History of the Honda Element

The Honda Element, a compact crossover SUV with an unmistakably distinctive boxy design, etched a unique space for itself within the automobile industry. Spanning a single generation from 2003 to 2011, the vehicle stood out with its blend of functionality, flexibility, and unconventionality. The Element may be gone, but it certainly is not forgotten.

2006 Honda Element

Honda Element Overview

Manufactured in East Liberty, Ohio, the Element rested upon a modified version of the second-generation CR-V platform, offering either front-wheel or all-wheel drive configurations. Its inception can be traced back to a concept called Model X, which emerged from the innovative minds of Honda R&D engineers in 1998. Drawing inspiration from lifeguard stations and the curve of a surfboard, the vehicle’s design aimed to harmoniously blend the features of a pickup truck and an SUV.

The Element’s exterior is perhaps best known for its bi-parting side doors, which open to provide an impressive aperture of 55.5 inches. This design eliminated the traditional B-pillars, bolstering the structure through reinforcements across the floor, roof, and side sills. The rear doors, while rear-hinged, can only be opened following the front doors.

Internally, the Element was equipped with textured urethane flooring, stain-resistant fabric, and rear seats that could individually recline, be removed, or stow away. Powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, its performance varied slightly over the years, but consistently delivered a dynamic driving experience.

Model Year Changes

Let’s take a look at the changes the Honda Element went through across its nine-year span.

2003: Marked by its launch, the Element was introduced with the DX and EX trim levels, a 160-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and optional side airbags on the EX models.

2004: The LX trim level was introduced, nestled between the DX and EX. Keyless entry became a standard feature for the EX models.

2005: With the elimination of the DX model, new standard features like XM satellite radio and MP3 capabilities were added to the EX. Also introduced were revised front seats for the LX and a darker charcoal gray plastic tone.

2006: The EX-P version, a fully painted model, was introduced.

2007: This year heralded significant changes with a horsepower boost to 166 horsepower, the introduction of a 5-speed automatic transmission, and a new SC trim level with distinctive features.

2008: Minor changes, with the addition of the Royal Blue Pearl color for the SC trim.

2009: Aesthetic modifications included redesigned hood, grille, and squared-off wheel arches. The rear moonroof was discontinued, and an optional navigation system was introduced.

2010: The trim levels were streamlined, and 2010 marked the final year for Canadian models.

2011: Simplifications continued as the navigation system and SC trim level options were dropped, leading up to the discontinuation of the Element early in the year.

Honda Element: Accolades, Criticism, and Postmortem

As with any model, the knives out from critics and consumers alike. Here’s the gist of what was said about the vehicle.

Accolades: The Element wasn’t just popular among consumers; it also gained recognition within the industry. In 2007, it won the Dogcars.com “Dog Car of the Year” award, owing to its pet-friendly design. Then, in 2010, it secured a position as a “Top Safety Pick” in the Small SUV category by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Criticism: While many loved the Element for its unique look and features, it wasn’t without its critics. Some found the design too boxy and utilitarian, while others yearned for additional luxury features more commonly found in competitors’ models.

Postmortem: Despite its discontinuation in 2011, the Element left an indelible mark on the automotive world. It underscored Honda’s willingness to innovate and challenge conventional design norms. Although no longer in production, the Element’s legacy as a versatile and distinctive vehicle endures.

Honda Element Takeaway

All in all, the Honda Element, with its lifeguard-station-inspired design, rugged utility, and focus on lifestyle and versatility, carved out a niche for itself in the annals of automotive history. Its iconic design and the memories it created for its users ensure that it won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

See AlsoHonda Buying Guide

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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