Ride & Handling

With its sport-tuned suspension lowering the ride height by about 0.8 inches, the Element SC rides like a tightly sprung car — think economy go-cart, not luxury sports sedan. Speed bumps and potholes intrude both in noise levels and ride comfort, but the suspension seldom feels disconnected or trucklike. It mitigates body roll unexpectedly well, and it settles down on the highway, resisting undue disruption and making for a relatively quiet cabin.

The EX rides much more agreeably, without the SC's jarring motions over speed bumps. As you might expect, there is a bit more body roll in the corners, but the SUV never feels unnervingly top-heavy.

At low speeds, the steering wheel in either trim level has less power assistance than I've come to expect from Honda; some may find it too hard to turn for their tastes. Outside of parking lots and driveways, though, the wheel seems much more natural, with a well-weighted feeling when pointed straight ahead, and direct, fluid motions while cornering.

Pushed hard in turns, the Element's front-heavy weight distribution can easily send the front wheels plowing wide — it's known as understeer, which is to be expected in a front-wheel-drive car. In bumpier corners, the buttoned-down suspension in the SC does a fine job mitigating wheel hop, which can make many cars seem unduly skittish.

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