April 10, 2002

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews
Click image to enlarge


Preview:

2003 Honda Element


by Greg Wilson


The Honda Element, first introduced at the 2001 Detroit auto show as the Model X concept vehicle was unveiled March 28th as a production vehicle at the 2002 New York auto show. It's scheduled to be in showrooms by this December. "The Element is designed for those who surf, snowboard, mountain bike and just about anything else. Right now they're trying to adapt to cars, trucks and SUVs, but there is no one vehicle that meets their needs," said Tom Elliott, American Honda executive vice president during the Element's introduction.


Boxy but practical

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews
Click image to enlarge

The tall, square looking Element is designed to maximize passenger and cargo space. Styling obviously wasn't a priority with the Element, although its two-tone paint scheme which includes a durable-looking dull finish around the fenders, bumpers and roof, gives the Element a more rugged appearance.

One of the Element's unique design features is its 'pillarless' door design. There is no centre pillar between the front and rear doors, and the rear doors open towards the rear creating a large opening for ease of entry into the front and rear seats, or into the rear cargo area. Honda quickly deflected concerns about crash safety by stating that the Element has been targeted for a Five Star side impact safety rating.

At the rear is a lift-up hatchback and a separate drop-down tailgate which provide an unusually large cargo door opening with a low loading height. As well, the rear roofline slides forward and the rear window slides down into the tailgate. With the side doors opened wide, the interior provides the perfect "base camp" or location for "side gate" parties, says Honda.

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews
Click image to enlarge


Washable interior designed for storage

The interior is designed to be "washable", says Honda. The seats are made of tough, durable materials, and the interior floor is made of textured resin that is easy to clean. The four passenger Element has two front buckets separated with 'walk-through' access between them, and two rear seats that appear to be a single bench, but are split 50/50. The front passenger seat includes a seatback that reverses so that the front passenger can face the rear seats when the vehicle is stopped. All four seats have backrests that recline horizontally, forming an almost-flat bed that doesn't look very comfortable.

The front and rear seats are raised so that flat objects, such as skis and ski poles, can be stored underneath the seats. In addition, both rear seats can fold up sideways against the side walls, creating a flat, cargo floor that extends from the rear tailgate to the back of the front seats. The cargo area is big enough to store a mountain bike with both wheels on it, and there are tie-down hooks to secure bikes and other sports equipment.

As well, there are open storage containers on either side of the rear cargo area and elastic straps on the back of the rear seats to secure small items such as tennis racquets, snorkels, flippers, and gloves.

The rear of the roof includes a sliding partition that allows long items in the cargo area to protrude through the roof - items such as surfboards, fishing poles, and kayaks.


Dashboard has internet access

The Element's instrument panel features three individual round displays, and a flip-up navigation screen rises from the centre dashboard. The system also provides a wireless Internet connection for receiving on board e-mail and getting the latest surf and ski reports. The screen also can be used for playing video games or DVDs.

The centre console features automatic climate control and a three-in-one stereo system including MP3 for direct downloading of the latest music from the Internet, along with digital satellite radio, cassette and 6-disc CD player. An overhead interior storage rack holds small items and packages.

A transmission gear shift is mounted high on the centre console, and power is provided by Honda's next generation i-VTEC, 2.4 litre 4-cylinder engine, the same engine used in the CR-V.


From concept to reality

The Honda Model X concept vehicle was developed by Honda's R&D in the United States and is targeted at active young college-age guys who need a versatile, reliable, multi-functional vehicle to carry all their stuff. Honda says the Model X/Element was designed to combine the best features of a pickup truck with the best features of an SUV

In 1998, the Model X development team wanted to provide an "open architecture" interior feeling for the vehicle. According to Honda, one of the Model X design inspirations was provided by a lifeguard station, which by nature is open, rugged and durable. Another design concept was a college dorm room - a fun, active location where guys hang out.

To help provide this "open architecture" style, Model X was designed without a B Pillar and "open wide" side doors. That combined with a low, flat floor, allows for easy loading and unloading.

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews

Preview: 2003 Honda Element  car previews
Click image to enlarge


Element built on Civic platform

The Element is based on the current Civic platform and will be powered by a Honda's new 160 horsepower 2.4 litre, i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine. In the U.S. it will be available with either front-wheel-drive or Honda's 'Real Time' 4WD system which is basically an on-demand all-wheel-drive system. In Canada, it may be offered only with 4WD. Both 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmissions will be available.

The Element will be built at Honda's East Liberty, Ohio plant on the same assembly line as the Civic Sedan and Civic Coupe.

Honda says the Element will go sale in December 2002. In the United States, pricing will range from U.S$16,000 to U.S.$21,000. Canadian pricing hasn't been announced, but it will probably be in the $20,000 to $30,000 price range.

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Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and editor of CanadianDriver

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