Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
2008 Honda Element SC. Click image to enlarge
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Test Drives: 2007 Honda Element SC
Day-by-Day Review: 2007 Honda Element SC

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Bob McHugh

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2008 Honda Element

Surrey, British Columbia – The no-frills Honda Element gets a few frills with the new SC edition. Not to worry surfer dudes, mountain bikers and dog lovers, even this chic, new, lowered and-carpeted Element SC remains a paragon of interior versatility and durability on wheels.

Except now you get to choose your comfort level. Think of the Element SC as the dressy city version. Yet, like the rest of its uncarpeted family, the SC can switch from four-seat people mover to big cargo hauler in minutes.

Originally aimed at the outdoorsy young and adventurous, the Element is a reasonably priced, fuel efficient, go-anywhere vehicle that could haul their wet, messy and bulky gear in a secure cargo hold. The SC however, targets a buyer who will probably spend more time in the concrete jungle. The SC is a paved-road-friendly two-wheel-drive vehicle, unlike its all-wheel drive country cousins.

In addition to looking smarter both inside and out, the SC delivers a more sedan-like driving experience. Its suspension is lower and stiffer, which improves handling, and it comes with big, 18-inch alloy wheels and projector-beam headlights.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
2008 Honda Element SC. Click image to enlarge

A base Element LX (2WD) starts at $25,290. The Element EX (2WD) starts at $28,090, and the SC starts at $29,990.

The Element is structurally similar to the Honda CR-V, although it is shorter in length and has a slightly wider track and lower floor height. Structural changes were also made to compensate for the elimination of a B-pillar between the front and rear doors.

Its basic two-box design has beauty in its simplicity and functionality. Its original design was supposedly inspired by a beach lifeguard station and the gentle curve of the roof follows the bow of a surfboard.

The front and rear fenders, front fascia, and rocker panels are made of a dent-resistant plastic composite material and they are body coloured on the Element SC. Honda calls the exterior, which also features an aero grille, distinctively shaped side sills and slimmer roof mouldings, “street custom” styling.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
2008 Honda Element SC. Click image to enlarge

Unique features of the Element’s design are its clamshell tailgate and rear-hinged side cargo doors. The lower section of the rear door drops down pickup-truck style and can hold two 100-kilogram people. The top section opens up, is high enough to walk under and can act as a canopy. Although the rear side doors are small, they can swing open up to 90 degrees on goose-neck hinges.

That and the absence of a B-pillar allows easy side access to the rear. Interlocking doors plus a hook and-catcher latching system makes it stronger than it appears. The Element achieved a five-star side impact rating (highest possible) in crash tests performed by U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Interior impressions

The tall box design pays off big time with interior space. The Element’s versatile interior allows you to take full advantage of every bit of it. And with the easy-to remove rear seats out, it offers 2,115 litres (74.6 cubic feet) of storage space.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
2008 Honda Element SC. Click image to enlarge

The removable rear seats can also fold forward or back or you can swing them up to the side if you need a flat cargo floor. The front passenger seatback folds forward to make room for long items and all the seats, including the driver’s, can be folded back to make a large bed.

There are plenty of storage spots, including a shelf in front of the driver and front passenger, a big glove box and a handy overhead storage pocket.

The Element now comes with front seatbelts built into the seat assembly, which makes it easier for rear-seat passengers to get in and out.

In addition to carpets, the SC edition comes with a front centre console, Piano Black trim pieces and nicer upholstery with a raised pattern. The centre console provides additional storage, cup holders and has an auxiliary audio input jack. The audio jack is connected to a 270-watt high-output system that features an AM/FM tuner, CD player and seven speakers, including a subwoofer.

The Element seats only four people. The two rear seats are equipped with lower universal anchorages and top tether anchors for child seats. The top anchors are located in the ceiling near the back cargo door, which allows almost full use of the cargo area.

A major infusion of safety features last year added standard side-curtain airbags for front and rear passengers and an electronic stability control system called Vehicle Stability Assist.

Driving impressions

The driver sits high in the driver’s seat looking down at the dash, and the windshield is quite far ahead. Rear vision is good, although the large back-seat head restraints get in the way a bit.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda Element SC car test drives honda
2008 Honda Element SC. Click image to enlarge

The side mirrors are an adequate size, but I expected them to be larger, since it’s a utility-type vehicle. Surprisingly they are not heated, which is almost a must in Canada.

The front A-pillars are quite stout but, because they are positioned farther ahead to support an extended roofline, they did not create a major blind spot. The extended roof however does reduce upward vision and can create a vision issue with overhead traffic lights.

Out on the road, a firm suspension combined with firm seating means you bounce around a bit if the surface is rough. The steering is quick and it handles curves better than you’d expect of a fairly tall vehicle. While it also suffers from some front-drive-push syndrome, it’s still an enjoyable, even a fun vehicle to drive.

Quiet and efficient, the high-output 2.4-litre iVTEC engine gives the Element a good balance of both good power and fuel efficiency. While it’s no road rocket, power is consistent from low to high engine speed and it redlines at 6,500 r.p.m. Transport Canada Energuide fuel consumption ratings (automatic transmission) are 10.5 L/100 km (27 mpg) City, and 8.1 L/100 km (35 mpg) Highway.

Cruising on the highway at 100 km/h, the tachometer reading was only 2,000 r.p.m., which translates to good fuel conservation. My test Element had the new five-speed automatic, which has a handy quick-change overdrive lock-out button the shift lever.

Verdict

Taking it to the streets, Honda Element SC is a compact and fuel efficient utility vehicle for trendy city slickers.

Pricing: 2008 Honda Element SC

Base price: $29,990
Options: $ $1,200 (five-speed automatic transmission)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,540
Price as tested: $32,830
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications

Specifications: 2008 Honda Element

Related articles on Autos

Test Drives: 2007 Honda Element SC
Day-by-Day Review: 2007 Honda Element SC

Manufacturer’s web site

Honda Canada