Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2009 Honda Element If...
If you love traveling the great outdoors and need a smart, affordable vehicle to transport you and your many pieces of gear without hassle, the 2009 Honda Element will work for you.
You May Not Like The 2009 Honda Element If...
New-age styling may not appeal to everyone. Also, there is no V6 option and the Element’s four-wheel-drive system is not designed for serious off-road adventuring.
The 2009 Element gets a major makeover, with an all-new front end featuring metal as opposed to composite fenders, new wheel arches and new taillights. The rear skylight panel has been discontinued, but a new navigation audio unit with rear backup camera and USB audio input connector is now available on EX and SC trims. LX and EX trims receive a new center console, while the EX gains a removable cooler/storage box.
From the dash-mounted shift lever to the fold-flat rear seats that can be flipped up and secured to the sides, the Element’s interior is unlike anything else on the road. When the rear seats are flipped up on their sides, there’s a cargo area large enough to place two upright-standing mountain bikes. The front seats feature integrated safety belts and are surprisingly comfortable. They are made of a durable, washable fabric that breathes nicely, a benefit on hot days. On LX and EX trims, the floor is covered in rubber-like urethane, not carpet, so it can be cleaned up easily. The SC model features carpeting in the passenger cabin, but not in the cargo bay.
Easily recognizable at any distance, the Element’s boxy greenhouse, bright paint choices and forward-opening rear doors are only some of its unique styling features. The new front fenders are now made of metal, but the rear quarter panels remain painted composite plastic, which are less prone to dents and help reduce weight. The lack of a center pillar allows for large and bulky items to be loaded through the side doors, but the design precludes rear-seat occupants from exiting until the front doors are first opened. Those who prefer a more customized ride can opt for front-wheel drive SC trim, which features a more sporting appearance and sits slightly lower to the ground. Its 18-inch wheels and low profile tires not only change the Element’s personality, they help it perform better on paved roads.
The Element’s 2.4-liter engine is very smooth for a four-cylinder and quite strong for its size, with a good deal of torque for pulling and passing. The Element will easily cruise at 75 mph, and even accelerate up a highway grade in fifth gear. The Element’s ride and handling characteristics are much more akin to a sedan than a truck-based SUV. Once we adjusted to the long dash and squared-off hood, we found it easy to dart in and out of traffic and take sweeping curves and sharp turns with confidence. The steering and brakes operate with precision and predictable response, returning excellent feedback under all driving conditions.
Like all Honda products, the Element offers few options. The front-wheel-drive LX has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $21,000, while the four-wheel-drive model starts closer to $22,000. The EX models range from just over $23,000 to about $26,000 with the automatic and navigation. The SC trim rangs from around $24,000 to a high of $26,500. Other choices in this price range include the Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V and Jeep Liberty. A look at the Fair Purchase Price page shows the typical transaction price paid for the Element in your area, so be sure to check it out before you begin negotiating. The Element is expected to hold excellent residual and resale values, on par with the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, and better than the Jeep Liberty, Ford Escape and Nissan Xterra.
The 2009 Honda Element LX features a five-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, five cup holders, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with CD, rear defroster, rear privacy glass, dual power side mirrors, cruise control, tilt wheel, rear wiper/washer, power windows, steel wheels, side-curtain airbags, front side-impact airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). The EX trim adds a five speed manual (4WD only), alloy wheels and a 270-watt, seven-speaker sound system with CD/MP3 capability, removable center console cooler, 16-inch alloy wheels and an auxiliary input jack.
Options include Real Time four-wheel drive, a five-speed automatic transmission and a voice-activated navigation system with rear backup camera (EX and SC with automatic transmission only). Ordering the SC package adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a lowered sport suspension, piano-black interior trim, custom cloth seats, carpeting, center console, projector-beam halogen headlamps, a custom grille and custom-painted bumpers.
Fold Flat SeatsThe Element’s fold-flat seats can be converted into a bed by removing the headrests and laying the seats flat and flush.Worry-Free InteriorWaterproof seating materials and a urethane-coated utility floor give the Element a durable, easy-to-clean interior.
Under the Hood
Honda employs the excellent 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine from the CR-V to serve duty in the Element. This is a strong four-cylinder engine with a surprising amount of low-end torque that translates into quick acceleration across intersections and capable passing power on the highway. Fuel mileage is comparable to most small SUV’s in this class and, considering the Element’s boxy shape, roomy interior and large frame, that’s a commendable achievement.2.4-liter in-line 4166 horsepower @ 5800 rpm161 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/23 (FWD, Manual), 20/25 (FWD, Automatic), 18/23 (4WD, Manual), 19/24 (4WD, Automatic)
Honda designed the Element to appeal to young male buyers. The original concept, in fact, was touted as a "rolling dorm room," designed to appeal to those with active lifestyles and a limited budget. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Element not only hit its target audience, it picked up a number of unexpected buyers ranging from single moms to retired couples and everyone in between. The 2009 Honda Element is attractive to these folks for a number of reasons. It’s economically-sized yet large-cargo friendly, and the rear seats can be folded flat to create a two-person bed. The Element also gets reasonably good gas mileage, even when equipped with the optional four-wheel-drive system.