"I've had a manual '04 EX 4x4 since new. I have approximately 95,000 miles on it to date. It handles well in all types of conditions. The turning radius and manuverability is better than my wife's '05 Accord. With the right tires, the thing is unstoppable in 12-18" of snow. Runs on regular gas and gets reasonable mileage for what it is, but engine is arguably under powered. Can't really tow anything with this vehicle.
The vehicle is not well sound-insulated and can be pretty loud (wind, road, and engine noice are pronounced). The ambient noise levels can make for difficult cell phone conversations at highway speed. The OEM stereo does well at drowning out the sounds of traveling though.
The interior is well thought out. It is more spacious than the outside would lead you to believe. The seats all fold flat so lounging and/or sleeping is nice. The rear seats fold up or come out altogether. I wish the front passenger seat was also removeable. The suicide doors are a neat gimmick, but not particularly useful and result in a lot of confusion for passengers who are unfamiliar. The OEM flip up/removeable sunroof is large, but in the rear so your cargo gets to enjoy it more than you do.
I'm on my fourth windshield (something I've never had a problem with on any other vehicle). One was replaced under warranty, the second was covered by a class action. The window replacement guys remarked that the Element windshields are more prone to chips/cracking in general and compared them to Jeep Wranglers in that regard. Otherwise no mechanical, electrical or other surprises. I've changed oil every 5-7,000 miles. No major tune ups required until after 100,000 miles. I've replaced the engine air and cabin air filters two times each. The OEM tires were replaced at 30,000 with BFG T/A KO's, which are still going strong [these add slightly to the road noise, but it was still loud with the OEM tires]. At 60,000 had the rear differential fluid changed. Proactively replaced the battery at 80,000 miles, but wasn't having any problems. The brake pads lasted 90,000.
I spend between two and six hours a day in this thing for work. I love it and highly recommend it. The latest CR-V and Element are clearly similar vehicles, just marketed to different demographics. While less utilitarian, the CR-V offers a more polished package, seats five (instead of the E's four) and remains nearly as versatile. We now have an '08 CR-V as well. We've only got 1,000 miles on it, but so far, so good. I recommend that as well."
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