Vehicle Basics and General Impression
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.
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
Photos of the 2010 Honda Element