Used 2006 Honda Element Review

Edmunds expert review

Intended to accommodate the lifestyles of the young and active, the 2006 Honda Element is a spunky small SUV with a thoughtfully designed interior wrapped up in a unique shell.




What's new for 2006

Honda has added an additional trim level to the 2006 Honda Element line, the EX-P. Based upon the EX, it adds body-color exterior panels. The EX receives new alloy wheels and steering wheel audio controls, while the LX gets the former EX-exclusive metallic exterior cladding and standard antilock brakes. Additionally, stated power for the engine is a bit lower this year due to Honda's adoption of new SAE engine testing procedures.

Vehicle overview

Honda is a company that does its homework and usually doesn't bring a product to market until it's fully developed and ready to make a serious dent in the competition's sales. All the vehicles in their lineup are desirable products that are well regarded and need little explanation. But drive a Honda Element, and you will likely be overwhelmed by questions by other motorists. What is it? Who makes it? What does it do? Now in its fourth year, the Element SUV is geared toward young and very active Generation-Y types who want an affordable vehicle that offers flexible cargo-hauling ability along with a sporty persona.

The 2006 Honda Element is chock-full of features that make it easy to take the mountain bikes to the trailhead, the surfboard to the waves or the 27-inch TV to the dorm or apartment. Riding on a wheelbase of just 101.4 inches and measuring only 166.5 inches in overall length, the Element is compact, yet the space inside makes it hard to believe that the Element is actually shorter in length than a Civic coupe. The secret is in having a tall body (at 74 inches, 8 inches taller than a CR-V), which allows the seats to be higher, providing plenty of legroom. By having no B-pillar and allowing the doors to swing open wide (the fronts open up 78 degrees and the rears pivot a full 90 degrees), a 55.5-inch-wide portal allows bulky items to be loaded with ease. The typical problem with this sort of design is that it usually makes for a weaker body structure, but Honda says it more than compensated for the lack of a traditional B-pillar by, in essence, hiding one in each rear door as a reinforced vertical brace.

Sounds great, but are Generation-Y surfers really going to cough up a sum around $21,000 just so they have something new to carry their surfboards? Or, are they just going to keep their ratty compact pickups and spend their cash on new video game releases? The latter has always seemed more likely to us, and so far, typical Element buyers have tended to be far older than Honda's targeted Gen-Y audience. Regardless of your age, a trip to your local Honda dealer is in order if the Element's qualities appeal to you.




Trim levels & features

The four-door 2006 Honda Element SUV comes in three trim levels -- LX, EX and EX-P. 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, air conditioning and a CD player. The EX has all of these features plus alloy wheels, an additional cargo area-mounted power point, keyless entry, waterproof rear seats, front armrests and a 270-watt audio system. The EX-P adds body-color painted exterior fender panels and door handles. Vehicles with all-wheel drive come with a removable rear sunroof.



Performance & mpg

Behind the Element's bulldoglike snout is the same 2.4-liter inline four found in the CR-V. Boasting Honda's i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift technology, output is rated at 156 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. The Honda Element is available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations, and can be equipped with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.

Safety

Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard across the board. EX and EX-P versions also get front side-impact airbags as standard. However, unlike on the CR-V, side curtain airbags and stability control are not available. In government crash tests, the 2006 Honda Element earned a perfect five stars for frontal-impact protection. In side-impact tests, it earned five stars for front occupants and five stars for the rear (but with a higher than normal likelihood of head injury). In frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the IIHS, the Element earned the top rating of "Good." In IIHS side-impact tests of small SUVs, it earned a "Poor" rating (the lowest), though the vehicle tested did not have the optional side airbags.

Driving

The 2006 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 boxy, high roof that is prone to wind noise.

Interior

Although the Element, at 71.5 inches, is some 3 inches wider than a CR-V, 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.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.