Honda has announced that 2011 will be the final model year for the creative and boxy vehicle. The option of a navigation system and the sporty SC trim level have been dropped for 2011.

While the Element has undergone a few functional and aesthetic changes over the years, the car has remained mostly unchanged on a mechanical basis. All Elements are powered by a 166-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, now mated only to a five-speed automatic transmission with front- or all-wheel drive.

We're thinking low fuel economy might have been part of the reason for the Element's not lasting toward a second generation -- well, that and not being redesigned in nine model years. In the 2003 model year, the Element's fuel economy ranged from 18/22 mpg city/highway for an all-wheel-drive model with a five-speed manual transmission to 20/24 mpg for a front-wheel-drive model with a four-speed automatic. The 2011 models are rated 19-20/24-25 mpg.

"The Element was a great test bed for new features," a Honda representative told us, adding that the vehicle was ahead of its time. The Element is more expensive and larger than other boxy vehicles like the Scion xB, Kia Soul, and Nissan Cube, perhaps accounting for its sales of 12,960 units through the first 11 months of the year, down 3.4 percent compared to the same period in 2009.

Since the Element was introduced eight years ago this month, more than 300,000 of the Hondas have been sold -- and nearly 70 percent of those buyers, we're told, came from outside Honda.

Here's Honda's official release:

The 2011 Honda Element will be the final model year of production of the innovative and functional crossover utility vehicle, American Honda Motor Co . Inc., announced today. First introduced in concept form as the Honda Model X at the 2001 North American International Auto Show, the Element virtually created its own functional class and became an immediate favorite for small businesses, outdoor enthusiasts and pet owners. After a long life cycle, utility-seeking customers have more recently embraced other vehicles in the Honda lineup like the versatile and comfortable CR-V.

"The Element proved that ultimate functionality can often come from thinking inside the box," said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda. "It made boxy vehicle designs cool, and Element owners continue to enjoy its unique styling and unmatched versatility."

Developed from the inside-out, the Honda Element entered new territory when it debuted during the 2003 model year by providing a multi-functional cargo area, innovative and versatile seating, a durable and dirt-friendly interior, energetic performance and outstanding value. Major upgrades were made through the years including more power and safety features in the 2007 model year. More recently, the Element embraced its long-held position as a pet-friendly vehicle by introducing the Dog Friendly Element accessory package in 2009.

More than 325,000 Elements have been sold in the United States since its introduction in December 2002.

Source: Honda