might call the Element "a vehicle for all reasons."
Honda, it drives like a car, hauls like a pickup truck, trenches through slush
and along gravel paths with the optional four-wheel-drive and claims title as
the most intriguingly unique SUV ever to bear the name.
why: Cargo space to spare (rare in some small contenders), pickup truck flexibility,
a hard, composite floor to hose down if four-legged friends wade in mud. The shifter,
dead-center on the dash, defies convention and bans awkward reaches. Hunky and
square-cut, it looks so unique some first-time Element sightings have sent the
curious racing across streets for a better look as it drives on by.
Element was intended to tweak a barely teen-aged audience, lusting over space
for waveboards and boom boxes. But any "must-have" frenzy has lured
an additional following a generation or so older. Even a year after its intro,
the practical family woman or man simply can't seem to resist more than 64 potential
seating arrangements and other eminently usable capabilities. Need to camp on
a trip? Front and rear seats fold flat for a makeshift bed. Clamshell side doors
gape open with no obstructions for loading big stuff (or allowing a sandlot flyball
to pass through unobstructed). Sliding in and out of seats won't wrench one's
for '04 promise some ingenious touches, and sensible basics glaringly absent the
first year. Besides the expected keyless entry and passenger seat armrest, the
upmodel EX now sports seatback bungee cords for the skateboarder in the crowd
to stow gear. Air conditioning on the new, midrange LX version also filters air.
Element is next-of-kin to Honda's small, mainstream CR-V sport utility, with some
more aggressive differences, such as heftier suspension and larger tires. It's
powered by Honda's 2.4 liter, four cylinder, "intelligent" i-VTEC powerplant,
a 160-horsepower engine, time-refined to eke out the best mix of acceleration
and driveability with modest fuel consumption.
aren't just elementary. Depending on trim level, from lean to semi-loaded, there
are alloy wheels, anti-lock braking systems, cruise control, removable rear skylight
(with standing room when it's out) and an upgraded sound system.
at $16,100 for the stripped DX model, this could be a bargain-hunter's delight.