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2006 Hummer H3 Review

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MODEL: Hummer H3 SUV
ENGINE: 3.5-liter I5
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 220 hp @ 5600 rpm/225 lb.-ft. @ 2800 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 111.9 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 186.7 x 85.5 x 74.5 in.
TIRES: 265/75 R16 all terrain
CARGO VOLUME: cu. ft. 55.7 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway/8.0 mpg test
PRICE: $32,190 (includes $565 destination charge)

In my area there has been a lot of interest in the new Hummer H3 sport utility vehicle. First, because the Hummer name has a certain panache. This exists primarily among those who have never had to deal with the H1 in normal (read that as non-war) driving conditions. Constant readers will remember that I think the H1 is one of the worst vehicles I have ever driven, and that includes the Yugo. Both have their assets, but their deficiencies far outweigh them.

Second, the H2 is a fine vehicle in my mind. I liked it because of its aggressive Hummer styling and its more practical design that can still ford small streams and climb stairs, but is relatively quiet and has a practical interior.

So when the H3 was introduced, I and many others were interested. The H3 is the smallest of the Hummers, with a wheelbase that’s 11 inches shorter than H2 and a 3-inch shorter overall length. And while the H2 is based on the Tahoe SUV, the H3 is based on the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon pickup architecture.

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But the H3 is definitely a Hummer, in style and size. It looks like a Hummer and has many of the attributes. It is more practical than the H1, but less than the H2. It isn’t a senior citizen car, since entry is tall and we older folk can have trouble getting in it. This high vehicle height does make it ideal for wading through streams that can be as deep as 16 inches, though.

The H3 is powered by the GM 3.5-liter inline five that delivers 220 horsepower. Since the H3 weighs 4700 pounds soaking wet, the 220 horses aren’t enough to make it a performance vehicle. Our tester was equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission, which worked well to extract maximum performance out of the engine. In general, I kept the gearbox in fourth, rather than fifth, gear for most longer runs. This gave me the opportunity to accelerate without downshifting (most of the time). I liked the gearbox; it had precise gating and linkages that made shifting fun.

However, this strategy may have contributed to the anemic 8 mpg performance during our test run. While we didn’t take any long-distance runs that piled up Interstate miles, I would have hoped for something better than 8 mpg. The engine/gearbox combination is EPA-rated at 16 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.

Besides the fact that it was uneconomical, the engine was noisy, but this is a trait copied from the H1. Except when it was in fifth gear on the highway, it seemed as if it was lumbering. Five-cylinder engines are supposed to be relatively quiet, but this one was noisier than I would have expected.

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Inside, the seats offered good side support. If you’re planning on taking the H3 off road, this added side support is an asset. Rear passengers have good legroom. Rear seat backs fold for added storage capacity, which tops out at a relatively low 55.7 cubic feet. Most midsize SUVs have cargo volumes that range from about 75 cubic feet to more than 100, making the H3 one of the smallest.

There were all the good four-wheel drive options, including 4 High, 4 Lock High, 4 Low Lock plus traction control. We had the impression that the H3 would prefer to be off-road than on-road.

The cargo area does have four tie-downs to aid in carrying difficult cargo. The spare tire is also mounted outside on the rear door, where it doesn’t impinge on cargo volume.

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My favorite feature of the H3 has to be the steering wheel, which is fat and sturdy and make turning corners a pleasure.

The instrument panel is simple, with four gauges. Likewise, the HVAC and audio systems are straight from the GM parts bin, as is the turn signal-mounted cruise control. There were two 12-volt outlets up front, a deep center console and a good glove box.

Out back, the rear hatch opens like a door (good, with the door-mounted spare). However, if you only want to open the window, it lifts up hatch-style. There’s a tow hitch and hooks for maximum utility (a $270 option).

The engine bay is open with easy access to all the fillers and dipsticks. The hood is way up there when it’s open, and getting to the back of the engine bay requires a good stretch.

Overall, the H3 is a true Hummer, which is good if you’re a fan of the brand. I don’t believe it’s for the general public (other than the die-hard fans), but it may find some appeal. Of the three, my money still rides on the H2.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate