Upon the Element's intro last fall, Honda marketing execs predicted it would be a hit with the 16-29 age group, specifically 22-year-old males who are active, social, well-traveled, and "work to live." Reality's proven somewhat different: According to the Power Information Network, the average median buyer is 42--some 20 years older than projected. Who'da thunk? Yet why not?
The Element's 2.4-liter/160-horsepower i-VTEC inline-four is a sprightly performer when combined with either the standard-issue five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The optionless (with the exception of exterior/interior colors) DX manual starts at $16,100 (plus a $460 destination charge), some $2400 over a base Scion xB. Go for an automatic and 4WD, and it'll run you $18,760. The upgraded five-speed EX starts at $19,110, and adding the autobox and 4WD pushes the envelope to $21,310 (including destination).
With its B-pillarless design and 90-degree-opening rear doors, the Element is a natural for party central, especially if you opt for the EX, which comes with a seven-speaker 270-watt AM/FM/CD audio system that includes a subwoofer and MP3/media auxiliary jack. Add 4WD, and you get a removable rear skylight. The polypropylene body panels are superbly scuff resistant.
A jury of the Element's high-school peers was polled: Most liked the styling, although a few commented it was too futuristic. Some of the guys said it looked like a miniature Hummer H2, but the Element was too boxy for them to buy. Nearly all liked the multiconfiguration seats, but, as one student noted, "the rubber floor may be easy to clean up, but all your stuff will slide when you go around a corner." Another wasn't sold: "Why should I buy this [Element] when a Civic looks better and costs less?"
|2003 Honda Element 2WD EX|
|Price, base/as tested||$19,450 / $19,910|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, fwd, 4-pass sport/utility|
|Engine||I-4, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl, LEV-2|
|Displacement, ci/cc||143.6 / 2345|
|Max horsepower @ rpm||160 @ 5500|
|Max torque @ rpm||161 @ 4500|
|EPA mpg, city/hwy||22/26|