Hummer is known for building some of the biggest, baddest, but also thirstiest SUVs on the market. But not everyone needs to cross the tundra with hundreds of pounds of provisions. That’s why this new mid-size H3, the smallest Hummer yet, seems like the right vehicle at the right time. But does shedding size and weight also mean shedding what makes a Hummer a Hummer?

You have to be impressed with how GM’s Hummer brand is broadening their market. While retaining the looks of the original military H1, and the capabilities and comforts of the H2, the H3 stakes its claim with less bulk that makes a lot more common sense.

But first and foremost for Hummer fans, the look remains massive. From the seven slot grille to the brick-like, short-overhang styling, to its outside spare tire, the H3 is still every inch a Hummer, albeit one that’s easier to fit between the lines of parking slots, or between trees! With up to 9.1-inches of ground clearance, and the ability to ford streams up to 24-inches deep, the H3 is a far more serious off-roader than most of today’s SUV kiddy buses.

A big part of that off-road ability comes from its heavy duty front independent torsion bar suspension and the rear’s beefy solid axle with leaf springs and monotube shocks, while drive for both dirt and pavement is provided by GM’s 3.5-liter Vortec 3500 inline 5-cylinder engine. Despite unimpressive numbers, the dual-cam 5-banger’s 220 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque provided plenty of oomph to pump through the H3’s 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions.

Final power delivery is by way of a full-time 2-speed 4-wheel-drive system with locking center differential and traction control. Order the automatic transmission and StabiliTrak anti-skid is included. For max off-road prowess we suggest the Adventure Package with a lower ratio transfer case and locking rear differential.

Adventure also includes knobby 33-inch off road tires. Like the standard 32-inch all-terrain rubber, they’re mounted on 16-inch alloy wheels. It all moves along very well for a 4,700 pound truck, our auto tranny tester hitting 60 in only 10.2-seconds, and kicking out the quarter mile in 17.5 seconds at 81 miles-per-hour, but doing so with a more refined feel than the H2, and still able to tow up to 4,500 pounds.

While very much a middle-weight utility, the H3 is much lighter on its feet than many SUVs its size. Front push is moderate, and the power rack-and-pinion steering delivers decent feedback.  Brakes are all discs with standard anti-lock. Stops from 60 measured a reasonable 136 feet.

Highway ride quality is solid but not too harsh, even over big bumps. Our only complaint is about not seeing the bumps before you meet them. The Hummer’s signature short windshield and side glass do cut down the view ahead.

Despite its boxy shape, fuel economy is about the norm for a truck-based SUV. EPA estimates are 16 city/19 highway with the automatic. Our test mileage of 17 is also about par for its class.

Off road, the H3 is extremely capable, its steep approach and departure angles allowing it to climb 16-inch vertical surfaces. The high ground clearance and long travel suspension also allowed us to clear some pretty big rocks and fallen trees.

But the H3 is more than just a tough truck. The interior is well appointed, and can be as opulent as that of a more urban-oriented SUV. The wide, supportive seats are available with either cloth or leather upholstery. The clean, sensible dash comes very well equipped.3

Trendier upgrades include XM satellite radio, and satellite navigation. A highly recommended option are side curtain airbags with rollover sensor. The rear seat is a 60/40 split bench. There’s plenty of head and shoulder room, but leg room is a bit tight for taller folks.

Cargo space fares better. The heavy tail door swings opens to 29.5 cubic-feet rear seats up, and 55.7 cubic feet seat backs down. We actually think the cargo bay is better laid out than the larger H2.

Prices for the H3’s versatile combination of on-road comfort and off-road toughness start at $29,500. That’s almost 25-grand less than the H2 and the reason Hummer sales are rising.

The 2006 Hummer H3 may be the baby bear of its clan, but it has all the DNA of the original. Indeed, we think it is just right.



  • Engine: 3.5-Liter Vortec 3500 Inline Dual-cam 5-Cylinder
  • Horsepower: 220
  • Torque: 225 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 10.2 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 17.5 Seconds @ 81 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 136 Feet
  • EPA: 16 City/19 Highway MPG
  • Mixed Loop: 17 MPG