"Jack-of-all-trades, master of some"4.0 starson by joebobcat
Pros: Well thought-out package. Interior is comfortable and visibility is great. Handles great without being harsh. 2.5l turbo spits 265 horsepower to a great AWD system. Not much to not like.
Cons: Cheap plastic in the interior. The interior door handles especially feel thin and hollow. Engine requires synthetic oil and high octane gas. Stock radio is awful.
Summary: I signed up for the synthetic oil and premium gas when I bought the car. I can live with that. My only real gripes are with the quality of the interior plastic and the stock audio system. When I read the gripes about the "cheap plastic" by other reviewers I thought they were being nit-picky. Maybe so, but it's true. The stock radio is inexcusable. I run a commercial recording studio for a living, so I'm probably more picky than a lot of people, but the stock radio in my Honda Element was vastly superior. I would rather they had left the radio out altogether. It would have made it easier to replace it. The radio's bluetooth integration is only semi-functional, and starts my iPhone's iPod function whenever I get in. I've killed the phone's battery by not paying attention.
Gripes out of the way, I love this car. It is insanely fun to drive and seems very well built despite the materials used in the door handles and dash accents. Other contenders were the GTI and Volvo C30. The GTI was "meh". The C30 was great car, but its two doors and front wheel drive made it a little too impractical for a guy in Vermont with kids. Once I decided I needed a hatchback with four doors and AWD the decision was made for me, and I don't regret it a bit. I'll replace the stereo and live with the plastic-y accents. I just hope to not get too many speeding tickets.