2008 Honda Element Review

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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 27, 2008

The 2008 Honda Element is a great choice for drivers who need lots of storage room and a spill-proof interior.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests (and off-road tests) of the 2008 Honda Element to compile this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident car experts also drove and have owned the Honda Element, and they've added their driving impressions and more vehicle details to help you decide if the Honda Element is the right car for you.

The 2008 Honda Element is a singular vehicle; part crossover, part sport-utility, part economy car, and part mini-minivan, its big virtues include big interior space, a flexible rear seat and cargo bay, and a funky appeal that's modern and fresh.

The 2008 Honda Element is offered in three trim levels. All share an uprated 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine with 166 horsepower and a new five-speed automatic transmission. Together they grant the Element with good, though not great, fuel economy of up to 20/25 mpg. The four-cylinder engine is a little buzzy at the top of its range, and the Element is no scorching performer, but it's fine for city use and for highway cruising.

As before, the Element is offered in either standard front- or optional all-wheel drive. Handling and ride are fairly good for a tall vehicle. The steering wheel sits a little low, but the adjustable seats let the driver choose a good driving height with great outward visibility. Steering is a little slow but feels fine, and braking is good. All-wheel drive is an option.

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The difference that makes the 2008 Honda Element a great choice comes down to its body and interior. The Element has four doors, but two of them open on rear hinges away from the front pair of doors. They can't be opened unless the front doors are open--but when they are, the access to the rear of the vehicle is exceptional. The rear seats also lay flat and can be folded up against the interior of the cargo area to create a large expanse with a flat floor that's lined in plastic on base versions for easy cleanup.

The Element's unique shape was updated last year, and its original appeal has dulled somewhat as a result. Plastic fenders -- meant to resist scuffs -- are now painted. Honda also added touches meant to give the Element a younger look. In fact, they added a model, the sport-minded Element SC, to cater to the tuner crowd. The SC has a sport suspension tuning and lowered ride height, 18-inch alloy wheels, special grille, projector beam headlights, and monochromatic color scheme with painted bumpers and trim--and a carpeted floor.

All versions have standard keyless entry, power accessories, and an iPod jack. Options include XM Satellite Radio, but there is no navigation system offered, nor is there Bluetooth capability.

In 2007, the Element added brake assist, as well as standard stability control and side curtain airbags. It's a Top Safety Pick with "good" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but drops to "poor" without those side airbags.

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