2007 Honda Element SC review: 2007 Honda Element SC

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2.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The interior space of the 2007 Honda Element SC is extremely configurable for passengers and cargo, and the stereo offers MP3 and WMA CD capability.

The Bad Honda doesn't offer navigation or Bluetooth cell phone integration on the Element SC. The driving experience lacks character.

The Bottom Line The 2007 Honda Element SC doesn't have enough cabin gadgets to be considered a tech car, but it is very practical. It takes little skill to drive, and it can hold a lot of gear.

5.7 Overall
  • Cabin tech 6.0
  • Performance tech 5.0
  • Design 6.0

The so-ugly-it's-cool 2007 Honda Element SC eschews the rugged character favored by its model mates, the EX and LX, instead going for a more urban character. As opposed to the wash-and-wear interior of the other models, the Element SC actually has some carpet on which the passengers can rest their feet. Unfortunately, just because the Element SC is intended as an urban car doesn't mean it gets any better cabin gadgets than the LX and EX.

The utilitarian style of the Element is polarizing--a few people love it, but most hate it. But you can't argue with the practicality of its interior space. With the Element SC, you can fold the seats flat and strap them up to the sides of the car, creating a huge amount of cargo space. The clamshell rear gates offer easy access through the back, but the full door/half door combos in front aren't quite as generous. For example, the front door has to be opened for rear passengers to exit or enter through the small squeeze space afforded by the rear-side half doors. The driving position is comfortable, letting you sit up, and offers a good view of the road.

Test the tech: Photo safari
Because of its quirky looks and practical interior space, and because it's not really a performance car, we figured the 2007 Honda Element SC would work well as a photographer's car. To test this theory, we rounded up a photographer from out of town and took her on a quest for photo opportunities, promising to stop whenever she saw a particularly nice vista. Loading up the car, we didn't need all the space it had to offer--working photographers travel light.

We set our course south of San Francisco, heading toward Highway 1 on the coast. Our ride through San Francisco city traffic and onto the freeway was uneventful, as the Element offers an easy, if characterless, drive. The engine is peppy enough to push the car to freeway speeds safely and, with the five-speed automatic, driving it doesn't require a lot of thought.


We find a good place to pull off the road with the Honda Element.
We quickly got to the portion of Highway 1 known as Devil's Slide. Carved into the cliffs on the coast, this part of the road frequently closes due to parts of it sliding into the ocean. It's also very twisty, but with tourist traffic and road construction crews, you can't drive it fast. However, the views are second to none, and the high seating position of the Element combined with the all-around visibility gave our photographer plenty to look at. The rugged little Element pulled up the hills without complaint and handled the dirt pull-outs just fine when our photographer wanted to stop and get pictures.

As we continued our drive down the coast toward Half Moon Bay, our photographer took pictures out of the sizable windows of the Element, getting unobstructed views. But the Element isn't the greatest mobile photography platform, as its suspension isn't particularly soft.


The Element does its job in helping us get to fantastic vistas like this.
When our photographer voiced an interest in seeing redwoods, we drove down past Half Moon Bay, taking the Tunitas Creek Road up through the forest to Skyline. We've used Tunitas Creek Road as a proving ground for performance cars, as it has many challenging turns. It also has lots of broken pavement, but the Element charged right on up it.

The Element's big interior, large windows, and high seating position proved helpful for our photographer. While it feels rugged, like it can go anywhere, it doesn't have the clearance to get too far off the beaten track. It also doesn't have a navigation option, a serious drawback if you want to go exploring.

In the cabin
For a youth-oriented car, the Element SC is surprisingly lacking in cabin gadgetry. And it's not like Honda doesn't make excellent and affordable tech available in its other models. As we mentioned above, there is no navigation option for the Element. Neither is there Bluetooth cell phone integration. Which leaves the stereo.


An iPod can be plugged into the auxiliary audio input, but it's not true iPod integration.
The stereo has basic digital capability. It comes set up for XM Satellite Radio and its single disc player can read WMA and MP3 tracks. It also has an auxiliary audio input, so you can hook up an MP3 player. But there is no iPod option, something the 2008 Scion xB comes with standard. The stereo display shows track names and information for MP3 and WMA CDs. And we found it relatively easy to navigate through both XM stations and disc directories.

The sound system includes a 270-watt amp and seven speakers, including a subwoofer. We got adequate sound out of it, but nothing spectacular. It's a large amount of space for only seven speakers. The sub adds richness to the audio, rather than a heavy bass beat.

Under the hood
Driving the Element around town and over mountain highways was easy. The car has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 166 horsepower and 161 ft-lbs of torque. These numbers don't sound like much, but the engine is more than adequate for getting the Element around. We had no problem getting up to freeway speeds at on-ramps. Our car came with a five-speed automatic transmission, and a five-speed manual is available. The automatic worked quietly, shifting up properly, although not offering performance-oriented downshifts, which we wouldn't have expected anyway.


The Element goes where you point it, within reason, but the driving experience isn't engaging.
We mentioned the somewhat rough suspension on the Element above. The suspension is good in that it's not too soft and doesn't contribute to body roll in corners. Rather, it's somewhat rigid, damping out the bumps quickly. We were able to take the Element on rough roads without a problem.

The EPA rates the two-wheel drive Element with automatic transmission at 20mpg city and 25mpg highway. We came in at the low end of that scale, around 21mpg, a decent feat for a car with this cargo capacity. For emissions, it meets California's minimum LEV II requirement.

In sum
As a tech car, the 2007 Honda Element SC doesn't score particularly high, despite all the excellent gadgets Honda makes available in its other cars. Its stereo meets the basic requirements for a modern system, with its MP3 and WMA playback. Although slightly smaller, the similarly quirky 2008 Scion xB has much more to offer in the technology department.

The Element's main attribute is practicality. It drives along effortlessly, requiring little skill on the part of the driver. Its interior space can be configured in many combinations for cargo and passengers. And the exterior says that you are so cool, you don't care how ugly it looks.

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