Not Much On Looks

It isn't pretty, but the new Honda Element has its charms. For starters, there's the $16,560 base price. And the "suicide doors" (they swing open from the center with no pillar between them) make it easy to load gear like bikes, kayaks and surfboards. The seats and rubber-coated floor are completely waterproof, so just hose it out and you're good to go. The back seats fold flush to the sides, creating a flat floor big enough to sleep a couple of six-foot nomads comfortably.

If you haven't yet figured it out, Honda's aiming at a 22-year-old guy who lives for extreme sports. So I was tongue-tied when hoards of soccer moms came rushing over to check out the Element last week as I picked up my son from school. "It's sooo stylish," said one overage hipster. More than one member of Honda's target audience disagreed. "It's ugly," screamed a twentysomething guy as he pulled out of a gas station. I hope he wasn't talking about me. Thing is, the Element is cheap, roomy and doesn't guzzle gas. The high-riding vehicle with skinny tires felt a little tippy, so I took it easy on corners--something 20-year-old thrill seekers might not do. Maybe Honda needs to tweak its marketing plan.

Tip: Perfect for minivan drivers in touch with their inner teenagers.