Honda Element

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Honda Element
2003-2006 Honda Element -- 08-28-2011.jpg
Manufacturer Honda
Production 2003–2011
Chassis Y1, H1
Assembly East Liberty, Ohio, U.S. (ELAP)
Body and chassis
Class Compact crossover SUV
Body style 5-door
Layout Front engine, front-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
Related Honda Civic
Honda CR-V
Acura RSX
Engine 2.4 L I4: K24A4 2003–2006, K24A8 2007+
Transmission 5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 101.4 in (2575 mm)
Length 2003-08: 169.3 in (4,300 mm)
2003-08: 170.2 in (4,323 mm) (EX-P)
2003-08: 170.3 in (4,326 mm) (EX)
2003-08: 170.8 in (4,338 mm) (SC)
2009-: 169.9 in (4,315 mm)
2009- SC: 170.4 in (4,328 mm)
Width 2003-08: 71.5 in (1,816 mm)
Height 70.4 in (1,788 mm)
69.5 in (1,765 mm) (SC)
Successor Honda HR-V
Honda Element logo

The Honda Element is a compact crossover SUV based on a modified CR-V platform, manufactured in East Liberty, Ohio and offered in front-wheel and all-wheel drive formats in the United States and Canada from model years 2003[1] through 2011.[2]


The Element followed a concept vehicle called Model X, developed by a core group of Honda R&D engineers in 1998 and debuted at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Model X was designed to be an activity-oriented vehicle combining features of a pickup truck and a sport utility vehicle.[3]

The 4-seat Element is optimized to carry large loads. The floor is made of easily cleanable textured urethane; the fabric is stain resistant; the individual rear seats recline, fold up, and are removable. The rear clamshell tailgate arrangement is large, and the vehicle is tall, allowing large loads.

The rear side doors open outward from the front but are not referred to as suicide doors, as they cannot be opened if the conventional front doors are not open. To accommodate elimination of the B-pillars, which provides unobstructed access for side loading, the Element features a chassis with reinforced joints, strengthened lower side sills, larger cross members, enlarged rocker panels, and five bulkheads per side.

The compact SUV features a 2.4 Litre K Engine, an i-VTEC four-cylinder engine producing 166 hp (124 kW) at 5500 rpm and 160 lb·ft (217 N·m) of torque at 4500 rpm and front-wheel drive or an optional all-wheel drive system — a hydraulically actuated system that operates only when front wheel slippage occurs, marketed as "Real Time" all wheel drive. All wheel drive was discontinued in Japan with the 2006 model. The Element has a towing capacity of 680 kg, or 1500 lbs.

With projected first year sales of 50,000,[1] the Element sold 67,478 units in 2003 in the U.S.[4] By 2010, just over 14,000 were sold,[2] and by December 2010, shortly before its discontinuation, it had sold a total of more than 325,000 units.[2]

In 2007, the Element won the "Dog Car of the Year" award because of its "versatile cargo space, easy-clean flooring, crate-friendly rear design and optional all-wheel drive."[5] and in 2010 it won the "Small SUV" category as a "Top Safety Pick" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Annual Awards.[6]

Model year changes[edit]


  • The 2003 Element was launched with two trim levels — DX and EX.
  • All-wheel drive models come with a large rear skylight.
  • Windshields:
    • A service bulletin was released regarding the windshield flange surface being uneven.[7] This bulletin along with the warranty obligated Honda of America to replace the windshield at no cost to the owner.
    • The class action Daniels, et al. v. American Honda Motor Co. reached final settlement November 16, 2006. It provides for warranty replacement of windshields in 2003 and 2004 model Honda Element for 6 years or 60,000 miles.[8]


  • The class action law case Daniels, et al. v. American Honda Motor Co. reached final settlement November 16, 2006. It provides for warranty replacement of windshields in 2003 and 2004 model Honda Element for 6 years or 60,000 miles.[8]


  • The LX model was introduced with more standard features. Improvements were made to the front seats as well as the inclusion of an armrest for the passenger's side captain's chair.
  • The DX model was eliminated from the model lineup. Side airbags were an available option, and XM satellite radio and MP3 capabilities were added as standard features in the audio system for the EX model. The charcoal gray that was the standard plastic tone was darkened and a navy blue was offered with the Satin Silver Metallic. Wheel covers on the LX were changed to mimic the styled alloy wheels.
  • Miles per Gallon: 19 in City, 23 highway, 20 combined[9]


2006 Honda Element EX-P


2007–2008 Honda Element EX
  • EX-P is retired and painted panels become standard on all EX models. Only the LX has the unfinished body trim.

The 2007 Element received a mild refresh, which included 10 hp increase to 166 hp, along with a 5-speed automatic transmission, and an Integrated Seat Belt System on the front seats that allows rear seat occupants to exit the vehicle without the need for a front occupant to disconnect his or her seatbelt. Side airbags are also now standard, as well as electronic stability control. The plastic latticework grille was replaced by silver-colored slats, similar in style to the 2005-06 Honda CR-V and 2006-08 Honda Pilot.

2007–2008 Honda Element SC

A new "urban cruiser" trim level called the SC is offered with a custom bumper and grille, lowered suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels. It will also feature upgrades to the original Element such as projector-beam halogen headlights, custom tribal print seat fabric, standard center console and carpet in the seating areas.

Unlike the other trim packages, the SC has a rigid center console which cannot be removed and which rises above the bottom portion of the seats. Like the rigid seat-level consoles in most other SUVs, this crowds the seat belt receptacle into the seat space, making this trim level less comfortable for larger drivers than the LX and EX models.

The only change from the 2007 Element was the addition of the color Royal Blue Pearl for the SC trim.[10]


2009–2011 Honda Element
2009 Honda Element SC

New color combinations for the dashboard became available.[11]

For 2009, the Honda Element got a navigation option and some cosmetic changes to the exterior. The front end is similar to that of the second generation Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline. The hood and front grill have been redesigned, the front fenders are now all metal rather than painted composite material,[11] and the wheel arches were squared off.[11] The moonroof was no longer available for 2009-2011.

Advertising and marketing[edit]

Gil the Crab[edit]

After a summer break, Honda decided to bring back a portion of the "Element and Friends" ad campaign, but with a focus on the crab, who now has a name: Gil.[12] The most popular character from the ads with his "I Pinch!" catch phrase, Gil has a myspace page[13] that will chronicle Gil's trouble with the law. In order to tap into social networking sites, which began to play larger roles in ad campaigns in the mid-2000s, Gil was to maintain a blog, promote an online petition to save his job.[14] and endorse Gil paraphernalia through a website. ll this led up to the launch of the new commercial dubbed Element TV, which premiered September 28, 2006, and rolled out with the new Honda Element SC that went on sale that same day.

Gil the Crab's popularity has spawned a game similar to punchbuggy or slugbug, wherein seeing a Honda Element on the road gives the first viewer an opportunity to pinch their less-observant companion, exclaiming "I pinch!" like Gil the Crab.

Element and Friends - version 2.0[edit]

In the fall of 2006, the Element and Friends ( website, now defunct) was re-launched with the introduction of the new Element SC trim. The previous version had the driving game using the Element EX-P (now simply called the EX) in a desert, snow topped mountains, forests, and a beach. They now renamed that area "above ground". A new second option from the main page allows you to select the Element SC to go "underground" in an urbanesque environment featuring a drive-in, central park with a basketball court, a seedy mainstreet, and project housing. The six new SC friends include a rat, mole, hamster, pigeon, roach, and a dog. The drive-in serves as the venue to view the TV spots that feature only the rat, mole, pigeon, and hamster. The format remains the same with new mini-games, but both maps now include a tunnel to venture above or below the surface, through the mountain and building respectively. Changes to the above ground include the removal of the previous TV spots from the website and a link on the beach to Gil's Myspace page.

RPA,[15] the company which created the Element and friends website, won the "Best in Show"[16] from MIXX Awards for the microsite. They revealed that visitors average 15 minutes on the site.

Dog-friendly Concept[edit]

See "external links" below for dog-friendly concept car photo gallery.

In 2007, the Honda Element won the's "Dog Car of the Year" award. Honda chose to follow up on that with a concept vehicle unveiled in 2009 New York Auto Show specifically designed for canine transportation.[11] It includes a "pet restraint system", an extendable cargo area load-in ramp, a 12V DC rear ventilation fan, second-row seat covers with a simple beige dog-outline pattern design to match the bed cover fabric, all-season rubber floor mats with a toy bone pattern, a fan, and "Dog Friendly" exterior pawprint emblems. A spill-resistant water bowl, also included, can be placed into a nook in the corner of the pet bed.[11]

The second row pet restraint system is a small net crate suitable for cats or small dogs, which can be belted into place. It straps directly to the lower portion of the seat and the captive animal cannot see out the windows, unlike the pet "booster seats" sold by pet-supply vendors specifically designed to allow small dogs to see through the windows and sniff the incoming airflow.

The pet bed is a thick cushion for the whole of the rear cargo area. The cargo area pet restraint system consists of netting on the sides and the top of the dog bed, as well as a zip-up fourth side to be secured after the dog is loaded. Unless the top of the restraint system can be opened, which is not clear from the press release and accompanying photos, it severely limits the ability of the dog to see out the side windows or rear window.

However, the concept vehicle does not include an element much requested on sites dedicated to Element owners with dogs: roll-down rear windows, which would allow dogs to put their noses outside. The concept vehicle's windows remain the pop-out vent type.

The package is dealer installed and retails for $1,000.[17]

Appearances in popular media[edit]

  • It is seen in Michael Bay's 2005 film The Island during the city chase scene.
  • In 2003, Honda had the Element featured in EA Sports BIG's SSX 3. It featured in-game billboards with the Honda Element logo, as well as the signature car itself parked on the slope with its front and rear doors open to have the snow boarder dart through for extra points.
  • In 2003, the Element was featured in a short scene as a taxi in the movie Paycheck starring Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart and Uma Thurman.
  • In 2004, Element was featured for the first time in Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo series in Gran Turismo 4 as a 2003 model.
  • In 2006, Honda and EA teamed up again to have the Element featured in The Sims spin-off, The Urbz.
  • In 2006, Honda and cross-promoted each other in an online dirt bike game called Monster Park Motor Madness.
  • The Element has also appeared in numerous television shows such as 1000 Ways to Die, Switched at Birth, House M.D., Star Crossed, The Vampire Diaries, Key and Peele, and Almost Human.[18]
  • In 2005, the Element appeared in the British motoring show Top Gear, with James May wondering why it isn't sold in Britain.[19]


A Honda Element on top of Frazier Peak, Southern California

Sales of the Element continued to slump throughout the final years of its production, bottoming out with only 14,000 units in 2009. In 2003 (The Element's introductory and most successful year) Honda sold more of the cars than it did in the vehicle's final 3 years combined. Industry analysts and Honda executives blamed the Element's demise on a variety of factors: competition from similar vehicles offered by other manufacturers, rivalry within the automaker's own product line, and a dwindling market share for SUV's overall.

When Honda unveiled the Element in 2003 the design was unique, and the no-nonsense philosophy and retro/progressive styling drew customers to the car. The still emerging and relatively new market for compact SUV's offered little competition, and Honda was able to win over buyers by targeting the car toward young, active people with a list of options to suit outdoor activities like biking and camping. Competing automakers quickly noticed the vehicle's success, and the Element was quickly joined by similar vehicles such as the Nissan Cube, Ford Flex, Kia Soul and Scion xB. These other vehicles were similar to the Element and many of them were more affordable, which proved to be too alluring for the capricious young audience at which the car had been aimed. In addition to facing stiff competition from off the lot, the Element also had to cope with intense rivalry from within the Honda stable in the form of the automaker's flagship CRV. The Element model line struggled in the shadow of this more well-established sister car. Adding to this was Honda executives' decision not to update the Element at all during the car's entire 9-year production run, a decision that made the Element seem dull and dated in a market sector that places an extremely high value on ultramodern contemporary styling and state-of-the-art technology. The model's worst sales year, 2009, saw the CRV outselling the Element by a factor of 5 to 1.[20] [21]

Other circumstances contributing to the Element's diminished sales included a shrinking market for SUV's beginning around the time the vehicle was introduced. Growing public concern about the environment and the steadily increasing price of gasoline started to drive new-car buyers away from SUV's towards smaller, more fuel-efficient passenger cars.[22]

The final model year for the car was 2011.


  1. ^ a b "Honda Adds New "Element" To Lineup" (Press release). Honda Motor. 2002-03-27. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  2. ^ a b c "Honda announces end of Element production". Autoblog. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "Honda to build Model X Concept". Conceptcarz. 2002-01-03. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  4. ^ Nate Martinez (2009-12-14). "Honda to build Second-Generation Element". Motor Trend. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  5. ^ "Honda Element Wins First-ever DogCar of the Year Award". PRWeb. 11 December 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "TOP SAFETY PICKs 2010". Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "2003 Windshield Service Bulletin" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ "Gas Mileage of 2005 Honda Element 4WD". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  10. ^ "Honda Element 2008 SC SUV Colors". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  11. ^ a b c d e New York: Honda Ramps Up Attention for Dog-Friendly Element Concept, April 8, 2009.
  12. ^ Honda Creates Web Buzz for Ad Character, Aug 28, 2006, Ad Week.
  13. ^ "Gil "The Crab" - 28 - Male - MALIBU, US". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  14. ^ Save the Crab
  15. ^ "RPA". RPA. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  16. ^ Press Release: RPA Celebrates Three MIXX Awards Wins and Two Creative Media Awards, September 29, 2006.
  17. ^ [1] Honda's dog-friendly Element is aimed at pets -- and their owners
  18. ^ "Honda Element in movies and TV series". Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Top Gear Season 6 Episode 1". 2002-05-22. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  20. ^ "L.A. Times Financial Article". 2010-12-10. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Honda announces end of Element production". Autoblog. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  22. ^ "SUV Market Share 1999–2007". Automotive Digest. 2008-03-27. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 

External links[edit]