The Element handles nicely through curvy mountain roads. The AWD performs well in Winter conditions, but the undercarriage is low-slung, allowing little clearance. Predictable braking. Minimalist interior is quite functional, nicely ergodynamic, and easy to care for. Seats are firm, yet comfortable. At 22-24mpg, fuel economy is average at best. My girlfriend's Element shifts smoothly - mine does not- her Element brakes responsively -mine does not. Loud, squeaky rear suspension. DRL headlights remain "on" during engine starts, making cold weather starts a challenge - or even impossible. Reliability has been abysmal. Radiator self-destruction. Heater trouble. Charging system problem.
The boxy form of the Element enables it to accomodate an amazing array of stuff. Mountain bikes stand upright. Two people can sleep lengthwise on it's flat vinyl floor. Firewood one day, four skiers and gear the next.
Fuel tank needs skid plate. Do not buy an Element with DRL. Interior needs tie-down hooks on ceiling, floor walls and tailgate. Tailgate needs an inside door latch lever. (Must exit through driver/pax door.) If you buy a new Element, watch out for Honda's very short vehicle warranty.