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2003 Honda Element Sport Utility Crossover

2WD DX Manual

Starting at | Starting at 21 MPG City - 26 MPG Highway

2003 Honda Element for Sale

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  • Average Retail is not available
  • $16,100 original MSRP
Printable Version

2003 Honda Element Sport Utility Crossover

Printable Version

2003 Honda Element Sport Utility Crossover


2003 Honda Element

Source: MSN Autos

Don't believe everything you hear about the 2003 Honda Element. Honda is pitching this newest sport-utility vehicle exclusively at young men.

But other kinds of buyers—women and older guys—also may enjoy the Element, its novel features and its affordable, under-$17,000 starting price. First, though, they'll have to get past the Element's odd looks and barebones floor.

No "cute ute" here
The Element is a boxy SUV with a look all its own.

Honda officials say it's supposed to attract young guys, average age of 22, who are college graduates and single and who are busy with friends, sports and hobbies. But the ugly duckling mix of gray/metallic-looking composite body panels here and there that break up the Element's paint scheme do have another purpose besides providing two-tone styling.

Made of polypropylene and devoid of paint, these panels resist scratches, so items like shopping carts can be safely propped against them. And those jerks who park next to you in parking lots and bang their doors into your vehicle may not leave a mark if the doors strike these composite pieces. The same can't necessarily be said for Honda's popular CR-V SUV or myriads of other SUVs.

Still, riders will quickly notice inside the lack of carpeting on the Element floor. Coated in urethane, the Element's floor is utilitarian, scratch-resistant and can be swept out with a broom and washed out by a wet cloth.

Unique side doors
The Element has unusual side doors, too, that can make loading big items much easier than in other SUVs. The two front doors on the Element are about normal-sized and open using front hinges. But the smaller rear doors operate clam-like, using rear hinges, and open all the way to a much-appreciated 90-degree angle.

Because there is no stationary structural pillar at the opening, this best-in-class, 55.5-inch-wide opening is not blocked in any way. It's a real bonus when you're struggling to get a large television box or awkward-shaped antique piece inside.

Note, though, that the rear doors can be opened only after the front doors are opened. An aside: Decades ago, rear-hinged side doors carried an unflattering name: Suicide doors.

Honda officials call the doors on the Element "side cargo doors," and they point out that the Element is designed with a reinforced vertical beam in the structure of the rear doors to help provide side-crash protection. Lower side sills back there and floor and roof cross members are strengthened, too.

In fact, Honda officials said they expect the Element to a "achieve five-star side-impact rating, the highest possible from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration." But at the time of this writing, because the Element is so new, NHTSA has yet to report crash test results.

Beds on board
If you've ever traveled a long distance and needed a quick nap to refresh, you'll also appreciate the Element's two built-in beds.

Basically, each materializes when the front and rear seats on one side are all reclined fully. Because the front and rear seats match up and touch in this configuration, there's a lengthy, nearly flat resting spot that worked quite well for a snooze for me. The Element's rear seats are noteworthy another way, too. They can be folded up against the side walls inside, one at a time, when you need more cargo room. So, it's a snap to get them out of the way and keep a flat floor for loading items.

The Element's front seats are covered in a waterproof-coated fabric, by the way. So snowy clothes won't dampen the seats. But I found this fabric to be cold-feeling to the touch, even on non-wintry days, and my purse and books slid off the front passenger seat easily and crashed to the floor when I stopped too quickly.

Rear seats in the Element have vinyl coverings and have an amazing amount of legroom—39.1 inches. There's only 32.8 inches in the second row of the Nissan Xterra, in comparison. And the two rear-seat riders in the Element sit up quite high. They even look down a bit on the front-seat riders. But note that rear-door windows open only a crack, like the back windows on many minivans.

Not a refined ride
Don't expect a cushioned ride in the Element.

Offered in front-wheel drive and available with Honda's Real Time four-wheel drive, the Element shares a lot of road bumps with passengers. In fact, I felt road bumps regularly in the test vehicle. On serious road bumps, the ride could be harsh. There's plenty of road noise, too.

But the front-wheel-drive Element held the road in aggressive curves with more gusto than I expected. The unnervy, tippy feeling that I figured would come quickly in this 74-inch-tall vehicle didn't really materialize as I had feared. Overall, while at the steering wheel, I felt like I was driving a squar-ish, tall room down the road.

The Element's platform is modified from the CR-V and the Element's track is wider. The front suspension uses MacPherson struts, while a double wishbone does duty at the rear. Tires, rather plain-looking, are all-season 16-inchers.

Four-cylinder engine only
The Element's only engine—a 2.4-liter double overhead cam four cylinder—uses Honda's intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Electronic Lift Control (i-VTEC) to get the most performance it can for low rpm torque and higher rpm horsepower.

Peak horsepower here is 160, which compares with 143 horses in the four-cylinder-powered Xterra. Note, though, that the Xterra, like many other entry SUVs, also offers a higher-power six cylinder.

The Element's maximum torque is 161 foot-pounds at 4500 rpm. The Xterra four cylinder has maximum 154 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. But I frequently heard the Element's four cylinder buzzing and straining when I'd slam on the accelerator to try to get past another driver, and I didn't get past very quickly.

Towing capacity for the Element is 1,500 pounds, and preliminary fuel economy ratings for the test, two-wheel-drive model with smooth-shifting automatic are 21 miles a gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Pricing is attractive
The starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of less than $17,000 makes the Element quite affordable. This is some $2,800 less than the previous lowest-priced Honda sport utility, the 2003 CR-V.

It's less than Nissan's Xterra, whose starting MSRP, including destination charge, is more than $18,500. And the Element's starting price is less than the Jeep Liberty's starting price of nearly $18,000.

But note the base Element DX, like the base Liberty, doesn't include air conditioning as standard equipment. And remote keyless entry is an extra on all Element models.

There's seating for four inside the Element, not the usual five seats found in other SUVs. And there's wind noise in the Element at highway speeds.

Lastly, it's a long reach down for someone my size—5 feet 4—to a coffee cup or soda placed in the front cupholders of the Element. These cupholders, you see, are mounted down at the floor between the front seats, not in some fancy center console.

Printable Version

2003 Honda Element Sport Utility Crossover

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Rollover Resistance

No consumer rating

Rate & Review

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel Disc Brakes Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std

Road Visibility

Fog Lamps Opt
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std


Alarm Opt
Anti-theft System Std
Printable Version

2003 Honda Element Sport Utility Crossover

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Corrosion 5 Years/50,000 Miles

Honda Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

Honda Certified Used Car Limited Warranty extends the non-powertrain coverage by 1 year/12,000 miles from the date of purchase or expiration of new car warranty date. In addition, Honda Certified Used Car Limited Warranty extends the powertrain coverage to 7 years/100,000 miles.
Age/Mileage Eligibility Model Years 2010-2015 with less than 80,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 182
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance No
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $0

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2003 Honda Element Sport Utility Crossover

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