By Chris Chase, CanadianDriver.com
The original Hummer, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle developed by AM General, earned celebrity status through its high-profile use in the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) of 1990-1991, and then by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who liked it so much he had to have one.
AM General capitalized on the publicity by selling a civilian version, the H1, starting in 1992. General Motors would buy the Hummer brand name in 1998, and began selling the H2, a lighter-duty model based on GM full-size pickup platform architecture, in 2002.
2006 brought an even smaller Hummer model, the H3; predictably enough, this one was based on the compact Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon pickup platform. Initially, the H3 used the same 3.5-litre five-cylinder engine that served as the uplevel choice in the Colorado and Canyon, rated at 220 hp/225 lb-ft of torque, and could be mated with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
In response to complaints that the 3.5-litre engine wasn’t powerful enough (in both the H3 and the pickups), GM upsized the five-cylinder to 3.7-litres in 2007, boosting power output to 242 hp/242 lb-ft.
If the larger five-cylinder wasn’t enough power, the 2008 model year brought with it the solution: the H3 Alpha model, powered by GM’s 5.3-litre V8, with 300 hp/320 lb-ft, which was offered only with the four-speed automatic transmission.
For 2009, GM added the H3T to the lineup, a four-door (crew cab) pickup with a five-foot bed. For 2010, the only significant change was the addition of variable valve timing to the V8 engine. By the time the 2010s reached the market, the Hummer brand had been dropped from the then “new GM” and 2010 models were available only until inventory sold out.
The H3’s fuel consumption ratings in 2006 were 14.7/11.4 L/100 km (city/highway) with the automatic transmission, and 15.6/10.9 with the manual. The 2007 model’s larger engine may have helped performance, but that came at the expense of thirst for fuel, which increased to 15.7/11.5 L/100 km with the automatic and 16.3/11.2 with the manual transmission.
A 2008 model with the newly-available 5.3-litre V8 was rated at 16.6/12.6 L/100 km. In 2009, the five-cylinder’s fuel consumption improved to 14.7/11.0 L/100 km with the automatic and 15.0/10.9 l/100 km when fitted with the manual. A 2010 version with the variable valve timing V8 sounds like it should achieve better gas mileage, but doesn’t, being rated at 16.5/12.4 L/100 km.
The H3 earns Consumer Reports’ ‘worse than average’ used vehicle reliability designation, thanks to a number of mostly minor issues.
The most serious is that of cylinder head trouble with the five-cylinder engine related to a problem in the casting process that resulted in bad valve guides, which can cause a number of driveability issues. Read about it in these three threads at HummerForums.com, here, here, and over here.
Water leaks into the interior are a common complaint on both the H3 and the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups on which the Hummer is based. Read these threads (here and here) at ColoradoFans.com.
Consumer Reports notes problems with the H3’s all-wheel drive system. The details reveal two issues: one is the loud “thunk!” the truck’s transfer case makes when shifting into 4-Low, which is apparently normal. The other is the frequent appearance of a “service 4WD soon” warning message, which prevents 4-Low from being engaged via the electronic dash switch. The cause, according to this thread at GMHummer.com, is any one of a number of things ranging from a software issue, to chafed wiring and sticky 4WD switches.
CR’s notation of steering linkage problems is likely related to a tendency for the tie rods to snap in tough off-road situations if the driver isn’t smooth enough with the throttle. Also, broken door handles are a problem, especially in early H3’s.
Dead batteries are common; according to this thread, simply replacing the original Delco battery with an aftermarket one solves the problem. My question was whether there’s something in the electrical system draining the battery while the truck is parked, but I couldn’t find any evidence of this on the web, so chalk it up to bad batteries from the factory.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash testing, the H3 earned “acceptable” ratings in both frontal offset and side impact tests. In the frontal offset test, the IIHS noted a high likelihood of leg injury for the driver; side impact results indicated a possibility of rib and/or internal organ injury to the driver.
The IIHS’ results contrast sharply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) findings: that organization gave the H3 five and four stars for driver and front passenger protection in its frontal crash test, and five stars for both front and rear seat occupant protection in side impact tests.
According to the Canadian Black Book, used H3 values range from $20,675 for a 2006 model to $39,300 for a fully-loaded 2009 H3 Alpha; a basic 2009 model is worth $27,950. A 2007 H3, which includes the uprated five-cylinder engine and fitted with optional power seats and sunroof, prices out to $23,525. A basic 2009 H3T is worth $33,725.
Some of the H3’s competitors include larger trucks like the Ford Explorer and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee, both of which are valued similarly to the H3. The Jeep Liberty and Wrangler X four-door are closer matches size-wise, but are both less expensive used than the Hummer. Toyota’s FJ Cruiser is Tonka-truck cool, but is the most expensive in this group. The Suzuki Grand Vitara isn’t quite as rugged an off-roader as the other trucks listed here, but it’s offered with low-range gearing and is quite possibly the least-expensive so-equipped vehicle available on the used market.
The H3’s butch looks hold a certain appeal, at least for the tattoos, big biceps and bottle-blonde crowd, but if you’re not wedded to its appearance and still want a capable off-roader, skip it. Go for a less-expensive Jeep Wrangler X instead, or a Liberty if you’re after a bit more refinement, both of which should match the H3 in the rough (when properly equipped) without the H3’s extroverted appearance and its inflated used values. The H3’s V8 engine option is the only practical drawing card, for drivers who want some extra towing capacity.
If you must have an H3, though, follow my usual advice: choose one that passes an inspection by a trusted mechanic and comes with detailed service records and look for evidence of a cylinder head replacement (if it hasn’t been done, then the truck either hasn’t developed symptoms yet, or you’ll get lucky and not have problems at all). Look, too, to see if the truck you’re considering has needed attention paid to the electronic controls for its four-wheel drive system, and see if you can take it through a high-pressure car wash to test for leaks around the windshield.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) June 2010:
|Year||Model||Price today||Price new|
HummerForums.com, GMHummer.com and HummerXClub.com all have dedicated H3 sections, while Hummer3.net deals with nothing else. The H3 is lumped together with its big brothers, the H1 and H2, at HummerForum.org, the Canadian Hummer Club and GMTruckClub.com. Mechanical similarities between the H3 and the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon mean that ColoradoFans.com will have some information relevant to the little Hummer.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2010140; Units affected: 5,189
2006-2010: On certain vehicles, the integral clip-tabs on the hood louver may fracture, causing the hood louver to lose its retention mechanism. As the clip-tabs break, the hood louver may rattle against the hood and become loose. If this indicator is unnoticed, additional clips could fracture and the hood louver could detach from the vehicle and could strike a vehicle, property, or a bystander, which could result in property damage, personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will apply an adhesive to the hood louver to secure it to the hood.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
Chris Chase is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
Read more Used Car Reviews on CanadianDriver.com