For 2007, the Honda Element undergoes several changes, starting with its line-up: trim lines are now the LX, EX and SC. Horsepower rises to 166 from 156; the optional automatic is now a five-speed, rather than a four-speed; side and curtain airbags are added to all models; and vehicle stability control, traction control and a tire pressure monitoring system become standard on all models.

The Element uses a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, mated to a five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic transmission. The base configuration is front-wheel drive, but the EX can be optioned with an all-wheel drive system.

Features on the LX include 16-inch steel wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, intermittent wipers, power mirrors, rear intermittent wiper/washer, air conditioning, cruise control, urethane-coated floor, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, rear ventilation windows, manual driver’s seat height adjuster, front-seat waterproof fabric, and CD stereo with seven speakers.

The EX adds 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome exhaust finisher, driver’s seatback bungee loops, front map lights, overhead storage compartment, driver and passenger armrests, front and rear seat waterproof fabric, and CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack and seven speakers. The AWD model adds a removable rear skylight.

The SC model adds 18-inch alloy wheels, body-colour bumpers and side sills, projector-beam halogen headlamps, copper-colour backlit gauges, first- and second-row carpeted floor with urethane cargo area, and centre console.

The Element may be an odd-looking duck, but it’s extremely useful: its urethane floor (on LX and EX models) can be easily scrubbed clean, its seat fabric resembles that used to make wet suits, and all surfaces are easy-care plastic. The rear seats can be folded, or stretched flat to form a lumpy bed; once they’re flat, they can be flipped up and attached to the body sides for a flat cargo floor. Their configuration does restrict the Element to four people, however.

The back doors are rear-hinged, revealing a pillarless expanse that makes loading very easy, but which means that front passengers have to open their doors before the rear ones can be opened. That becomes a little easier for 2007, since front-seat passengers no longer have to remove their seatbelts beforehand. The rear hatch opens clamshell style, which can make it difficult for short people to reach across to retrieve items.

Car customizers have tricked out the Element with good results, and so the company responds with a new sporty model that includes bigger wheels and a monochrome colour scheme, along with harder-to-clean but more upscale-looking carpet.

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