The 2009 Honda Element wheelchair van maintains the popular look that’s been attracting fans since 2003, updating it only slightly with a more attractive front grill. Mechanically, it’s hard to find anything to differentiate it from last year’s edition.
Overall, the Element remains a reasonable choice for those interested in a versatile, small crossover SUV. The Element only seats for and it isn’t plush. However, it is relatively inexpensive, reliable and great for those who plan to use it as part of an active lifestyle.
You might not think of a little crossover with seating for only four as a wheelchair van, but the Element is capable for performing the task.
The Element handicap van is a bargain in its class with a very practical design. Those who like the squared-off look of the Element will give the accessible vehicle high marks for style and even those who aren’t so enamored will appreciate the cabin space it provides.
The 2009 Element is not the most comfortable vehicle in its class. It offers plenty of space, but is rather Spartan. The limited seating capacity will be an issue for many people.
2009 Honda Element Overview
The new Element has been slightly modified. Some of the plastic has been removed from the body and the front grill has been updated to resemble the one found on the Honda Pilot. Honda did away with the Element’s rear skylight for this model year, but added a voice-activated navigation system with a rear-view camera to most Elements.
The boxy design, the practical interior styling and the low price tag that have made the Element a popular small SUV since 2003 all remain in place. The center-opening side doors, the flexible seating and the easy-to-clean interior also make a comeback in the 2009 edition.
Trim Levels and Options
The 2009 Element is available in LX, EX and SC varieties. The LX and EX are offered as a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) crossover. The SC is only available in front-wheel drive. Those considering the Element for conversion to a wheelchair vehicle will want to look at front-wheel drive options. The AWD is built in a manner that precludes dropping the floor as part of the adaptation process.
The LX rests on 16-inch steel wheels and offers some basic features including the easy-to-clean urethane floor, moisture-resistant seats that are both foldable and removable, air conditioning, power accessories, tile steering, cruise control and keyless entry.
The EX’s features include alloy wheels, a useful overhead console, an improved audio system with steering wheel controls, a 12-volt power outlet and a center console with a handy removable cooler unit. EX and SC drivers can add an optional navigations system with a back-up camera.
The SC trim package gives the “outdoorsy” Element a decided more urban feel. It has a custom grill, a monochromatic paint scheme and a number of interior trim upgrades. The SC also brings carpeting to the Element‘s passenger cabin. The SC sits on a lowered, sportier suspension and features 18-inch alloy wheels.
The Element is a distinctive vehicle, inside and out. Opinions regarding its look vary, which isn’t surprising considering its uniqueness. The overall look of the vehicle hasn’t changed, but the additional of the Pilot-style grill and the removal of some of the distinctive body panels has softened its look somewhat.
Inside, the Element wheelchair van remains solid, versatile and eminently practical. This is a vehicle designed for actual use and it shows. The emphasis is on utility. The passenger seats aren’t uncomfortable, but it’s clear that the riding experience was of secondary consideration to Honda’s designers. They made it possible to quickly jettison those seats or to adjust their configuration meet the user’s needs. The center-opening “suicide doors” on both sides of the Element make loading and unloading cargo easy, although they do make getting passengers in and out of the back seat slightly more difficult.
The Element uses a 2.4-liter 40cylinder engine that produces 166 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission comes standard on the Element and a five-speed automatic is one of its most popular options. With the automatic transmission, the Element manages 25 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in the city. The manual transmission can improve those numbers slightly for city driving, but the loss in highway fuel efficiency eliminates any net improvement to overall efficiency.
Driving the Honda Element
The Element isn’t big, but it’s not light, either. As such, the 4-cylinder gets a workout. The Element doesn’t offer great acceleration and sometimes the vehicle feels slightly underpowered. Overall, the engine has enough muscle for make the Element credible.
The Element handicap van handles better than most vehicles in its class. The steering is very responsive and the low, athletic suspension allows the driver to really feel the road at all times. Those who are tired of the “mushy” driving experience provided by some smaller minivans and SUVs will be impressed with the Element on that front.
That does have a negative side effect in terms of comfort. At highway speeds, that finely-tuned suspension guarantees you’ll experience every bump in the road. If you’re interested in that more “rugged” sense of the road, you may not like the Element. Wind and road noise can also be a problem.
The 2010 Honda Element Wheelchair Van
The Element only seats four, but that doesn’t stand in the way of using at as a wheelchair van. The vehicles side door construction, clearance and flexibility make it a very interesting choice for those who only need a small wheelchair van.
Even large powered wheelchairs can make it in and out of the Element easily after a quality modification. The center-upon doors on both sides of the Element make it possible to choose between passenger and driver side entry. Those who modify the Element for wheelchair use generally drop the floor in either a full- or half-drop adaptation, install a power foldout ramp and right the vehicle with a kneel system to improve access angle and safety.
The Element offers a good combination of durability, style and amenability to modification
Honda Element handicap vans come with a great deal of standard safety equipment including all necessary airbags, antilock brakes, brake assist, 3-point seatbelts for all riders, Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist package and traction control. Its quality handling makes it even more accident resistant.
The Element received high marks from both the NHTSA and IIHS in crash testing and hasn’t been involved in any recalls of note.