You either love it or you hate it.

When it comes to the flexible, uber versatile, ultra hip Honda Element, there’s not a lot of middle of the road sentiment.

But if you happen to fall into the “love it” category, there are a lot of choices.

For the 2008 model year, the Element is available in three trim lines ranging from the “rugged” LX to the “refined” EX to the street “custom-styled” SC with an expanded color palette for ‘08.

Featuring rear side cargo doors that provide pretty much unrestricted access to the rear seats, the Element is somewhat unique in the market.

Capable of carrying four people and a wide variety of cargo needs with its completely fold flat cargo floor and flip-up removable rear seats, it is a sport utility that can handle both tailgating and side-gating.

It’s also loaded with a number of storage bins, cup holders and trays to store just about any item you might need on a weekend get-away or on the daily commute.

Powered by a spirited 166-horsepower (161 lb.-ft. torque) I-4 engine and mated to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, the Element is also available in either front- or four-wheel drive configurations.

With a base price starting at $18,980, it also has respectable fuel economy ratings for an SUV with a 2008 EPA rating of 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway while also being rated as a low emissions vehicle.

The 2008 Element also features quite a bit of standard safety equipment, including side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, front side airbags with passenger-side occupant position detection system, dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags, Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist and anti-lock brakes.

It has also earned the federal government’s top five-star crash safety rating for both frontal and side impacts.

Standard features include air conditioning with micron air filtration on all models.

What I do like about the Element is the diversification of trim lines — each one is very unique, opposed to just adding a layer of optional features.

Not that consumers don’t have options — there are plenty — but each trim line is uniquely tailored for a specific type of use and customer, ranging from those who plan to use the Element for off road adventures to those who want their vehicle to make a statement.

The options make it possible to customize the vehicle to fit specific wants and tastes.

One thing I will say about the Element is that it is extremely versatile.

And the more you drive it, the more it grows on you.

I’ve never been a big fan of the rear cargo doors. They are not easy to close and tend to add additional noise to the cabin.

I know, I’m getting older and I tend to notice these things a lot more than I did back in my younger days when I cared more about how many watts the stereo cranked out than how many horses were under the hood.

Performance, however, is not an issue with the Element. The 2.4-liter I-4 is a remarkable powerplant that does an excellent job of bridging the gap between being responsive and providing solid fuel economy.

For those in the market for urban utility with off road capability, the 2008 Honda Element is recommended for a test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at