Small Utilities - Honda Element Vs. Pontiac Aztek

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 24, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Pontiac Aztek - 3rd Place

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    HIGHS: Transmission, cargo space, versatility, optional satellite radio, towing capacity.

    LOWS: Visbility, ride, fuel economy, fit and finish, no rear wiper.

    The Aztek is larger than the other vehicles in this group and, with the rear seats removed, it provides the most cargo space.

    Its styling, however, imposes serious functional tradeoffs. Visibility is poor and, with no rear wiper, it's even worse in inclement weather. Interior trim and fittings are flimsy. The Aztek also rides uncomfortably and handling is cumbersome. Reliability has been average.

    THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

    The Aztek delivers snappy, tossy ride motions, more like a truck based SUV. A full load helps dampen the ride a bit. The cabin remains quiet at speed, except for a little wind rush and some harsh engine growl when accelerating.

    Slow steering response gives it a cumbersome feel in corners. Still, it proved predictable and secure when pushed hard and it managed a modest speed in our avoidance maneuvers.

    The 185HP, 3.4L V6 provides adequate acceleration and only averaged 17MPG overall. It provides a higher towing capacity than the other car-based models in its class, but had to work harder than our Kia Sorento to tow a 3,500 pound trailer to 60MPH. The four speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly. Braking performance was very good overall.

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    INSIDE THE CABIN

    The interior is riddled with ill fitting parts, cheap plastics, and exposed screws. The seats are covered in abrasive fabric. Drivers sit high but can't see out well. The rear window is bisected horizontally, disrupting a clear view of the vehicles behind. The front seats are also not very supportive for long trips. The rear seat is spacious for even three across, but it's not well shaped and foot room is tight.

    Most controls are well positioned and easy to use but have an insubstantial feel. Gripes included a hidden, unlit flasher control, and an awkward reach to the seat adjustments. Our testers liked the XM satellite radio with its hundred-plus channels of high quality sound.

    Cabin storage includes the usual bins and pockets. The front has a pair of sturdy cup holders but the rear makes do with odd cutouts in the doors. The rear seats can be folded, tumbled, or removed one at a time. With both removed, cargo volume is a cavernous 49 cubic feet. The top part of the rear hatch is very heavy and hard to open and close.

    SAFETY AND RELIABILITY

    Side air bags are standard with AWD or optional on front wheel drive Azteks. The three rear shoulder belts have guides to help them fit older children. The adjustable head restraints are sufficiently tall up front but too low in the rear. Daytime running lights are standard.

    Securing child seats with the safety belts should pose no problems, but securing a top tether strap can be difficult. The left and right lower LATCH anchors are easy to reach.

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    The Aztek has had an average reliability record since its release.

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    Honda Element - 2nd Place

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    HIGHS: Braking, transmission, versatility, cargo space.

    LOWS: Ride, road noise, driving position, load capacity, visibility.

    The Element's boxy, offbeat styling generates a lot of attention, but the vehicle itself is fraught with compromises. It has a cavernous interior, but it's only a four seater and, with a skimpy 675 pound load capacity, it can be easily overloaded. The vehicle handles nimbly in routine driving, and has a smooth, refined powertrain. The vehicle is marred by a overly choppy ride, noisy cabin, an awkward driving position, and obstructed visibility.

    THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

    The Element shakes its passengers with a stiff, unsettled ride which is noticeably worse for rear passengers. Marked wind and road noise enter the cabin at speed.

    The Element corners well, with good steering feel and well suppressed body roll. It behaved predictably when pushed to the limits at our track, but the tail tended to slide out in the left/right transitions of our avoidance maneuvers.

    The 160HP, 2.4L four cylinder engine revs smoothly, and the four speed automatic transmission makes quick, silky shifts. Acceleration is adequate, expect overall fuel consumption of 20MPG. A five speed manual transmission is available with front wheel drive Elements. Braking performance is excellent.

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    INSIDE THE CABIN

    With its flat walls and distinct corners, the functionally oriented interior makes the most of the vehicle's small size. Trim pieces fit flawlessly. The rubber matting that substitutes for carpet, however, gets very dirty and slippery in wet weather.

    Wide pillars restrict the view out of both the front and the sides. The driving position is awkward with along reach to the steering wheel. The front seats are fairly comfortable, but flat and very firm. The rear offers only two seats and they aren't comfortable. All four seats fold flat, forming a sort of double bed that occupies the whole interior.

    Getting into the rear is a major nuisance, if there are front occupants, they have to remove their safety belts because they're anchored to the rear doors.

    Gauges are legible and most controls are simple to use. Minor complaints included very stiff seat height adjusters and a long reach to the master cruise switch. The cabin has a wide assortment of bins, pouches, and pockets. Three sturdy cup holders serve the front with another sturdy pair for the rear. A compact spare stows beneath the floor.

    SAFETY AND RELIABILITY

    With the aid of sensors in the front passenger seat, the passenger side air bag doesn't deploy if a person is leaning into its path. The four head restraints adjust but the rear pair is too low to help in a rear end crash.
    Child seats should fit securely, and there are easily accessible top tether and lower LATCH anchors.

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    We expect the Element's reliability to be better than average.

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    Subaru Forester - 1st Place

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    HIGHS: Ride, handling, steering, brakes, ergonomics.

    LOWS: Gated shifter.

    The Forester rides and handles like a good sedan and provides quick acceleration with good fuel economy for this class. The controls are well laid out and the interior is nicely finished. Access is very easy and seat comfort is excellent. Good reliability and offset crash test results are two more pluses.

    THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

    The Forester soaks up road bumps very well, and little noise intrudes into the cabin at speed. Quick, well weighted steering and nicely damped body roll make for agile handling in everyday driving. Despite the fact that the tires aren't very grippy, the Forester proved secure and forgiving in our double lane change avoidance maneuver.

    The 165HP, 2.5L four cylinder engine helped provide acceleration that was only slightly behind the 192HP V6 Kia Sorento, and quicker than the others in the group. Overall fuel consumption of 21MPG is the best in class. The four speed automatic shifts smoothly but a zigzag shift gate is a nuisance. A five speed manual is standard. The AWD system performs seamlessly on all surfaces in all conditions. Braking performance was excellent overall, the pedal travel is a uncomfortably long.

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    INSIDE THE CABIN

    The interior reflects good overall workmanship despite some insubstantial pieces. Drivers of nearly any height should find a good driving position. The deeply sculpted front seats are firt and supportive and offer manual height adjustment. The rear holds two six footers with easy or three in a pinch.

    The gauges are well positioned and legible. Most controls are well laid out and easy to reach and use. Minor complaints included unlit power mirror switches and very small audio buttons. The climate control system is simple and effective. The cabin has a generous assortment of pockets, nets, and bins. The front has a sturdy pair of cup holders, while the rear pair are flimsy.

    The Forester has lots of cargo space and the rear seatbacks fold flush with the load floor. You have to disconnect the center shoulder belt to fold the right section though. A well beneath the load floor holds a full service spare on a steel rim and provides a handy space to stow cargo.

    SAFETY AND RELIABILITY

    All outboard shoulder belts adjust for comfort. The four main head restraints are also adjustable and tall enough even when all the way down to prevent whiplash injuries. The center rear restraint is too low for adults. Daytime running lights are standard.

    Most child seats should cinch securely in any rear seat, but a wide child seat base in the center rear may block access to the safety belt buckles. There are three top tether attatchment points and two lower LATCH anchors.

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    The Forester's reliability has been above average.

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    SHOP SMART - small utility vehicles

    In addition to the Subaru Forester, other good choices include the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Both are priced between $19,000 and $23,000. They have flexibile interiors, capable handling, a carlike ride, acceptable acceleration, and good fuel economy for their class. Both are reliable and the CR-V has impressive crash test results. The $22,000 Hyundai Sante Fe is also a sound choice, although acceleration and fuel economy are only so-so.

    For those who do serious off-roading, our only recommendations are the $24,000 Jeep Liberty and Suzuki XL-7. On normal roads, their handling is secure, but the ride can be jittery, and acceleration and fuel economy are nothing special.

    Small Utility Vehicle Ranking Overall.

    1 - Subaru Forester
    2 - Toyota RAV4
    3 - Honda CR-V
    4 - Hyundai Sante Fe
    5 - Ford Escape
    6 - Honda Element
    7 - Mitsubishi Outlander
    8 - Saturn VUE
    9 - Land Rover Freelander
    10 - Suzuki XL-7
    11 - Jeep Liberty
    12 - Kia Sorento
    13 - Pontiac Aztek
    14 - Nissan Xterra

    June 2003 Consumers Union
     
  2. twofourtysx

    twofourtysx New Member

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    trishields threads > *
     
  3. Nyce

    Nyce .

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    i like the forester :cool:

    asstek is a fucking wreck.. there is one in front of my house right now, it's making me sick.
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Subaru > Honda.

    The Aztek and Element are a waste of labor and materials.
     
  5. alphasilvia

    alphasilvia Guest

  6. koli

    koli Guest

    My friend has a Forester. Nice automobiles, his is a stick shift but it is still very slow (4 cyl)
     
  7. alphasilvia

    alphasilvia Guest

    element is a fine vehicle. i drove one and actually liked it. its amzing how much leg room is in the back seat and then even cargo room behind that
     
  8. DMClark

    DMClark Active Member

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    The Element's wheel look like they were pulled right out of someone's ass.
     
  9. ludacris

    ludacris Holla.

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    I might be getting a 98 or 99 forester sometime this weekend...those look a lot uglier tho :hs:
     
  10. alphasilvia

    alphasilvia Guest

    and isn't that a base model element? why dont they use a 4wd model. or maybe that is i dont know. either way, element/cube style cars own
     
  11. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Price as tested,

    Pontiac Aztek - $27,986 :ugh:

    Honda Element - $21,310 :greddy:

    Subaru Forester - $22,170 :eek:

    For the money, the choice is a no brainer. Subaru > Honda.
     
  12. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    AWD, EX, automatic.
     
  13. P-chan

    P-chan New Member

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  14. jsmonet

    jsmonet egg

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    are you on crack? they aren't ugly, just boxy. pretty damn nice too.

    if you go new, the upcoming forester 2.5tx(??) i believe is a 2.5 liter turbo making 210hp or so. no, you aren't getting the sti block. it's still a nice setup that will make a little better low end than my wrx. it's a very nice choice, but i'm unsure of the pricing right now... *heads over to subaru.com* figures, no info on that site. it was in one of their publications they send me though.

    bump up the price range a little and you can be in a legacy wagon :big grin: that's not really in the same category i guess, being more a competitor for the volvo v70 in size.

    oh yeah, the forester is not an suv. it's an impreza chassis with a very small lift. it's not even a crossover. trust me on this, it's a wagon. it's annoying that people want to call it an suv out of their lust for mini urban assault vehicles.

    wagon > stupid suv :o :big grin: (in LA, that is, where only 1% of the people with awd or 4wd will go off-roading or at least play in the snow)
     
  15. UCFGavin

    UCFGavin Active Member

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    :werd:
     
  16. Supertrapped

    Supertrapped President of 2:73

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    Don't forget, the Aztec has all that cool extra shit like a bed and attachable tent feature, etc.
     
  17. ludacris

    ludacris Holla.

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    98-02 looked bland and i thought the back of the earlier ones looked ugly...huge taillights and it looked like it was sad or something.

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    But everything else about it i like...car-like handling, big trunk, fuel economy, etc.
     
  18. jsmonet

    jsmonet egg

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    i realize the new ones look a lot better :)

    car-like handling because it IS a car, btw. impreza chassis, tiny lift, pretty much the same setup as the impreza outback which has around an inch and a half more ground clearance than the normal impreza
     
  19. Zaffir

    Zaffir OT Supporter

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    Gotta love the Forrester.
     
  20. ludacris

    ludacris Holla.

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    yup..basically subaru just put a more 'trucky' looking body on an impreza chassis to get the people that were turned off by the wagony looks of the outback/outback sport...
     
  21. EdgeCat

    EdgeCat Guest

    Escape is the only attractive one of the whole group. GF is looking at a RAV4, though. :hs:
     
  22. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The cooler is nice too.

    The Aztek is full of terrific ideas in a very poorly executed vehicle.
     
  23. Mikel

    Mikel .

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    Both make me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a red hot spoon to ensure that I never, EVER have to look at them again.
     

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