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Cars for Dogs: 2009 Honda Element

Editor of Auto Restorer magazine gives the scoop on the best new cars for dog owners.

Editor of Auto Restorer magazine gives the scoop on the best new cars for dog owners.

You know there’s a good trend brewing in the automotive business when a major player like Honda builds a dog-friendly prototype of its already practical Element crossover. Among the canine components likely to be included in the production model are a cushioned pet bed in the cargo area; pet restraint systems; a cargo-area ramp that stores under the pet bed; a rear ventilation fan; rubber floor mats with a bone pattern; a spill-resistant water bowl; and exterior emblems that identify it as a dog-friendly vehicle.

Even without the addition of these special Fido features, however, the Element deserves to be on a dog owner’s short list. For starters, the 2009 Element has a new grille, front bumper, and hood, restyled front fenders with metal in place of composite material, and new headlight and taillight configurations.

The Element’s squared-off design translates into nearly 75 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats removed, comparable to a mid-size SUV. Other practical considerations: The LX and EX models come with moisture-resistant seat fabric and a liquid-resistant utility floor designed for quick wipe downs, both of which can come in handy when transporting four-legged friends.

Then there’s the side entrance configuration: The Element’s side doors are a “clamshell” design — the rear door opens backward with no center post — so entering the vehicle is easier, whether going in on two or four feet. A mild warning: You have to open the front door before you can open the rear door, and that tends to annoy some people.

Before you head over to your Honda dealer for a test drive, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Cargo area: In addition to 75 cubic feet of space, there’s a cargo-area light, four tie-down anchors, two hooks, and a rear 12-volt power outlet on the EX and SC models.
  • Safety: The Element received the top-level five-star rating for front and side impact protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but a three-star rating for rollover protection. There are front and side airbags for the front seats and side airbags for the second row.
  • The basics: Power comes from a 4-cylinder 166 horsepower engine. Five-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available, and stopping power comes from ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes. Four-wheel-drive is available, and towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.

Pricing starts at $20,175.

Ted Kade is the editor of Auto Restorer magazine.

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Article Categories:
Dogs · Lifestyle