In the ever-changing crossover market, manufacturers are always looking for creative ways to target new buyers, and Honda may have just found the trick with the all-new Dog Friendly Package available on the 2010 Honda Element. Aside from the Ford Mustang, special trim packages rarely help improve sales on an aging car, but this new package may help breathe some life back into Honda's 7-year-old boxy, compact crossover. Honda sent us its old dog with new tricks for a week, and after hitting up multiple dog parks and shopping plazas, it was clear that the Element is enjoyable for humans and dogs alike.
is available in three trim levels (LX, EX and SC) with a starting MSRP of $20,525. Standing as the top-of-the-line model, the Element EX with Navi starts at $25,585 while the new Dog Friendly Package adds an even $1,000 for an as-tested of $27,365 including destination. Although some of the Element's competitors have been on the market for far less time, it was interesting to see how much of an impact the Honda Element has with people who see it and ride in it thanks to the unique design, layout and packaging.
2010 Honda Element Exterior
Not much has changed over the years for the Honda Element, which means that it is still polarizing. As is the case with many other vehicles on the market, the love-it-or-hate-it design may not appeal to everyone, but it definitely gets noticed. While the tacky plastic fenders went away years ago, there are still some gray plastic accents that act as accents on the roof and along the lower edges of the vehicle. The popularity of exposed plastic body panels may have died with the Pontiac division of General Motors, but the Tango Red Pearl on this Element helped contrast the plastic pieces giving it a surprisingly modern appearance The only changes to the Dog Friendly Package include small puppy-paw fender badges and another sticker on the rear hatch announcing the Element's dog-friendly abilities.
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2010 Honda Element Interior
The Element already features one of the most unique interiors among crossovers, but the added Dog Friendly Package utilizes already existent space even better to make the cabin even more distinctive. Without having to alter any of the current components, the Dog Friendly Package adds a nifty metal and mesh kennel in the rear cargo area that features a spill-proof water bowl and a soft bed mat. Most of these accessories could probably be pieced together from a local pet store for less than $1,000, but Honda gives it the added OEM touches like the an electric fan fashioned neatly into the D-pillar, fitted covers for the rear seats and the dog-bone-printed, all-weather floor mats. For older (or well-trained dogs), the package also includes a portable ramp that stows underneath the kennel to help the dog into the rear area of the Element - our participant tended to be more willing to jump onto the tailgate rather than use the ramp. Other features included with the package include accessories such as a tote bag that comes with a leash, collar, dog tag and bag dispenser. While this package is available on all trim levels of the Element, the base Element LX is likely to have an additional charge as it is not equipped with a rear power outlet to run the dog fan.
For more cargo and less canine, the kennel is easily removable and could even double as an inside sleeping area for the dog. The rest of the Element's interior remained the same including the four-passenger configuration that allows all four seats to fold up out of the way to make room for bulky cargo or bicycles. In a pinch, the seats can also lay somewhat flat to create a surface that could be considered a bed. To match the lifestyles of its target audience, the Element is also available with numerous accessories including various roof rack attachments to hold everything from snowboards to kayaks and assorted interior options, too, such as a privacy curtain and bicycle mounts. The lockableÂ center console also double as a removable tote or even a mini cooler.
As its name suggests, the Element EX with Navi comes standard with a navigation system, but it turns out to be a $1,700 option compared to a base Element EX. Honda's touch-screen navigation system offers decent map clarity and is easy to use and also doubles as the rearview backup camera display. The stereo head unit controls the 270-watt, seven-speaker sound system which plays a wide range of audio inputs including AM/FM/XM as well asÂ an auxiliaryÂ jack andÂ CD/MP3 discs in the single slot hidden behind the display screen. Speaking of hidden, the Element can also play music from a jump drive on the USB pigtail hidden in the glovebox.
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2010 Honda Element Performance & Handling
As many options as there are for the rest of the 2010 Element, the sole choice for the crossover's powertrain is the lonely option box for four-wheel drive. All 2010 Element models are powered by the same 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC inline-four that produces 166 horsepower and 161 lb-ft of torque which is paired up with a five-speed automatic transmission. The Element comes standard with front-wheel drive, bit this test model adds Honda's Real Time four-wheel drive system which is a pretty good deal with just $1,250 premium over the base model. Factoring in the Element's boxy shape and four-wheel drive, the EPA fuel economy estimates of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway don't seem that bad.
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2010 Honda Element Safety
Among its many strong points, the Honda Element also gets stellar safety ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave it five stars for front and side protection, but just three stars for rollover avoidance. Even better, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the Element as a 2010 Top Safety Pick with its full complement of 'Good'? ratings for frontal, side, rear and roof protection. Standard safety features for all 2010 Element models include six airbags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control.
When the Honda Element was introduced in 2003, it was targeted at buyers with active, rugged lifestyles, but by adding something as simple as the Dog Friendly Package, Honda hopes its buyers will remember to bring their pooch along on their next camping trip or rock climbing excursion. The Dog Friendly Package is a great idea for Honda to try to attract more sales for its aging Element, but it also shows that the automaker is looking to make its consumers happy by keeping our pets safe while traveling. Honda is also making the dog-ownership experience even better by giving away $200 gift cards to PetSmart to anyone who buys a new Honda Element until December 31, 2010.
- Ingenious dog package
- Innovative interior functions
- Cargo friendly
- Aging design
- Shape kills mpgs
- No slobber-proof window lining
Honda provided the vehicle this road test review.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross