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Review of the 2010 Honda Element with Dog Friendly Package

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Review of the 2010 Honda Element with Dog Friendly Package
Photo © Jenna Stregowski
For several years, many dog owners have been saying that the Honda Element is of the most dog-friendly vehicles on the market. Honda listened, and they took steps to make it even better. The 2010 Honda Element EX has the option to add a dog-friendly package, which includes a car kennel, dog bed, ramp and much more. So, when my dog and I had the opportunity to test drive this new Element for a week, we decided to give it a whirl.

Vehicle Basics and General Impression

The dog friendly package is only available in the Honda Element EX model, which has a base price of $22,635 - 23,885. The dog friendly package adds an additional $995. With destination and handling, that comes to a total MSRP of $24,340 - 25,590 (not including other extras). The Element has an EPA estimate of 19 city mpg city / 24 highway mpg. I tested the 2010 Element EX with 4WD and Navigation, with an approximate MSRP of $27,290.

For the better part of my adult life, I have driven Honda Civics, save the occasional rental. I have only driven a few SUVs and have never considered myself an "SUV person." I just don't like large automobiles and I prefer the more fuel efficient vehicles. I also must admit that I never found the boxy appearance of the Element very appealing. However, once I got a closer look, it really began to grow on me. All in all, I really enjoyed my time with the Honda Element.

I am no car or SUV expert, so I will give you the layperson's perspective. Driving the Element is a pleasurable experience. The vehicle is easy to maneuver and provides a pretty smooth ride. The interior is spacious and comfortable, but the vehicle itself is not too large. Basically, it does not feel like driving around in a tanker, which is quite refreshing. Below the dash and along the center of the roof, there are many convenient little compartments to keep small items in place. Side cargo doors open to a very wide space, making loading items and accessing the rear seats very simple. Also, the Element seems a bit lower than the average SUV, so getting in and out is simple.

Dog-Friendly Features

Photo © Jenna Stregowski
The stand-alone Honda Element is a very dog-friendly vehicle. Add the dog-friendly package, and it has just about everything your dog could need, including the following:
  • Rear car kennel (holds up to 80 pound dog; may hold multiple medium to small dogs)
  • Plush dog bed with washable dog print cover
  • Spill-resistant water bowl built in
  • Washable rear seat covers with dog print
  • Ramp with stow area beneath kennel
  • All-season floor mats with dog bone pattern
  • Electric fan
  • "Dog Friendly Extras" - tote bag, collar & leash, tag and bag dispenser
  • Three "Dog Friendly" emblems
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. The ramp is lightweight and easy to set up, though owners with medium and small dogs may prefer to lift their dogs in.

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.

You could buy similar items to canine-customize the car yourself, and you might save some money. However, if you are willing to pay for the convenience of having it all ready to go, you will find that the cost is well worth it.

The Cons of the Dog-Friendly Element

Nothing is perfect, and the Element is no exception. Here are some of the potential negatives associated with the 2010 Dog-Friendly Honda Element.
  • The built-in kennel organizer is designed for just one kennel to be placed sideways, so multiple kennels will not fit. This may be a problem for owners of more than one large dog.
  • There is no area to hold the dog leash after unloading. This can be tricky if you are alone and trying to replace the ramp and close the tailgate. A hook or hitch for the dog leash would be a nice feature to add (for safety and convenience).
  • Storage space is limited when dog accessories are in place. Those who plan to travel with multiple human and canine passengers may wish to add on a roof rack and cargo box.
  • 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).
  • Gas mileage is not great. But remember, I am not accustomed to driving SUVs. The EPA rating puts the Element right in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to SUVs, so this may be just fine with you.

The Pros of the Dog-Friendly Element

Photo © Jenna Stregowski
Fortunately, I think the positives truly outweigh the negatives in this SUV. Here's the upside of driving the 2010 Dog-Friendly Honda Element.
  • Kennel and dog bed are custom fit to the Element and offer a pleasurable riding experience for your dog. Plus, the setup is convenient for you and much safer that a loose dog in the rear cargo area (something I see a lot of - and it worries me).
  • Electric fan is a nice feature to keep the area cool for your dog.
  • Dog accessories are well-constructed and easy to clean.
  • Rear seats are removable, making extra space for cargo (or even more dog kennels).
  • Side cargo doors open wide, making it easy to access the rear seats and load large cargo items.
  • Offers maximum interior space in comparison to the compact exterior size.
  • A pleasure to drive
Overall, I really like the 2010 Dog-Friendly Honda Element. This is an ideal vehicle for traveling with dogs, whether for a day trip or a longer vacation. The four-wheel drive is a great feature for those who like to take their dogs camping or hiking, and everything in the Element is so easy to clean that you won't mind mud and debris. This SUV also gets around great in town. Living in a big city, I do a lot of parallel parking. The Element was easy to park, especially because of the backup camera (available in the EX with Navigation - I recommend it). For me, the only real drawback is the gas mileage. As I said, the boxy look is growing on me, but a more streamlined design couldn't hurt). Aside from that, the Dog-friendly Honda Element could be my next auto purchase.

Photos of the 2010 Honda Element
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