I know what your thinking, that is pretty...ugly. But I think I might love it, here's why:
It's a Stick. My wife taught me to drive stick when we first met. I was all "why would I ever want to do what the machine can do for me?" Wow was I wrong, driving a manual is so much more fun than driving auto, I have been missing it since we traded in our Toyota Celica 3.5 years ago. Driving stick feels like your in a racecar, I highly recommend it.
It's a Honda. I have had Ford Explorers (2 of them) over the past 8 years, drove one weeks after the Firestone fiasco cross-country to CA. The 2003 I just traded-in was a serious pile of junk. I committed to the first Explorer after a disastrous experience with a Nissan Sentra (transmission melted at highway speed, unable to shift). Since the first one made it to CA, I thought Ford had solved their quality problems, I couldn't be more wrong. The 2003 had over $3000 of warranty work done in the first 2 years. When I traded it in, the ABS light was on and off depending on the bumps, the door ajar light got stuck on hours before I was getting rid of it (Honda bonus: Element shows you which door is ajar), the passenger rear window was intermitent, and the passenger rear seatbelt was also spotty. I expect none of these problems with the Honda.
The Element is washable. There is no carpet, only pure rubber flooring and plastic. Seats are waterproof. Exactly what I have wanted. With a dog, kid, and beach/biking/skiing trips planned, why would I want carpet?
My son loves it. We have already decided the Element is a Transformer, Autobot of course. It helps that the seats are completely removable, has the funky edges and orange (officially tangerine) color, and suicide doors. Now all I have to do is put some stickers on it, or flames, and I am all set.
I got a great deal. MSRP was in the low $23,000, invoice was around $21,800, I got it for $20,200. I also got 2.9% financing on it, the lowest I have ever got on any loan, through a special Honda deal. And I got more trade-in value on the Exploder (feels good to say that when its no longer me it might explode on) than I thought possible with all those problems. Impossible to pass up.
Negatives. The Element only seats 4. This is only a minor issue, so it wasn't really a factor in my decision. Also, there isn't a lot of hidden storage, and you may not like the suicide doors. The iPod "connection" is a headphone jack and standard aux power connector.
I am really happy with the purchase, and it surprised me to have fun driving again. The Explorer had really made it a joyless experience.