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The Honda Element is one of those vehicles that elicits that great question: What's that? Some people hate the thought of driving a car that's the center of attention, but others find that's part of the thrill of owning a car that's different from other vehicles on the road.
Honda is known for conservative styling, which is not a bad thing for the majority of people who are only looking for reliable and functional transportation. However, pizzazz and style are important ingredients if you're one of those looking for something different.
Honda has really gone out on a limb with the Element. It is a very different looking vehicle aimed at young male buyers who need a truck to haul their stuff but want the security of an enclosed cargo area and the performance of a car.
The Honda Element is basically a rebodied CR-V, so it is not surprising to find that it drives like one. Like the CR-V, the Element is built on the same platform as the Honda Civic. Because it is based on a car, the Honda Element rides much better and handles more predictably than sport-utilities that are based on trucks.
The Element is wider than the CR-V and it has bigger 16-inch wheels, which helps it handle the curves better than one expects of such a tall vehicle.
The Element's ground clearance and ride height are sufficient to drive off the highway, but this is not an off-road vehicle by any stretch of the imagination nor is it supposed to be.
The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder is as sweet as any Honda engine, which means it revs freely and has good low-end torque. This is a front-wheel-drive car so there is a touch of torque steer, that tugging of the steering wheel under hard acceleration, but nothing of real concern. As long as you shift gears at a decent rpm the engine provides plenty of power with a manual transmission, which is delightful to use as the gearshift lever is mounted up in the dashboard in the same place one would find in a modern rally car. We found the available automatic transmission to be less fun as it almost spoils the funky feel of the Element.
The Honda Element is an attractive proposition for someone who wants a genuine utility vehicle that behaves like a car. There's no denying the utility of its versatile interior. And, in terms of driving dynamics, cars behave much better than trucks. Although archaic EPA rules say the Element is a truck, it's really a modern station wagon masquerading as a hip looking van. Looks are part of the attraction here. You'll either like the Element or hate it. We found it appeals to people of all ages.