The Honda Element’s dog package is a win-win for both Honda and dog owners. For Honda, it’s a way to attract some attention and customers to an appealing but aging model with minimal engineering investment. For dog owners, the affordable $995 package offers both the whimsical and the practical. For instance, the heavy-duty rubber floor mats with the dog-bone pattern are both fun and useful. The seat upholstery now has subtle drawings of dogs woven into it (don’t worry, it looks cool and you’d hardly notice it). Most important, there’s a comfortable and safe fabric kennel for your pooch that sits on a raised platform in the rear cargo area, and there’s a slide-out ramp so that small or old dogs can prance right on up into the kennel (which is like a tent) and plop themselves down onto the cushy bed. A built-in, spill-resistant water bowl and an electric fan offer relief during hot weather.
All told, the dog package is a neat new trick for the old Element.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
The Dog-Friendly Element seems a bit silly to me, made slightly obsolete by the fact that the Element is already so dog friendly without the $995 in accessories. With washable floors, durable fabrics, and the flip-up rear seats, the boxy Honda is a great choice if you’re frequently traveling with one or two large dogs. The new dog-friendly package, however, seems to cater to those who love to accessorize their pooch, which is really a niche of a niche.
The rear kennel is big, consuming the entire cargo area, and I personally wouldn’t want to deal with it every time I ran to the grocery store or needed to pack a suitcase. The ramp is also a bit clumsy, and it’s really useful only for a dog that’s too large to pick up and too old to get in on its own. The water bowl and the fan seem like gimmicky add-ons that would receive little use. I certainly like dogs, but I wouldn’t say dog lover is part of my personality. With that, I think the accessories prove to be more hassle than help in a car that already caters to canines.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I appreciate the likes of the Element, the Scion xB, the Nissan Cube, and the Kia Soul for their affordable, efficient packaging within small footprints. Unfortunately, the Element is perhaps the worst-driving boxcar of the bunch (not that any of the aforementioned vehicles are sports cars). The steering is slow and much less lively than what you find in most other Honda products. On the highway, the Element gets pushed around by the wind and is inundated with lots of buffeting sounds at about 75 mph with the windows closed tight (are the clamshell doors to blame?). The four-cylinder engine is also noisy.
Speaking of noise, the “Dog Friendly” components in the way back rattle around a lot. That said, the rear crate area has a very nice padded bed for canines that should help them tolerate being stuck safely in the back, rather than unsafely on someone’s lap (I’m used to small lapdogs, OK?). Methinks the Dog Friendly package goes too far, though: witness the dog silhouettes on the back-seat covers and the dog-bone icons in the floor mats. But to quote Eric and Joe … I suppose that the people “who love to accessorize their pooch” will also love these “whimsical” touches.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
As if a bumper sticker proclaiming your love for dogs isn’t enough, now you can get an entire vehicle devoted solely to Fido. I am dog friendly, and love a good mutt, but the cleverness of this $995 package is sadly trumped by the cheesiness. As Joe DeMatio made reference to, it’s a way for Honda to put an inexpensive new spin on a dated model.
The time I spent behind the wheel was short and unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to load my dog into it. However, I noticed that driving over unsmooth roads or crawling over something as simple as a speed bump creates a ruckus from the items moving around. This would grow tiresome. And the kennel takes up almost the entire storage area, so where do you put your non-canine cargo?
The Honda Element is already built for a dog-friendly audience, so to me a specific dog-friendly version just seams to be splitting hairs.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
2010 Honda Element EX 4WD with Navigation
Base price (with destination): $26,295
Price as tested: $27,290
2.4L four-cylinder engine
5-speed automatic transmission
Real time 4-wheel-drive
Honda navigation system with voice recognition and backup camera
270-watt XM/FM/CD audio system with 7 speakers and subwoofer and MP3/WMA playback
XM satellite radio
16-inch aluminum wheels
Options on this vehicle:
Dog friendly package — $995
– Dog friendly emblems
– Rear car kennel
– Kennel organizer
– Pet bed
– Stowable ramp
– Dog-pattern seat covers
– All-season dog bone floor mats
– Spill resistant water bowl
– Electric fan
Key options not on vehicle:
19 / 24 / 21 mpg
Size: 2.4L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 166 hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 161 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Weight: 3648 lb
16-inch aluminum wheels
Look for: Dog friendly features, ride, utility