Honda, Road Test Reviews

2007 Honda Element SC – Road Test

Honda Element,, Iain Shankland

When Honda launched the Element a couple of years ago it was aimed at the young – snow boarders, mountain bike enthusiasts, college attendees, and the like. What happened in reality was those very people couldn’t really afford it, or wouldn’t part with their money for it. Instead, the Grandparents bought it! A lot of people didn’t “get” the plastic covered fenders and rear quarter panels. They were designed so that you could lean a bike against it without worrying about scratching/denting the vehicle. It was a great idea, but the vehicle tended to look silly in any color other than black or charcoal grey. The interior was plastic and rubber so that you could hose it out after a muddy trip to the back-woods. It was shaped like a brick on wheels to maximize cargo capacity, and the clam-shell doors were employed to make it easier to load and unload your stuff. Ditto the rear split door.

For 2007 Honda has tarted up the Element, and the Element SC has been added to the family. Gone are the plastic body panels and AWD, but added to the mix are very attractive 5-spoke 18” alloy wheels, lower body cladding, a carpeted interior and the entire vehicle is painted the same color. It certainly looks better – it grabbed my attention when one showed up on a dealer’s lot. Time for a road test me thinks! Judging by the looks we got from other people during our test, the changes and updated looks have worked wonders in grabbing the attention of people in all age brackets.

First Impressions
Climbing behind the wheel, I was shocked by how large the steering wheel is – it felt about twice the size of the Honda Civic I’d just climbed out of! The step up and seat height are a little bit higher than I anticipated – I was expecting to just slide in, much like you would getting into a car. The seat adjustments are manual, and include a dial for height adjustment, but no lumbar support adjustments or arm rests – which I feel it definitely needs. The seat is quite large – more in keeping with a full size pickup truck, but very comfortable none-the-less. The fabric that Honda uses is very tough and looks like it will stand up to plenty of abuse. Honda offers a waterproof “Fabric for Extreme Conditions (FXCâ„¢) seat material” as an option. The dashboard is very simple and easy to understand at a glance – so far so good. The front window is way out in front, offering great visibility – something I didn’t expect, I was thinking it might be less of a greenhouse effect and more claustrophobic. The headroom in the Element is sure to keep even the basketball players happy!

Honda Element,, Iain Shankland

The tilt steering wheel incorporates audio controls, and some of the cruise control buttons. It seems as though the same mad-man who designed the interior of the Ridgeline, got to stamp a piece of insanity on the Element too. To turn the cruise control on, you have to press a button down by your left knee – and then use the other buttons on the steering wheel to set the speed etc. Who in their right mind would think this was a good idea?! Apart from having to take your eyes completely off the road to find the button, you might inadvertently hit the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) off button! Why Honda insists on using this type of option for the cruise control just boggles my mind. They get it right in the Civic and the CR-V, so there’s no excuse for this poor design. Another anomaly is the few missing items that I would have expected to come standard/mandatory in this segment and price-point: leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob as well as a 6 disc in-dash CD player.

Firing up the engine, the Element is extremely quiet and reasonably responsive around town. As is typical of drive-by-wire systems (other than Audi), power comes on the instant you press the gas pedal. The automatic transmission shifts are virtually seamless unless you’ve got the pedal buried in the floorboard. The rack and pinion steering is nicely weighted, but is somewhat vague when it comes to feedback – it feels much like a pickup truck. The large steering wheel becomes noticeable in parking lot maneuvers, but not so intrusive on the highway. Entering the freeway was completely pain-free and I had no problem getting up to speed. Highway manners were exceptional, but the Element does have a very bumpy feel to it – reminiscent of a vehicle with a very short wheelbase – if you’ve ever driven a Jeep TJ/YJ you’ll know what I’m talking about. For those that haven’t here’s a warning: drink your hot coffee before starting off on a journey unless you wish to wear said drink. Wind noise at speeds above 75 mph wasn’t too bad considering the shape of the Element, and overall it was fine right up to, and over 80 mph thanks to the sound insulation I’m sure. Everything in the Element SC has a quality air about it, and materials are pleasant to the touch. The view from the front seats and the open expanse of the windshield is very pleasing, and I was surprised when I pulled alongside a full sized pickup trucks and found I was virtually at eye level with the driver.

The dashboard’s centre console is not only aesthetically pleasing, but very functional as well. The audio system sits nice and high requiring very little time to understand and make adjustments. The buttons and dials are logically placed and easy to use – even while wearing gloves. The Element SC comes with a 270-Watt AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA Audio System with 6 Speakers, plus a subwoofer and it also includes an MP3/auxiliary input jack which is located inside the centre armrest along with a power outlet. A second power outlet is located on the dashboard in front of the passenger. Sound quality from the audio system is extremely good – no complaints here.

Honda Element,, Iain Shankland

The manual climate control system is the ultimate in simplicity, form and function – with nice large buttons. Between the seats are the cup holders and an armrest that is large enough to hold most your CD collection (yours – not mine). The glove box is quite small when compared to the amount of real estate the dashboard has to offer.

Blasting over badly rutted rail road tracks, the Element was solid, but very bouncy. Climbing the steep hills in our area wasn’t exactly invigorating shall we say – it felt quite lethargic and heavy with only two of us on board, and I’d have to say overall that the Element felt heavy for its size – with a curb weight of 3,596 pounds it’s not exactly portly. It constantly made us feel we were in a full sized pickup truck with its weight and handling (or lack thereof). Around town it was fine once up to speed, but getting there was a little laborious.

The rear seating area is extremely easy to get in and out of thanks the wide opening “suicide” doors. However, while parked beside other vehicles it became an object of frustration. Instead of being careful not to bash the front door against the vehicle parked beside you, you now have to juggle two doors instead of one! Getting people in and out while in a parking lot is like doing a party trick – open both doors (you can’t open the rear one without opening the front), close front door, swing rear door closed, person walks past, open rear door, person gets in, half-close rear door while simultaneously opening the front door, then get in front and close that door. Once safely seated however, the rear occupants are treated to an enormous amount of head, hip, shoulder, leg and foot room. The two bucket-type seats split 50/50 and the seatback can be adjusted for comfort. The Element is a 4-seater vehicle, no one can sit between the two outboard passengers thanks to the cup holders – and due to the fact there isn’t a third seatbelt in the second row.

The interior cargo space is very impressive at first glance, but once you start adjusting seats for maximum cargo capacity it’s actually not that accommodating. With both rear seats up, the cargo area is 25.1 cu-ft. (I measured: 29” x 42” x 42”). The rear seats only fold backwards (50/50) – not forward as in traditional vehicles – the downside to this is you greatly increase the chance of damaging the seat fabric if you transport something that’s got sharp edges (we’ve ALL done that at some point in our lives). If you need to transport something long then you run into the same problem with the front passenger seat too – it reclines backward, not forward, and in order to utilize this configuration, the seat has to be pushed right up to the dashboard and the headrest must be removed.

If you fold the rear seats flat then you have a maximum of 60” x 48” x 35” on top of the seats, and a small floor area (29” x 42” x 8.5”) below the seats. Removing the rear seats entirely increases the space dramatically to 74.6 cu-ft (I measured: 65” x 48” x 42”), but if you think folding them up out of the way is going to help – that’s not really the case. The seats have to be laid flat and then released from the floor and tied to the grab handles on the side of the Element. Because of the bulk of the seats, they take up 2/3rds of all the room you’ve now created, giving you a maximum capacity of 48” in length x 42” high and 16” between the seats. On the plus side, the rear tail gate splits, so you can transport longer than normal items if you don’t mind part of it sticking out the back. I like the way the tailgate splits to give you more versatility and also a place to sit of you’ve been out hiking and want to sit and remove your muddy boots, or a place to stand the dog while you wipe off its paws. Unlike the other Elements, the SC has a carpeted floor so it can’t be hosed out like the “lesser” models. The rear cargo area has a tough, rubberized floor though. Honda claim more than 60 (or 64 – depending on where you read it) different seating configurations, I couldn’t see any more than what I’ve noted that would be of any use.

The Element SC comes with only one choice to make: either a 5-speed manual transmission or 5-speed automatic (add $800 U.S. / $803 Cdn for the automatic). The same engine is used throughout the Element line-up: a 2.4 litre 4-cylinder 16-Valve DOHC i-VTEC with the SC model only available with front wheel drive. The automatic transmissions feature a Grade Logic Control System.

For more details and options go to: ( or

Honda Element,, Iain Shankland

The warranty is a comprehensive Bumper-To-Bumper 3 years/36,000 miles [60,000 kms] that includes a 5 year/60,000 miles [100,000 kms] powertrain warranty. Roadside Assistance is included for three years.
Towing capacity is a maximum of 1,500 lbs.

The Conclusion
I had a love/dislike relationship with the Element, but my wife just hated it. It’s comfortable to drive, nice to look at in the SC disguise, but borders on being completely impractical. It’s roomy (for 4 people only), it has a reasonable but not spectacularly responsive engine/transmission combo that also provides acceptable but not spectacular fuel economy. The seats are very comfortable, and the HVAC/stereo controls are perfect. I loved the split rear door where the top half opens independently of the bottom half. The cloth seating material looks like it will take many years of abuse, but I’m sure they will be abused if this vehicle is used to transport anything but cardboard boxes. It’s a vehicle that on paper I’d consider absolutely brilliant – it just didn’t translate that brilliance into usefulness when it was built.

Pricing for the 2007 Honda Element SC:
As tested: $23,495 [$33,100 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: U.S. – $595.00 / Canada – $1,505 Cdn

Fuel Consumption: [Regular Unleaded]
The Element is listed at 22 mpg City [11.3 L/100 km] and 27 mpg Highway [8.7 L/100 km]
I averaged a very consistent 20.6 mpg [11.4 L/100km] in mostly highway driving

Very comfortable seats
Excellent driving height/position

Drives more like a truck than an SUV
Steering wheel from a school bus
The usefulness and great idea of the clamshell doors becomes very cumbersome in real day to day living
Rear seats need a complete re-think – the Honda Fit does it so much better.

Would I Spend My Money On It? 
No, other vehicles execute the utility part much better – for less money too.

Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
“Wow! Look at the legroom – it’s like a limo back here!” “I’ve never seen so much room in the back of an SUV.” “Only two seats though?”

Immediate Competition:
Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson / Santa Fe, Jeep Liberty, Mazda Tribute, Mazda5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Suzuki Grand Vitara

By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 2.4 litre 16-Valve DOHC i-VTEC® 4-Cylinder Engine; 5-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control System; FWD
Horsepower: 166 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 161 @ 4,000 rpm
0 – 60 mph 9.25 seconds

10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
6 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
7 – Special Features (Climate Control etc)

9 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

9 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

8 – Engine
10 – Transmission
8 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
8 – Bang for the $$
8 – Fuel Economy

133 Total / 150

Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland –
This review may not be used in whole or in part in any way whatsoever without the written consent of the author.

Also Published at: PaddockTalk