The Element is a great car all the way around. I have the EX AWD version, and it handles great in the snow. It has never left me stranded, period. My car has over 200k miles, and you can't even tell at all. The engine runs like a million bucks and doesn't leak or burn any oil at all. It gets really good gas mileage for an AWD SUV (I average 20 city, 25 highway). I think it is a very sharp-looking SUV. I will say that it does seem to be prone to dings. This is a great SUV for you if you have animals that are going to be riding in your car, since it doesn't have any carpet. I love that feature! The seats are also water and stain resistant. I think the seats are comfortable despite this feature. I have taken my Element on road trips and it has been very comfortable. This is a great SUV and I definitely recommend it.
Recently retired and traded in a small pickup for an Element. Great vehicle! The plastic cladding on the exterior has protected me from a lot of rock hits. I have had it in a snow storm at Tahoe, camping at the coastal redwoods, hauling dogs and/or people and road tripping so this is a very adaptable auto. Added a trailer hitch for external bikes and a roof rack for a kayak. I will be keeping this Honda until Honda comes out with a diesel or hybrid 4 cylinder.
My husband and I purchased this car new and it has been a blessed experience thus far. It handles well, cleans up well and is holding it's value well. With 96,000 miles on it, we are grateful to God, that it has had no real problems, it has needed one set of breaks and a set of tires, with another one due here pretty soon. My husband drives this car almost everyday back and forth to work and it has been very reliable. AWD does seem to help it to handle well enough in the snow, and it's car we plan on keeping until it finally says no more.
This vehicle isn't a perfect fit for everyone, but you should consider it if you need lots of cargo room in a small package, you need a car that's easy to clean, you aren't a speed demon (acceleration is only fair and RPMs run pretty high even at 65 mph), you have to deal with snowy roads on a regular basis, you want a vehicle with a plethora of interior storage compartments, and you're poor (or cheap) enough that you'd rather sleep in your car than in a hotel room.