2007 Honda Element LX
Now in its fifth year, the 2007 Honda Element is still one of the most distinctive vehicles on the road. Of course, its exterior shape, which one might suspect was penned by designers who watched too many Borg episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is the attribute that strikes first. It's relatively short -- 7 inches shorter than a Civic sedan, actually -- and surprisingly tall. And behind that cubist shape is a level of versatility that's pretty much unmatched by any other small wagon or SUV. Rather than have a conventional four-door setup, the Element's rear doors pivot backward a full 90 degrees. There's no B-pillar, so opening both side doors creates a very large portal in which to easily load passengers or bulky cargo. In back, the tailgate lowers like a pickup's and is split from the upper glass. The theater-style rear seats provide plenty of legroom and can be configured multiple ways. Remove the rear seats and you've got a midsize-SUV-like 75 cubic feet of cargo space to work with. Honda envisions the Element's versatility and optional all-wheel drive as making it the ultimate niche vehicle for active generation-Yers wanting to cart around their surfboards and mountain bikes. Certainly the Element will fulfill that role, but plenty of older buyers will find it useful for mundane tasks as well. Its main downside is its lack of family friendliness. It only seats four and those backward-pivoting rear doors can make kid-schlepping a pain. We like the 2007 Honda Element.