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I am new. I just took long test rides of the Element (E!) and the Aerio SX. Both have pluses and minuses. If both are marketed for first time and younger buyers, I think the Aerio may be a better, less-expensive choice. If you have the cash or have dogs/kids the E! would be better.

First the E!: I really liked the E!'s engine. Torquey, smooth, and responsive. The E! also had a great ride (smooth and firm at the same time) which I found very surprising. The dash was very modern (perhaps even ahead of its time) and the seats/floor would be easy to clean if there is bad weather or you have dogs. I think the flat folding seats and flip up feature are nice, but I doubt I would use them for sleeping and the rear side visibility would be dangerously impaired. The E!'s cargo floor is flimsy (65 lbs !?!?) but the large flat surface is nice (I ride bicycles). The pricing in Richmond, VA is not very friendly ($850 market value added to the MSRP). The EX does not come stock with a 6 CD changer or keyless entry. The pricing ($23,650 the way I wanted it) means it is a better car for well heeled Yuppies, not 20 something Gen Yers. The dealer said that older people are buying the E!, not the intended target group. The gas tank sits very low which is a bit concerning. The exterior is very interesting with a lot of rubber necking "what is that?" kind of looks.

Next the Aerio: The 145 HP enginge is responsive and well suited to this smaller car, although it is not as torquey as the E!. The AT is eager to down shift if you mash on the pedal so passing is no problem. You can get this car in wagon and sedan and with 2WD or 4WD (for only $1000 extra). The ride is firm and a little choppy, but not unexpected or unpleasant for a compact car. The car was solid with no rattles or squeaks and the handling was nimble. The interior is not as nice with a digital speedo (which I like) and black "mouse fur" velvet on the seats (which I did not like and would be a dog hair magnet). With the rear seat bottoms flipped forward and the rear seat backs folded forward, the cargo area is flat and good size. The rear cargo floor (wagon) is very sturdy (looks unbreakable) and underneath it is a multicompartment waterproof basin above the spare tire well. The pricing is very competitive with the Aerio SX AWD AT 6CD AC Keyless entry at $17,500 with a $2,000 incentive before negotiations. That means you can get AWD for about $15,000. The waranty is 7 years/100,000 miles and fully transferable. The look of this car is very distinctive. On my test drive I got a honk of approval from the driver of heavily modified Japanese import. With better gas mileage and a low price, the Aerio is a car Gen Yer's could afford.

In a perfect world the Aerio would have the E!'s interior and engine. As it is, it is hard to choose between the two.
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