element Review
What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Honda Element goes to the dogs with the Dog Friendly package that features an enclosed kennel with a cushioned bed and water bowl as well as a collapsible ramp to allow Bowser easy access to his home on the road.
When the Honda Element debuted seven years ago, its target demographic was primarily active 20-something-year-olds interested in outdoor recreation. As it turned out, a lot of older people bought Elements. And why not? With a tidy footprint and room inside for four adults and their cargo, the boxy, space-efficient Element certainly has broad appeal. And for 2010, the Honda Element goes to another demographic. Or more precisely, it goes to the dogs.
This year brings a new option called the Dog Friendly package. Designed to transport your canine safely and comfortably, the package includes a fully enclosed (via high-strength netting) kennel that sits in the cargo area and features a cushioned bed and built-in water bowl, an extendable ramp (which stows under the kennel) to ease the dog's entry and exit, a rear ventilation fan, rubber floor mats and dirt- and water-resistant second-row seat covers.
Other than the pooch package, the Element continues relatively unchanged from last year, when it received a mild refresh. Actually, apart from some cosmetic and equipment upgrades over the years, the Element hasn't changed much since its debut. That means it still offers inherent practicality and an easy-to-handle nature. With its cargo-van-style side doors, the Element allows simplified loading of bulky cargo, and to optimize utility, the rear seats can be either flipped up to the sides or removed completely. Meanwhile, its box-on-wheels architecture and small size make maneuvering around campsites and city streets a breeze.
Of course, the Element isn't the only game in town. If you're looking for a similarly funky but useful alternative, you might consider newer models like the Kia Soul or Scion xB, both of which boast lower starting prices. Meanwhile, more conventional alternatives such as the Chevy Equinox, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 are more practical overall and typically have the option of a more powerful engine. Even among these choices, the 2010 Honda Element should warrant the attention of anyone looking for a versatile compact utility vehicle.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Honda Element is a compact crossover SUV available in three trim levels: LX, EX and SC. The Element LX and EX are available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations, while the sport-tuned SC is front-wheel drive only. The base LX comes with 16-inch steel wheels, a urethane utility floor, moisture-resistant seats, folding and removable rear seats, a height-adjustable driver seat, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, keyless entry and a four-speaker CD audio system.
The midlevel EX adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a three-compartment overhead console, a center console with a removable cooler/storage box, a cargo area 12-volt power outlet, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a seven-speaker audio system with MP3 capability, an auxiliary input jack and satellite radio. The street-smart SC trim features a lowered sport suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, a custom grille, a monochromatic paint scheme with body-color bumpers and roof sections, passenger-area carpeting, an exclusive center console design, piano-black interior trim pieces, unique fabrics and copper-colored gauges.
Available on EX and SC models is a voice-activated navigation system with a rearview camera and a USB audio interface. The EX models offer the availability of the dealer-installed Dog Friendly package that includes a fully enclosed kennel and a variety of related accessories.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2010 Honda Element is equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 166 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a five-speed automatic optional. Front-wheel drive is the default configuration, while AWD is available on the LX and EX models.
With a pudgy curb weight of 3,500 or so pounds, the Element isn't exactly fleet; we timed an automatic EX at 10 seconds for the 0-60-mph dash. EPA estimated fuel economy is somewhat lackluster by current four-cylinder compact crossover standards, ranging from 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for automatic-equipped two-wheel-drive models down to 18/23/20 for manual-shift AWD models.
The Element comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, active front head restraints, front-seat side impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In government crash tests, the Element earned a perfect five stars for frontal and side impact protection. It also received a highest possible "Good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for both frontal-offset and side impact collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Honda Element seats only four -- a disadvantage compared to other compact SUVs -- but rear passengers enjoy ample room and excellent visibility, thanks to the theater-style seating. Cargo capacity is also exceptional: With the rear seats removed, the Element can accommodate an impressive 75 cubic feet of gear. The floor is covered in urethane, allowing one to carefully hose it out after a day of surfing or a weekend of camping.
The Element's unique rear-hinged rear-seat access doors make side loading a snap, though their design can be a hassle for transporting people -- the front doors must first be opened before rear occupants are allowed in or out. This can be particularly inconvenient if the rear seats are used regularly. Element owners who frequently transport a small-to-medium-sized dog should check out the new Dog Friendly kennel. We've tested it and it works fairly well, though it does take up the space otherwise occupied by the rear cargo area and blocks rearward visibility.
The four-cylinder 2010 Honda Element won't win many stoplight drag races, but it delivers peppy enough performance for most daily tasks. The four-wheel independent suspension endows the Element with surprisingly responsive and agile handling, though its ride is noticeably firmer than the average compact crossover, especially in SC trim. At highway speeds, a fair amount of wind noise is produced by the Element's ungainly physique.