One of the outcomes of the SUV boom of the latter part of the 20th century was that practically every permutation of the Sport Utility Vehicle concept saw the light of day as some sort of a production model. Some were wildly successful, others were merely interesting footnotes. Honda’s Element, falling somewhere in between, was definitely on the interesting side and it was one of the most functional vehicles introduced into the space.
A core group of young research and development engineers at Honda worked up the basic idea for the Element back in 1998. The concept was to create the ideal vehicle for urban-based outdoor adventurers, with an eye more toward hauling toys for outdoor sports. Kind of a hybridization of the pickup truck and the SUV, Honda’s Element was designed specifically to get dirty and be easy to clean.
With a floor covering made of urethane, you could almost hose dirt out of the Element. The fabric employed on its seats was particularly durable, water resistant and stain resistant to boot. Its side opening doors created unobstructed access to the interior, so the Element was easy to load and unload. There was no central ‘B” pillar obscuring access.
First shown at the 2001 North American International Auto Show, the Element went on sale in December of 2002, as a 2003 model. Its production run lasted through but one generation—as the compact SUV was discontinued after the 2011 model year.