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2003 Honda Element
The Element is Hondas trendy compact-size SUV. Styled on the CR-V, Element revs it up a notch in size and design. Interior volume of the... Read More
The Element is Hondas trendy compact-size SUV. Styled on the CR-V, Element revs it up a notch in size and design. Interior volume of the 2003 Honda Element is 103.6 cubic-feet, seating 4 people with plenty of elbow-ease. The upbeat styling of the 2003 Honda Element, inside and out, challenges many traditional concepts of automobiles. Minimize
51 Reviews from Epinions.com
Mar 25, 2003
Shake, Rattle and Roll....?
Pros: Great fun to drive. Unique styling, versatile utility. Made by Honda
Cons: Expensive accessories, a little spartan
|Handling And Control:|
The Bottom Line:
A true utility vehicle and has great versatility. It's appearance is odd but makes sense when you get to know it, and it's fun and engaging to drive.
Not wanting to be un-cool, I tried to suppress the laughter. Id gone to my Honda dealer to look at an Odyssey, which was of course calm, refined and almost luxurious in exactly the way youd expect. Then I saw an Element, standing tall and in stark contrast to the sweeping lines of every other Honda on the lot. Calm, refined and almost luxurious it most certainly was not. I couldnt help laugh when I opened the suicide doors and peered inside. Everything I wanted in a car was not in there. Shiny rubber floor, rubberized seats, almost spartan in its trim and fittings. Ugly. Well, no. Not ugly. In fact standing back and looking again, not ugly at all.
The salesman saw my reaction and said I should take it for a drive. Youll like it he said with a smile, then added somewhat enigmatically, itll surprise you. Well, whats to lose but my self-respect? So I took the key and off I went.
In retrospect I think I was hooked before Id even got off the lot. There are some cars that feel like theyre loosely assembled around you and that its only by some intangible force that all the parts collectively go in the general direction that you point them. Somewhat like the way RAF pilots used to describe the Shackleton 10,000 rivets flying in close formation. The Element was not like that at all. Instead the rigid uni-body and tightly engineered components felt like a unified whole built solidly together. It went exactly where I pointed it, reacted instantly to accelerator and brake. I was tempted to check if I still had my pants on. Yep. Just about the most fun to be had while properly attired.
On the road, the Element was tremendous and immediately involving. No relaxed refinement here, but a car that demands your attention and rewards you with a broad smile when you give it. It corners beautifully, with none of the roll youd expect from a car as tall as this. On the straight it powers in and out of traffic with ease and with very little noise. On the highway it accelerates to well, the speed limit - and while its just as positive and tactile, creates surprisingly little road, engine or wind noise. It rides over rough surfaces with a sense of urgency and you can feel it, but you dont get your teeth shaken out, or indeed any real sense of being in a stiffly sprung box. The seats are a little hard but provide excellent support and within 5 minutes feel just right.
Gear changes in the 4-speed auto are precise and smooth and seem perfect for hustling the vehicle through traffic, yet relaxed enough at highway speeds that the engine doesnt intrude. Nor are there any rattles, squeaks or extraneous noises to intrude either. And if there were? Well, theres the stereo. This is no ordinary stereo that will have you looking round Best Buy for a replacement. A 7-speaker system, with sub-woofer by your feet, and an in-dash single CD unit that goes loud, sounds strong and dynamic and that can easily distract you from the task in hand. It also readily masks the comments made from nearby when pulled up at traffic lights, and youll be grateful for that because the Element attracts on-lookers in the same way that the PT-Cruiser and Prowler did.
On the road the Element is nothing but enjoyable to drive and very refreshing. Back at the dealers I got out and laughed again. Completely unexpected, this had been a delight to take out on the road and a disappointment to have to take back.
Looking around it with the driving experience still fresh, the car took on a different perspective. The suicide doors were not just different but made sense, allowing a massively wide load space for easy access to the back seats. The rubberized floor and seats that can be wiped clean with ease. The back seats that fold flat and swing upwards to the side, or can be removed completely to provide a large load area. The massive amount of headroom allowing a bike to be carried standing up inside, and for the rear seats to be mounted high for passengers to get a great and largely unobstructed view of the road ahead. The oddment tray in the dash and storage bins in the doors and rear cargo area for carrying so much stuff. The exterior cladding front and rear that is impact resistant and which makes the styling of the whole somewhat unique. The rear fitted glass sunroof that adds light and space to the rear despite the very dark tinted privacy windows. All of these, and the ease of customization to whatever lifestyle and needs the owner might have, combine to make this ugly duckling an attractive proposition.
Boxy, yes. A poor-mans Hummer, yes indeed. But also Honda powered and Honda engineered, and with that pedigree it should be tough and resilient to ageing.
Its not without some faults however, most notable of which is the price of accessories and add-ons, which seem high and unreasonable. Secondly, that some items that really should be part of the standard package are extras you have to pay for. Mudflaps and keyless entry are two that spring immediately to mind, as are bungees for the rear of seatbacks. And while the spartan interior is ideally suited to active use and almost demands you throw a bucket of mud in there from time to time just to give that fully used look, the lack of an armrest on the front passenger seat, the small and shallow design of the cup-holders, the lack of storage for CDs and the lack of front-center storage bin (the subwoofer is there instead) detract somewhat from the design. On the other hand, the jack for a plug-in MP3 player, the full size spare instead of one of those idiotic small ones, the positioning of the gear shift, the color-coded interior and the careful design of a dozen small details leave an impression of good styling, considerable thought and attention to detail.
It seems to me that Honda have a winner, though not quite in the way they expect. Designed as a dorm room on wheels for the active Gen-Yers, indications seem to be that its appeal is much more in the older age range. Im not surprised. Fuelled by many a mid-life crisis, a driving experience that harks back to the days when cars were fun rather than stuffed so full of refinement that they became more like piloting the sofa, and a visual impact that screams trendy, us oldies are going to like the Element for being everything perhaps were not fun, sporty and able to keep up!
Mine is Galapagos Green, an EX model with Hondas Real Time All Wheel Drive. I havent been able to test it out on snow and ice yet, but reports from others say its surefooted and no less able than other small SUVs. Yet its not easy to know how to classify this car. Its an SUV, a truck, a mini-van. Its a tent on wheels. Indeed, its just about anything you want it to be. What it isnt is conventional, though its easy to see that if it develops in popularity it could end up at the front of a few new trends in design and implementation. Its fresh and lively. Above all its surprising and fun.
Go drive one but check you have your pants on first.
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