Every now and then, you’ll still see one roaming the streets, flaunting its fun spirit in your face and reminding you that you didn’t purchase it in time. You might even see commercial fleets of them parked in warehouse parking lots or zipping around resorts, transporting guests from the clubhouse to the beach. We’re talking about the Honda Element, and it’s a vehicle people inquire about at just about every used Honda dealer.
This crossover SUV was only on the market from 2003 to 2011, and unfortunately, it saw underwhelming sales during that time. People were too concerned with more traditional SUVs and didn’t quite yet appreciate the beauty of the Element. So, Honda discontinued it, only to realize years later that there were actually many silent fans of this boxy crossover. Some say it might be coming back. The rumors have been buzzing for years. So, will it be returning? And why do people absolutely swoon over this cube-like SUV? Here’s what we can tell you.
A Quick Look at the Legacy of the Element
Honda originally released the Element to attract young adventurer types. In fact, its look was inspired by a lifeguard station, and that curved rooftop is supposed to look like a surfboard. So, Honda certainly had the youthful thrill seeker in mind when they designed the Element.
Ultimately, the Element didn’t catch fire with young adrenaline junkies as Honda had hoped. It was more popular among pet owners and parents who had to do big hauls at the grocery store. And, it wasn’t even popular enough with them, as it greatly undersold compared to Honda’s other SUVs during its years on the market.
Why It’s Prime Time to Bring It Back
So why is now a prime time to bring it back? You may have noticed that other boxy SUVs and crossovers have become popular, like the Kia Soul and Scion xB. In fact, Kia ironically (or brilliantly?) released their Soul just two years before Honda stopped making the Element. It’s almost like they saw the tidal wave of demand for such a car coming. They were focused on the future potential, while Honda was concerned with the historically low sales of the vehicle. Now, people love the Soul. So clearly, there’s a demand for these types of vehicles. But why?
Our assumption: the DINK households. That’s dual-income-no-kids households. Millennial, child-free homes are on the rise, so you have more young couples who have the money and time for weekend adventures and are looking for a vehicle that’s up for the challenge. Plus, DINK drivers might specifically want an anti-SUV––one that does not look like the ones spotted at school pickups because that’s just not who they are. A boxy crossover like the Element meets all those qualifications.
It Was a Camper’s Dream
The Honda Element is about as good as it gets if you want a car that’s basically a camper but isn’t a camper. It has suicide doors that let you completely open up the sides with no dividing element between the front and back, creating a massive space that you can easily get, say, a mattress into. And that could be easily done because the seats fold down completely flat. On that note, the seats themselves could fold into a functional bed, so this crossover was clearly designed for those who wanted to do some outdoor sleepovers without actually sleeping outdoors.
Some models even had a manually removable sunroof over the cargo area, giving you a way to enjoy the view and a nice breeze wherever you choose to set up camp for the night. And in the cargo area, you find a 12-volt charger that’s perfectly placed for times you have folded down the seats and turned the rear into a mobile bedroom.
There have been stories of people outfitting the Element with a lift kit and some more substantial wheels, making it capable of a bit more off-roading and ready to take adventurers wherever their hearts desire. If you follow any #VanLife bloggers or influencers, pay close attention: you’ll probably notice many have a Honda Element.
It Was Ideal for Dog Walkers
One group that really cried out in despair when the Element was discontinued were dog owners and dog walkers. Anyone who takes several dogs on pack walks knows the Element could not be beat. You could create so much space in the rear area with those foldable/removable rear seats. You could swing open the suicide doors to let the dogs jump in and out with ease. Plus, the floors are plastic, and the seats are stain-resistant, so it was okay if a pup made a mess.
The trunk of the Element is also great for dog walkers because it has two parts: a top section that pops upward like that of a traditional SUV and then a tailgate that folds down, like one you’d find on a truck. So, you could choose to pop open just the top section to check on the pups, give them some treats and handle other doggy duties without worrying they’d jump out.
DIYers Dug It Too
Many DIYers would outfit the walls of their Element with shelving. Guess what? The rear seats not only fold down but they can be completely removed, turning the rear area into a functional workspace. And again, those plastic, washable floors are a big help for DIYers who might spill some paint. Then there’s that handy liftgate. When folded down, it allows unobstructed access to tools, gear, and more. Or, it provides a nice surface to have some lunch between tasks.
So Is It Coming Back?
There are no official reports of the Honda Element coming back. There are whispers (okay, more like very loud conversations) on the Internet about Honda bringing it back for either the 2023 or the 2024 model year. There are even rumors that it would come back as an electric vehicle, which would make it extra appealing to its target DINK demographic, who tend to care about the environment.
These are, however, just rumors. The only reason they manage to keep spreading is that Honda hasn’t made any effort to stop them. And surely Honda is aware of the rumors (do a quick search yourself, and you’ll find they are truly spreading like wildfire). So, it does beg the question: why hasn’t Honda put out an announcement either confirming or denying the rumors? Maybe they do want to leave the door open. Maybe the 2024 Element is being designed as we speak. What we do know is that if they bring it back, we’ll welcome it with open arms.
If you are looking for a highly versatile vehicle for your active lifestyle and you’re interested in a used Honda, see if you can find an Element. They reportedly hold their resale value well, so you might pay a bit more than you’d pay for, say, a used Civic, but you’d be getting a lot of bang for your buck, too. Or you can wait to see if Honda puts out a new Element. However, we have our suspicions that if they do, they’ll be flying off lots quickly. The world wants this DIYer/pet parent/adventurer’s vehicle back ASAP.