Originally, Hummer ownership was kind of like hiring a Hollywood pyrotechnic company to run your Fourth of July celebration -- complete overkill and massively expensive, but surely a great way to impress the heck out of the neighbors. Then came the Hummer H3. It was designed to be the "real world" Hummer: less pyrotechnics and more sparklers.
That's not to say that the company's engineers stopped their testosterone I.V. drip. The H3's styling still proclaimed loudly that it's a card-carrying member of the Hummer guild, and the truck had more off-road capability than just about every other midsize SUV when the pavement ends.
For everyday urban use, however, the smallest of Hummers still wasn't the best choice. Unless you were driving the "Alpha" version, which boasted V8 power, the Hummer H3 was painfully slow in certain situations. It was also let down by other traditional Hummer faults such as poor outward visibility and an interior that isn't as voluminous as its exterior styling suggests.
If you're keen on the H3's looks and style, or if you plan on plenty of recreational use, a used H3 should be a good purchase. Still, our editors feel that most buyers will be better served by other used midsize SUVs.
Current Hummer H3
The Hummer H3 was a midsize SUV that was produced from 2006-'09. A pickup-style model known as the H3T was produced only for 2009 and was equipped similarly.
Originally, the four-wheel-drive H3 came with a 3.5-liter inline-5 good for a meager 220 horsepower. Hummer addressed the power shortage in 2007, bumping it up to 3.7 liters and 239 hp. The inline-5 was the same engine found in General Motors' midsize pickups, and despite its increase, it was overwhelmed by this SUV's nearly 2.5 tons of curb weight. In our Hummer H3 road test, we recorded a 0-60-mph time of 11 seconds. Fuel economy wasn't all that great either. Fortunately, there was also the Alpha version of the H3, which arrived for 2008 and sported a 300-hp 5.3-liter V8 that provided more respectable performance. With the V8, the H3's 0-60 time drops to 8.8 seconds. A five-speed manual was standard on five-cylinder models, while a four-speed auto was optional with the I-5 and standard with the V8.
Allowed to play in the dirt, the smallest Hummer was basically unstoppable. With 9.1 inches of ground clearance, loads of wheel travel, oversized all-terrain tires and standard skid plates, the H3 could pretty much go wherever you wanted without taking damage. For optimum performance, adding the optional Off-Road Suspension package yielded a shorter-geared transfer case for better hill climbing and descending, a locking rear differential, 33-inch off-road tires and firmer suspension tuning.
Inside, the H3's cabin was more stylish than those of its pickup relatives, though its materials were only a bit better (meaning still not good). At least most of the controls were easy to use. The 60/40-split rear seat could be lowered to increase cargo capacity, though this vehicle's maximum capacity of 56 cubic feet was smaller than that of many other compact and midsize SUVs. Outward visibility was hampered by the gun-slit-style windows and tailgate-mounted spare tire.
Aside from its engine updates, there were few changes during the H3's single generation. Stability control and side curtain airbags were made standard for '08 and a rearview camera became optional. Standard Bluetooth connectivity and manual transmission hill-start assist were added for '09, while a front locking differential became optional. The rearview camera system was also revised.