Honda’s Element SUV proves that being useful can be enough to overcome an extreme case of the uglies. It’s similar to a yoke of oxen – not pretty, but it gets the job done. This box on wheels, now available with body-colored panels below the beltline that help take the edge off its appearance, offers four-passenger seating, countless interior configurations, rubber flooring for easy cleaning, a rear moonroof for stargazing, and wide-opening clamshell doors for easy access. Plus, it’s got more headroom that most drivers will ever need. But there’s no denying – the styling will make your eyes bleed.
Compensation for ocular discomfort comes in the form of the 2006 Honda Element’s 2.4-liter, 16-valve engine that cranks out 156 horsepower and 160 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission that drives the front or all four wheels. However, the only configuration that qualifies for this list is the clutch-less front-wheel-drive model, which the EPA claims will reward its buyer with up to 22 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg in mixed driving. Four-wheel-drive Elements and those with manual trannys carry an estimate of 22 mpg or 23 mpg combined.
Prices for the 2006 Honda Element start just under $18,000 and climb to over $21,000. An automatic transmission tacks on $800.