Safety & Long-Term Ownership

Of late, Honda has taken to loading every car it builds with safety features, an initiative the automaker calls "Safety for Everyone." Last year's Element finally received safety gear commensurate with the rest of the automaker's lineup, including an electronic stability system and rollover-sensing side curtain airbags. Other standard equipment includes four-wheel-disc antilock brakes and seat-mounted, side-impact airbags up front, as well as the mandatory dual front airbags.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Element its highest crash-test rating, Good, for frontal impacts. IIHS has yet to test the 2008 Element for side impacts.

Child-seat provisions include Latch child-seat anchors embedded in both rear seats. Top-tether anchors for both positions are mounted in the ceiling next to the liftgate, a position that, if child seats are installed, could reduce luggage space.

Long-term reliability is typically Honda's forte, and the Element doesn't disappoint. Consumer Reports predicts the 2008 model should prove "much better than average" for reliability. Using Cars.com's Total Cost of Ownership tool, a 2008 Element SC is projected to cost $41,698 to own for five years, including depreciation. That's less than the Subaru Forester 2.5 X ($42,139) — despite the Forester's lower purchase price — or even a front-wheel-drive Toyota RAV4 Sport ($41,807). A less expensive front-wheel-drive Saturn Vue XE comes in at a predicted $41,705 for five years.

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