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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Smooth, efficient four-cylinder power
Manual models have smooth, low-effort shift/clutch action
Relatively sporty driving demeanor
The 2009 Honda Element doesn't look particularly agile, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that it can hold its own on the road. The one area where that high-drag, boxy silhouette hurts is in fuel economy, which is very disappointing.
The three-trim Honda Element lineup comes with just one available powerplant, which Edmunds lists as a "2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 166 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque." The engine itself is capable enough, and Car and Driver notes that the "four-cylinder Honda powertrain pulls hard for its size." ConsumerGuide also mentions the "adequate power" from under the Honda 2009 Element's hood, "though automatic versions are slow to gather speed from a stop." Edmunds praises the Honda Element's "reasonably peppy around-town response" that features "enough smoothness to make everyday commuting a pleasant enough experience." In terms of acceleration numbers, ConsumerGuide reports that "a test manual-transmission 2WD LX did 8.8 sec 0-60 mph."
Although Honda 2009 Element buyers won't have any engine choices, they can choose from between two different transmissions, as well as two drive-wheel configurations. According to reviewers at Edmunds, "a five-speed manual transmission is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional" on the 2009 Honda Element, while the Honda Element "LX and EX are available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations," although the sportier "SC is front-drive only." Motor Trend also points out that "the base LX model is only available with the automatic transmission, but both the EX and SC models can be equipped with either the auto or the manual gearbox." Expert reactions to both transmissions are positive, with ConsumerGuide remarking that "manual models have smooth, low-effort shift/clutch action," and while most reviewers praise the automatic gearbox, ConsumerGuide does report that Elements so equipped "are slow to gather speed from a stop."
Given the numbers for the 2009 Honda Element's engine—four cylinders, low power output—you would be forgiven for expecting solid fuel economy. Unfortunately, you would be sorely mistaken, as the EPA estimates that manual-transmission Honda Elements get just 18 mpg city and 23 highway in either FWD or 4WD. Automatic models are only slightly better. Blame the poor aerodynamics on the 2009 Honda Element for its poor highway fuel economy.
Nothing in the 2009 Honda Element's handling or ride quality jumps out at you, for better or for worse. On the positive side, ConsumerGuide says the Honda Element is "nimble for a tall box," although reviewers warn that "their slab-sided body is subject to crosswind wander at highway speeds." Motor Trend also praises the "relatively sporty driving demeanor and versatility," while Car and Driver comments that the 2009 Honda Element "basically handles like a Civic wearing a TV box." Unfortunately, ride quality isn't superb, and ConsumerGuide warns "the ride still can be stiff and jiggly on patchy pavement and washboard surfaces. SCs are particularly rough, due to their sport suspension and 18-inch tires."
The 2009 Honda Element doesn’t offer much in the way of driving excitement.