The all-American Hummer is now available in the UK. Will the H3 be as effective in Surbiton as it is in San Diego?
Like Nothing Else is Hummer’s tagline – and it fits the new H3 to a tee. Although it’s claimed to have been designed with Europe in mind, it still feels as if it’s come from the other side of the world. While it’s priced only slightly above the Land Rover Freelander, the H3 is much cruder, with average on-road performance and poor interior quality. But it’s tough, capable off-road and fairly versatile, too.
You’ve seen it in hip hop videos, being driven by Premiership footballers and turned into stretched limousines. Now, at long last, here’s your chance to own an American off-road legend. The Hummer is officially on sale in the UK in right-hand drive, with prices starting from £26,495.
Tempted? Well, the brand has serious off-road pedigree. It can trace its roots back more than 25 years, to when it was first developed as the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle for the US army. This machine, known as the Humvee, gained celebrity status, and civilian versions went on sale in 1992, finding homes with famous owners such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Beckham.
Now, the Hummer has hit British shores, and this H3 is the firm’s third model. Smaller and more agile than its predecessors, it retains the unique, chunky looks of big brother the H1, with its Tonka Toy-style wheelarches, upright windscreen and slab-sided flanks. Factor in the chrome-covered wheels, mirrors, door handles and grille, plus bright yellow paintwork and tyres with raised white lettering, and the H3 isn’t what you would call subtle or sophisticated. But for many, its outlandish image will be exactly the reason for a purchase.
Despite being smaller than the H1, it’s still a squeeze to drive on British roads. Measuring 4,782mm, it’s 150mm longer than a Nissan X-Trail and about the same size as a Range Rover Sport.
However, it isn’t nearly as well packaged inside as either. The high floor – the H3 has 219mm of ground clearance – means loading passengers and luggage is no easy task. The side-hinged tailgate doesn’t exactly help matters, and sliding your knee under the steering wheel as you clamber up into the driver’s seat is tricky.
However, with the seats folded, the load bay has a generous 1,577-litre capacity. And there’s no denying that the Hummer conveys a sense of solidity. This isn’t so much to do with the build or material quality – both are fine by American standards, although they lag well behind the Land Rover Freelander and other mainstream rivals. Instead, it’s the rugged chassis and commanding view out that make the H3 feel unstoppable.
It’s seen as best suited to the urban jungle, but with a rear diff lock, low-ratio transmission and 16-inch wheels wearing tyres that look as if they could pull the car up a vertical incline, it’s ready to take a walk on the wild side.
The chunky rubber does mean you have to put up with poor braking performance, limited cornering grip and vague handling. What’s more, the leaf spring rear axle is hardly cutting edge – the Hummer’s ride is neither well controlled nor that comfortable.
Those small windows mean visibility on the move isn’t especially good, either, and it’s quite difficult to manoeuvre the H3 at low speeds – parking sensors are a must.
We wouldn’t describe the 3.7-litre five-cylinder petrol engine as sophisticated. Mated to a four-speed auto box in the car we drove (a five-speed manual knocks £1,500 off the price), the 241bhp unit isn’t lacking in power, but is wheezy and struggles with the Hummer’s 2,284kg kerbweight.
Measured by normal class standards, the H3 comes across as dated and unrefined. Plus, its high CO2 emissions and fuel consumption mean it’s unlikely to find favour with those trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
However, the Hummer isn’t without appeal. There’s a real sense of fun about it, and it’s viable as an everyday family car. The styling won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the H3 certainly has more presence than anything else available for the money.
Rival: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited The Wrangler shares the Hummer’s off-road kudos and image, yet despite a recent revamp, it doesn’t enjoy such a high profile. It’s cheap, but agricultural to drive.