Unless you happen to be a dog owner who commonly takes Rover on trips, there’s nothing new in the 2010 Honda Element wheelchair van. The “Dog Friendly Package” is an interesting marketing move, but the core vehicle clones the 2009 edition.
The Element handicap van may not offer minivan-style seating, but it surprisingly roomy for four and boasts adequate performance with a unique look. It’s a solid small crossover choice that will have appeal with many drivers and, surprisingly, with many wheelchair van shoppers.
The Elements offers plenty of space, tremendous seating flexibility and impressive safety.
Some aspects of the Elements design are awkward and it really can’t handle more than four passengers. Element lacks power and doesn’t do as well as it should in terms of fuel economy.
2010 Honda Element Overview
The Element retains the neat, small, boxy look it’s had for seven years. It remains a credible vehicle choice for those who don’t plan to transport more than three passengers at any given time.
It’s almost-novelty styling surrounds a solid, practical core. The Element handles well and has demonstrated impressive reliability. Although it’s small, it’s well-designed the center-opening side doors make loading and unloading easier than one would expect and the rear seats can be configured in a dizzying variety of ways.
The Element isn’t necessarily the best small crossover SUV for everyone. Other options pack higher levels of power and performance into equally interesting designs. However, the Element has enough going for it to justify consideration.
Trim Levels and Options
Honda sells the Element with three different trim packages. The entry-level LX and the mid-range EX are available in front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations. The SC, which is a slightly sportier edition, is only available in front-wheel drive. Wheelchair van buyers should know that the AWD variations position the driveshaft in a way that makes it impossible to lower the vehicle’s floor for improved access.
The LX has a nice range of features for a base variation. They include a 4-speaker stereo with a CD player, keyless entry, tilt steering, cruise control, moisture-resistant folding and removable rear seats, a driver’s seat that will adjust to different heights and a urethane floor for easier clean-up and greater utility.
The EX offers alloy wheels instead of the steel wheels offered on the LX. Other improvements include a nice overhead console, a center console with a cooler option, a 12-volt outlet in the rear of the vehicle, and an improved stereo system with steering wheel controls.
The sporty SC has a lower, tighter suspension, big 18-inch allow wheels, fancier grillwork, carpeting, an upgraded center console, more attractive interior trim and upgraded instrumentation.
Both the EX and SC support an optional voice-based navigation system with a back-up camera. The EX features the new “Dog Friendly” package which includes an enclosed kennel, a pet bed, a rear ventilation fan and other options designed to make traveling with man’s best friend easier and more comfortable.
One of the Element wheelchair van's greatest strengths is also one of its drawbacks. The compact SUV has the small footprint many buyers crave, but can only seat four people. Luckily, those four people do ride with plenty of space in the rather spacious cabin.
The exterior design features distinctive “suicide doors.” These make handling cargo easy, but do require that both the front and rear doors are opened in order for rear passengers to enter and exit the vehicle.
Over the years, the Element has lost some of its exterior plastic in favor of more attractive and durable metal. Its boxy design has remained consistent and the 2010 Element doesn’t break new ground in terms of exterior design.
The Element is a case of “it is what it is.” Some people love the look, others prefer a sleeker design. If the Element’s style resonates with you, you’ll adore its appearance. If you want something that resembles a more traditional automobile, you’ll probably have issues with the design.
All Elements come with a 4-cylinder, 2.4-liter engine that generates 166 horsepower.
That isn’t the worst engine to have under the hood, but the Element is a rather heavy little crossover and it doesn’t provide the kind of passing punch and acceleration many drivers would like. Performance in earlier models was heightened somewhat when the engine was coupled with a manual five-speed transmission. Unfortunately, Honda has abandoned that option for 2010, leaving drivers with only their five-speed automatic transmission.
The front-wheel drive Element rates at 25 mpg on the highway and 20 in the city. That isn’t as good as one would expect from a small vehicle with a 4-cylinder engine. To put it into perspective, the much larger Honda Odyssey minivan features a 244-horsepower V6 and an automatic transmission and manages 25 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in the city.
The good news is the fact that both the engine and transmission have been used enough to ascertain that they are quite reliable and durable.
Driving the 2010 Element Wheelchair Van
2010 Honda Element wheelchair vans ride firmer than most crossovers, thanks to a sporty four-wheel independent suspension. It handles very well and the steering is extremely responsive.
The boxy Element is anything but aerodynamic. As such, drivers can expect some annoying wind noise at highway speeds.
Overall, the driving experience is on part with most other crossovers. It’s slightly more responsive than average, but those gains are neutralized by the air and road noise considerations.
The 2010 Element Wheelchair Van
When most people think of wheelchair vans, they visualize ungainly full-sized vans. Those in the know realize that sportier minivans are also up to the task. Even they may be surprised that a small crossover like the Element can serve as a credible mobility vehicle.
Those who are looking for a sporty, interesting wheelchair vehicle and who aren’t concerned with transporting a great deal of cargo or multiple passengers may want to consider the Element. The popular X-WAV Honda Element conversion transforms the vehicle into a side-entry wheelchair van with style.
It’s possible to lower the Elements floor to produce a handicap accessible, passenger side conversion with a half drop or to create driver side access with a full floor drop. The Element can support powered ramps on either side or spring assisted options.
The Element is a very safe little crossover. It comes standard with antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front seat and side curtain airbags. The Element received a perfect five-star score in NHTSA crash testing and the highest marks from the IIHS, as well. It hasn’t been involved in any recalls as of the time of this review’s writing.