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I had gone through several of these when I was researching the Element, as documented in my comments at the370.com (since we also own a 370Z, of course!)

The Cube was too flimsy. Door panels were about 6 ounces of rigid foam. The car felt dangerously unstable on a normally crowned two-lane country road. If I was driving 90%+ in the city and trading in 3 years, this might have been OK.

The Mazda 3speed "i" hatchback got on my short list as a performance alternative, and off the list after I drove it. I didn't like the idea of tapping another car in front or back and having to replace a couple thousand dollars of brittle plastic.

The Toyota/Scion xB was recommended, and lost out because Toyota zaps customers with add-on crap like a Bluetooth option for $300 ... instead of buying a $100 Garmin that has it built in.

Kia, Kia Soul, nice looking. But I drove a Sportage once and it felt like it offered all the protection and stability of a grocery cart at 70 mph. I just couldn't risk spending time seeing if this car company had grown a design pair. If you like the Cube but the styling's too extreem, the Soul's got your bag.

I backed into the Element by a process of elimination. The Insight and Fit were originally on my list, and the E wasn't. But the Insight was more a "first car" and missed some amenities like leather and HIDs. (The Prius had them, but the package pricing put you into the 30s. Not appropriate for a third car.)

I couldn't get to like the 2nd-gen Fit, despite all the good reviews. And I felt like we really needed more space -- trading down from a Yukon on the clunker program.

We had driven a CR-V and an RDX before we settled on a TL for her car back in the spring, so I knew the underpinnings on an E were solid. The styling always attracted me, but before the 09 tweaks, she had always called the car "hearse-like". When overstock.com told us we'd get $500 off invoice, and the fed clunker program turned my $2000 Yukon into a $4500 trade, we had to move. And so ... we're here! :)
 
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