My girl really wants an Element. I have no interest whatsoever in something with that much plastic-y, jutting trim on it...but they are extremely practical and a good value.
Value, and the availability of a manual tranny is basically what it came down to for me. Got my 03 for $6,000 with a 5spd manual. I had a few lifted jeeps and a lifted isuzu amigo. All of them were great but 14-18 mpg wasn't so great. I'm getting 22mpg on the highway, 23-24 around town with the element, lifted with +1 tires. The manual has a much shorter final drive than the automatic and actually gets worse gas mileage than the automatic does (probably the only car I've seen where this is true). Still though, automatics are garbage and I'd much rather select my own gears so I had to have a manual.
For anyone looking at an automatic model, my dad has one that's at 240,000 miles with the original transmission. No signs of slipping or improper performance.
They're also dead reliable. The K-series if well maintained is basically a 200,000+ care free motor. Even at 200K a timing chain tensioner, and a valve adjustment is probably all you'll need to do to it.