The Element followed a concept called Model X which was developed by a core group of Honda R&D engineers in 1998 and debuted at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Model X was designed to be an activity-oriented vehicle combining features of a pickup truck and a sport utility vehicle. The production Element debuted at the 2002 New York International Auto Show in March 2002.
The interior features TPO-coated textured urethane; stain-resistant fabric; individually reclining and removable rear seats that stow.
The rear-hinged rear side doors can open only after the forward doors are opened. To accommodate elimination of the B-pillars, the chassis has reinforced joints, strengthened lower side sills, larger cross members, enlarged rocker panels, and five bulkheads per side.
The 2.4 Litre K Engine, an i-VTEC four-cylinder engine produces 166 hp (124 kW) at 5500 rpm and 160 lb⋅ft (217 N⋅m) of torque at 4500 rpm. Drive is either front-wheel drive or optionally, 4 wheel drive — via a hydraulically actuated on demand system that engages with front wheel slippage, marketed as "Real Time" 4 wheel drive. The Element has a towing capacity of 680 kg, or 1500 lbs.
With projected first year sales of 50,000, the Element sold 67,478 units in 2003 in the U.S. By 2010, just over 14,000 were sold,and by December 2010, shortly before its discontinuation, production totaled approximately 325,000.
In 2007, the Element won the Dogcars.com "Dog Car of the Year" award because of its "versatile cargo space, easy-clean flooring, crate-friendly rear design and optional 4 wheel drive." and in 2010 it won the "Small SUV" category as a "Top Safety Pick" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Annual Awards.
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