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QUALITY | 8 out of 10
Ample room, but hard seat padding is not conducive to long-haul comfort
The front and rear seats can be folded or moved—Honda claims 64 different seating configurations—creating a large, open cargo space
The Element LX and EX have a water resistant urethane-coated utility floor that quickly wipes down
Honda has built a reputation on impeccable quality, and that carries over into the 2009 Honda Element. Comfort, on the other hand, isn't the best, and some competitors really outshine the Honda 2009 Element in this regard.
In an unusual move for any non-sportscar, the 2009 Honda Element "seats only four," according to Car and Driver. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com express much disappointment at the lack of a middle rear seat, and that isn't the only complaint about the seating arrangements. ConsumerGuide appreciates the "ample room, but [the] hard seat padding [up front] is not conducive to long haul comfort." Edmunds touches on the capacity again; their "editors believe its primary weakness is a lack of family friendliness—there is seating for four people only and the backward-pivoting rear doors can be problematic when frequently transporting children." On the positive side, the cavernous interior affords generous amounts of space, and Cars.com notes the availability of "103.6 cubic feet of passenger space...which [beats] its competitors." In the rear seats, ConsumerGuide reviewers love that the "leg room is ample even with front seats set fully aft," while Edmunds points out that the "theater-style rear seats provide plenty of legroom and visibility."
The passenger situation in the 2009 Honda Element may not be ideal, but cargo capacity doesn't get much better than what you'll find inside the Honda 2009 Element. Versatility is the key here, and it's a word repeated frequently in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Edmunds says that the Honda Element boasts "a level of versatility that bests that of many other small wagons or compact SUVs." ConsumerGuide points to the fact that, "with the seats suitably arranged, Element can tote a ten-foot surfboard or sleep two six-footers with the hatch closed," as well as the "useful 25 cu. ft. of cargo space behind the split rear bench, whose sections stow quickly but are difficult to remove or install."
Those same clamshell doors that draw fire for poor passenger accommodations earn praise for their utility, as Edmunds states that the "doors pivot backward a full 90 degrees," and in the process "creates an extra-large portal through which to easily load" various cargos. The cabin also offers generous storage space, and Autoblog points to the "new three-compartment overhead console available" on the 2009 Honda Element.
Interior materials are nothing special on the Honda 2009 Element, but as one would expect, they are put together quite well. ConsumerGuide attests that the "cabin materials are utilitarian but show good assembly quality." Other reviewers generally agree, and Cars.com notes that the Honda Element "SC's dashboard is darker and less fanciful" than those on other Elements, as it features "piano-black trim around the center control panel and vents, as well as on the steering wheel." One practical element of the interior can be found on the floor, where Autoblog states that the Honda 2009 Element features a "water resistant urethane-coated utility floor that quickly wipes down and seat fabric that resists moisture" on the LX and EX, while the Honda Element "SC has a carpeted passenger area."
Despite the Honda Element's top-notch build quality, cabin noise levels aren't as hushed as you would hope. ConsumerGuide says that "tire noise is evident on coarse pavement, and [the] Element's boxy design is subject to intrusive wind rush at about 65 mph."
The 2009 Honda Element trades some passenger comfort for a remarkable degree of utility and cargo capacity.