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#8

in 2011 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $15,842 - $19,376
Original MSRP: $20,825 - $24,185
MPG: 20 City / 25 Hwy
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2011 Honda Element Interior

This interior review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2011 Element is extremely spacious, with useful and innovative cargo options. Not only that, but reviewers find its layout and quality are in line with other Honda cabins. But there is a snag -- some reviewers find the seat cushioning lacks depth, and note that thigh support is poor.

  • "Assembly quality is Honda-typical, but Element's cabin is decked out with lots of hard plastic with unappealing textures. It's in step with Element's utilitarian goals, but nearly all its rivals have nicer appointments." -- Consumer Guide
  • “Although we were happy to finally see navigation in the Honda Element, the ancient system embedded into the dashboard was a bit of a letdown. iPod integration was a nice feature, but the audio system didn't sound particularly good, and the absence of a Bluetooth option shows that Honda hasn't really made the Element a real tech car.” -- CNET
  • “Oh yes, and the floor is covered in rubber dog bone logo material that is waterproof. That means this Honda Element is puppy proof, if you know what I mean. … The Honda Element with Dog Friendly Package is one vehicle that is high on utility." -- Examiner.com

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Seating

Reviewers like the 2011 Honda Element's versatile four-person seating -- rear seats can fold flat to the floor, fold up and to the sides, or even be removed altogether. Honda says there are 64 different cargo and seating configurations possible in the Element. However, ultimately test drivers find the cushioning lacks sufficient support. The rear doors, which only open once the front doors are opened, can make it difficult to get in and out when the Element is parked in confined spaces.

In line with the Element’s functional pedigree, all models come with water-resistant fabric in the front seats, and EX models add it in the rear seats as well.

  • "Ample adult-size room, but hard padding is not conducive to long-haul comfort. The standard driver-seat height adjustment is welcome, but it has limited range and a tedious handwheel control. ... The rear bench suffers even skimpier padding than the front seats, and its undersized cushion and backrest further detract from comfort." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Honda Element seats only four -- a disadvantage compared to other compact SUVs -- but rear passengers enjoy ample room and excellent visibility, thanks to the theater-style seating." -- Edmunds 
  • "My human passengers found the front seat comfortable, but did not particularly enjoy the back seats. First, they felt that they were riding too high (a 5'8" female said her head nearly touched the roof). Second, the side rear doors will only open when the front door is open (but this was only mildly inconvenient)." -- About.com
  • "If you need to load children into the back seats you'll want to pull it out of the garage first. Why? You can't open the rear half-doors without first opening the front doors. And since they swing in opposite directions, well - visualize the logistical challenges of doing all this in a confined space. You will utter blasphemous things. In front of your kids." -- Autoblog

Interior Features

The Element's cabin is more durable than convenient. While writers praise the SUV's easy-to-clean polyurethane floor, they have trouble reading the controls.

The Element LX is rather sparsely equipped. It comes standard with a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, air conditioning, cruise control and remote entry. The EX trim adds a more powerful stereo that’s satellite radio ready and can play MP3 and WMA files. An auxillary input jack also comes on the EX model, as do steering-wheel mounted audio controls.

The few options available for the EX include a USB audio interface and Honda's Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition and a rearview camera. Note that some reviewers find the navigation system difficult to use.

  • "Element has simple, convenient climate and audio controls. Hooded gauges are hard to see in some light conditions, and are partly obscured for tall drivers by the steering wheel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The newly optional navigation system was easy and quick to program, though the controls were inconveniently small, and the overall sophistication can't match the Honda system in, say, the Pilot SUV. The navi comes with backup camera that presents a reasonably clear image on the navi screen." -- USA Today
  • "The navigation system, although old even by Honda's standards, proved useful in our urban errand running as it offers one of the most complete points-of-interest database we've seen in a car. … But this DVD-based system has few other features to recommend it. The maps' jaggy letters reveal low resolution, and only display in 2D. There are no external data sources, such as traffic or weather. It is about as basic as you can get in a car, and similar to those we've seen for five years in Honda vehicles.” -- CNET 
  • "The Element's nav/audio system is, blessedly, the same touchscreen unit you can get in the Civic, meaning it's generally intuitive to use. One thing that makes no sense, however, is that Bluetooth connectivity is not available at all. That's particularly vexing considering the Element's nav system takes voice commands, so the in-car mic and steering wheel controls are already there." -- Autoblog

Dog-Friendly Package

Available on EX model only, the new Dog-Friendly Package is the only one of its kind on the market. It costs $1,000 and comes with a multitude of fur-friendly accessories. In the cargo area is a custom-fitted, soft-sided crate with a spill-resistant water bowl and bed pad. There’s even an electric cooling fan mounted there, as well as a portable ramp to help dogs access the crate and cargo area. While dog owners report only good things about the crate, many of them say the ramp is difficult for most dogs to use.

In the cabin, dog-friendly features include washable and removable dog-patterned rear seat covers, dog bone-patterned heavy-duty floormats, and an accessories bag with a collar, leash, poop-bag dispenser and ID tag. On the outside, dog-friendly models even proudly announce their dog-loving intentions with paw print badges for the tailgate and fender flares.

  • "Should you choose to have your dog ride in the main passenger compartment instead, the back seat has a dedicated cover for this specific purpose. Combined with the easy-to-clean rubberized floor and included full-vehicle-width mats, the Element is a great dog car (or kid car, for that matter). Hell, it's well-suited to canine duty even without the special package, though having that crate adds a large degree of safety for all occupants, dog and human alike." -- Autoblog
  • "Element owners who frequently transport a small-to-medium-sized dog should check out the new Dog Friendly kennel. We've tested it and it works fairly well, though it does take up the space otherwise occupied by the rear cargo area and blocks rearward visibility." -- Edmunds 
  • "We set up the two-piece aluminum ramp that stows neatly under the kennel in the cargo compartment and tried to coax Grady to walk up the ramp. But having never used a ramp and being wholly unfamiliar with the intricacies and physics behind the inclined plane, Grady flatly refused to use it." -- Car and Driver
  • "Most dog owners agree that a kennel in the back of the vehicle is convenient and safe, and we all know that dogs love soft beds. Because these are built-in features, they are that much more appealing. Dog accessories appear to be constructed with high-quality, durable, washable materials." -- About.com
  • "My dogs are used to riding in a crate, albeit not one with a cushy bed inside it, and they seemed to enjoy this one as we drove to Balboa Island to view the holiday lights. Because of its soft sides, I didn't worry as much about them getting banged up if I made a quick turn, and I loved being able to put all three of them in it, with room left over.” -- DogCars.com

Cargo

Cargo is one of the Honda Element’s greatest strengths. Its cargo-van-style rear doors open up to a huge space and make loading items easy. The Element’s urethane-coated utility floor is easy to clean and nearly scratch- and puncture-proof. The Element also comes with cargo-area storage bins, two hooks, and four tie-down anchors.

The Element provides 25.1 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in use, or 74.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Reviewers say the seats flip up or fold down easily to increase space, and are even removable. Just remember that adding the Dog-Friendly Package fills the cargo area with a kennel that takes some work to learn how to remove.

  • "With the seats suitably arranged, Element can tote a 10-foot surfboard or sleep two adults who are less than 5-feet-9 inches tall with the hatch closed. There's a useful 25 cu ft of cargo space behind the split rear bench, whose sections stow quickly but are difficult to remove or install. Cabin has loads of nooks for small stuff." -- Consumer Guide
  • "With its cargo-van-style side doors, the Element allows simplified loading of bulky cargo, and to optimize utility, the rear seats can be either flipped up to the sides or removed completely." -- Edmunds
  • "Honda wins points by making the rear seats fold up into the sides of the car, allowing cargo room from ceiling to floor. We also like the clamshell rear hatch, which provides a bench for outdoor activities and picnics. The side doors are more problematic, as the rear doors can't be opened without opening the front doors." -- CNET
  • "Dog accessories can be removed from the rear of the vehicle if extra storage space is needed. The kennel and bed are attached with a series of straps and snaps, so they should be detached carefully. When trying to remove the kennel, I unfortunately missed some straps and actually broke the plastic latches. Once you see how everything fits together, removal and replacement is fairly easy." -- About.com
  • "The centerpiece of the kit is a crate secured to the Element's cargo bay via straps that loop right into the standard floor-mounted tie-downs. Once it's in there, know that you have zero storage behind the second row seats; the crate eats up all the usable space." -- Autoblog 
  • “While the accessories are a plus for certain dog owners, not every element of this vehicle is as well thought out. The suicide doors are a case in point. They can't be opened without first opening the front doors, and because of the direction in which they open, it's inconvenient and sometimes downright difficult to load items into the back seat, especially if you have other cars parked on either side of you.” -- DogCars.com

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