Why we miss the Honda Element.
John Goreham's picture

Great Vehicles We Miss – 2003-2011 Honda Element

One of the vehicles we miss is the Honda Element. Here’s why.
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The Honda Element was a uniquely shaped and uniquely equipped vehicle. Part crossover, part van, and part Honda genius, few vehicles earned the level of love from owners that the Element did. The original Element in years 2003 and 2004 has earned a five for five scores on Consumer Reports’ Owner Satisfaction Index. In its final year of production in 2011, the Element earned a higher owner satisfaction score (4/5) than the 2011 Honda CR-V (3/5).

Need more proof the vehicle is loved by owners? There is a Honda Element owner fan club on Facebook with 10,700 active members. How about sales figures? In its first year of sales, Honda had hoped to sell 50,000 Elements. They sold 67,000 just in the U.S. For some perspective on how big a number 67,000 unit sales are, that number is more than the combined sales of the Tesla Model X and Model S combined in 2018. Over eight years of production (with the last year being artificially low in volume by Honda’s choice), Honda sold 325,000 Elements. Thus, the Element averaged over 40,000 units per year in sales. Contrast that with the new Honda Clarity which has averaged about a third of that sales rate in its two years of production.
honda element doors
Owners of the Element loved it for many reasons, but its unique practicality was its main virtue. The Element was a “two-plus-two” vehicle with a rear bench seat that could be removed, leaving behind a flat floor and a cubic storage area perfect for camping, pets, hauling bikes, and anything an owner could think of. Accessing the interior was also uniquely easy. The side rear doors opened backward, creating a huge opening.
honda element pets friendly
Dog owners, in particular, seemed to gravitate to the Element. In 2007 it was named the Dogcar of the Year winner.

Another reason owners loved the Element was its all-wheel drive system. The Element was a true all-road and all-season vehicle without being an SUV. Adding to the drivetrain’s enjoyment was a five-speed manual transmission in most years that could be combined with AWD.
honda element IIHS rating
The Honda Element was also a safe vehicle. In 2011, its last year of production, the Honda Element was named a Top Safety Pick. One vehicle that did not earn that status in 2011 was the Honda CR-V.
honda element
Despite the Honda Element’s squared-off design, it was pretty frugal with regards to fuel for its time. It earned a 22 MPG rating in 2WD in 2011, compared to the CR-V’s 24 MPG.

If you miss the Honda Element, please tell us why in the comments below.

Our thanks to Honda America for their help with the archive images shown in this story.

In addition to covering green vehicle topics, John Goreham covers safety, technology, and new vehicle news at Torque News. You can follow John on Twitter at @johngoreham.


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Comments

Not a fan of the Element, and could never get past the voluminous amount of gray, hard plastic in too many places of the exterior, that invariably was too hard to keep clean.
I think Honda caught onto the too-much-plastic issue. In 2006, there was all-painted trim called the EX-P. It added $500 to the price tag.
“2 plus 3?” It only had 4 seat belts. It’s a 4 seater.
Thank you Alex! I corrected the story above as soon as I saw your comment pop up. Much appreciated!
The right hand drive Japanese market of the Honda Element version had a different rear set with 3 sets of seatbelts
I fell in love with the 2003 Element. It was a mistake. The biggest problem was comfort: this car was singularly uncomfortable. Armrests were an added price option! The cup holders were located way down on the floor. The rubberized floor and plastic seats came in handy when coffee spoiled, but a little forethought by the designers would have prevented the spills. Long distance driving was utterly miserable. Road noise, hard uncomfortable seats, all contributed to the persistent annoying high-pitched whine on the right hand side. This was a car for around-the-town driving, not 400+ mile road trips. I finally listened to my long-suffering nagivator and traded the Element in for a Nissan Murano.
I bought my Element in 05, and still driving it. A 5 speed manual to boot. Best car I ever owned.
I don't miss the Honda Element at all. I bought one in early 2004 as soon as the front side bag option was available. In 2015 , when that one was totalled in a collision, I bought a 2008 Element. It's in my driveway. A great car that I'd like to keep forever But as insurance, I'm looking around for a 2010-2011 Element now. NO ONE makes a good replacement for it. Honda was crazy to discontinue it without offering a "ruggedized" CR-V LX which would have been a tolerable substitute.
years ago I bought an element. after 9 years I sold it in 2015. recently, I started thinking about the element again and decided to look into a used one. I was surprised to see you can buy one now for less than 5K! doing some research, I discovered many owners are driving them up to 300K miles with no problems. A few days ago I bought a 2008 EXP with 174K miles. owner took good care of it. It drives so nice and brought back memories of why I liked it and why I bought one years ago. I like it so much, im going to get rid of my 2018 jeep renegade.
The car looks charming, Boxy and distinctive. It seemed spacious; the dog downer is cool though. It’s nice to know that it owned such title like “Dog car of the Year”. All wheel drive system is appreciated thing.
I don't enjoy wasting time following what purports being a link to information relevent to a thread and arriving at a DEALER SITE FOR A DIFFERENT PRODUCT.
Thank you for the heads up. Can you tell us which of the 4 links in the story takes you to a dealer site? Two are two links to other TN stories, one goes to a Business Wire Press Release, and another goes to the FB Element Club. I want to fix the broken link you are seeing. Maybe tell me which words you are seeing in green and in which paragraph. Thanks very much!
This is one of the wonderful article stating that what a great vehicle we miss during 2003-2011 honda element. It is just a proper critique blog. I like the way they have researched and presented it.
Thanks for spending your precious time to share such an amazing article about Honda element cars. That’s an eligible model and I still love my element. Thanks for posting.
I owned two of them and they were two of the best cars I've ever owned. Plenty of storage, would go anywhere and comfortable. My whose and I would take them on vacation to the U.P. every fall and travel a lot of the back roads geocaching, never had any problems getting there and back. When Honda dropped the car, I bought a Jeep Renegade which was a big mistake because it wasn't half the car of the Honda. I finally got a Forester which is an amazing vehicle but I still think about my Elements all the time.
I own a 2093 element that I bought at an estate auction about 4 years ago. I now have 136,000 on it and no problems. Love it! I own 4 German shepherds and perfect car fir hauling them around. They can’t erect it. Looks like new when cleaned. I have taken it on light off road. Will drive it until it drops. It is my run around town car. I don’t use it for long trips. It’s zippy and the perfect size. Everyone i know would never give their’s up. I think Honda should bring it back and many other’s feel the same way. Crv just doesn’t get it.
I own a 2004 Element since new. I now have 186,000 miles on the car. My family has bought additional cars since, but we haven't parted with the E. In 2018 I bought a new CIvic and passed the E to my 17yo son. After 2 months we swapped. Although I like the Civic and the gas mileage. I love the Element. In August of this year I will have owned it for 17 years. Barring anything catastrophic I will never part with her.
Good to read thru the comments. Just bought a used 2008, Kiwi green, interior and exterior look like a new car. However, I didn't still love me in the morning...(following purchase). I called my friends and told them that I was dreaming that a UPS truck was in my driveway, but it was GREEN. Then I remembered it was April Fool's day, so I went back to sleep. When I woke up again, it was still there! We all got a good laugh. But they actually like the car (honest feedback from them). It is very easy to put my little sailboat in it and take it right up to the boat launch. My two spaniels love it, but they kept sliding forward onto the floor just behind front seats. So I bought one of those net "barriers" to go between the front seats, then put an exercise mat (2" thick) behind it, across the back of seats. Perfect.
Took my list of criteria car shopping with me, n ended up buying a 2006 Honda Element last week.... I am in love with the practicality, cargo space n passenger roominess, handles n drives well, and the suicide doors make it much easier getting in n out. Would really love it if they brought the Element back just in case I ever wear this one completely out!
I have 2006 ex 4wheel all painted ...and plastic bumpers conditioned and black. Love hauling in my car!! Still looks new!
I have a 2008 Honda Element and plan on driving it until it's no longer drivable. I would buy another one in a heartbeat! I love the way it drives...has lots of pep! I love the way it looks and how much space it has. My '08 is the 2nd Element I have owned. My first one was a 2007 and unfortunately I was rear-ended and the car was totaled by the insurance company. Without hesitation I went out and bought another Element. Would love if Honda brought it back one of these days!
I fell in love with the Element when my brother bought a 2004. After my Grand Am died, I lucked into a 2007 Element. She just hit 170,000 miles, and still zooms right along. I'll drive it until the wheels fall off...then I'll buy another one. On a side note, my mom now drives my brother's Element, my brother got another Element, and my aunt also bought one.
I have a 2003 Element EX 4WD with 273k miles on the original engine and transmision. I love my Element and plan to keep it as long as I can. The automobile you drive does make a social statement and I feel this little Honda fits me to a tee. It may not be for everyone but you cannot deny a following for any auto that has been discontinued for as long as this one has. The value of the Honda Element is all over the place. There are good deals out there but compared to the CRV or any other sport utility from this era the demand is still quite high.
Saw my first Element at the Detroit Auto Show and fell in love immediately! Purchased a new 2006 EX-P AWD in Kiwi Green. Still have it today with only 157k miles. I'm currently looking for one for my granddaughter since she ain't getting mine!
I’ve owned a 2008 and have a 2010 EX 4WD for my daily driver since purchasing it new. I’ve owned various cars (BMW, Fiat 124, Civic, Accord, Camry Expedition, Caprice, k2500 4x4, etc) but the E truly fits my utilitarian motives that allows me to be prepared for most spontaneous adventures that I come across. I’m all about outdoor expenses and the spontaneous ones turn out to be unexpected gifts. Not only do I keep hiking and fishing gear on hand, but also cooking gear to make simple meals or fry fish. I’ve built a platform bed and keep inflatable mattress and sleeping bag and a sleeping hammock Incase I want to sleep/nap. This lifestyle has allowed me to extend business trips over weekends in the great outdoors I would otherwise had missed. The E is not a specialist in anyone area but rather is built to provide a sparse and basic space which can be designed to fit the owner’s desires. It’s genius is in its simplicity from the suicide doors with no pillar to the clam-shell hatch which provides a covered place to cook or hangout. Even at 59, I still enjoy my E for all these reasons and more, which reminds me I only paid $20k for the E, new in 2010! Happy trails!