The 2007 H3 is the most sensible Hummer yet because it is roughly the same length as a midsize family sedan.

Compared to the larger H2, the H3 is 16.9 inches shorter, 6 inches lower and 6.5 inches narrower, yet the cabin feels less confining. The H3's manageable size, lower price and better fuel economy make it a clear favorite over the H2.

For 2007, GM enlarged the H3's Vortec inline five-cylinder to 3.7 liters. It now delivers 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque for quicker starts and more midrange throttle response. The 2008 H3 Alpha will have a 5.3-liter V-8 under the hood that delivers 300 horsepower and will give the H3 a maximum towing capacity of 6,000 pounds.

The H3X model, which has a base price of $37,545, comes with chrome tube steps, a chrome grille, chrome door handles, a chrome roof rack and chrome wheels. It can be ordered with any of the eight standard colors as well as one of two new metallic colors.

The H3X also has a Monsoon sound system, leather seats and headrests embroidered with the H3 logo.

The H3 is derived from GM's midsize pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. All three share the same body-on-frame construction, suspension and five-cylinder powertrain.

Because the H3 has a 4.56 rear axle ratio, it accelerates strongly at low speeds. The H3 has been designed to excel off-road. Engineers tested it on California's Rubicon Trail. It can climb 16-inch vertical steps or rocks and ford 16 inches of water at 20 mph or 24 inches of water at 5 mph.

Buttons in the dash operate the H3's electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system. It has high and low ranges and an available locking rear differential and traction control. Two tire packages are offered: one with 32-inch all-terrain tires and the other with 33-inch off-road tires.

Large tires and short front and rear overhangs play important roles in the H3's ability to climb up and down off-road obstacles.

In spite of the rather generous step to get inside, the H3 doesn't feel especially big and bulky. The side windows are narrow, and rear visibility can be challenging because the spare tire intrudes on the view.

The quality of the interior was impressive. There are few seams, great textures and expensive-feeling controls. The steering wheel rim is too thick for my taste.

Front bucket seats were firm and had good side bolsters. The split-folding rear seat has decent legroom.

To fold the rear seat, the bottom cushion has to be pulled forward before the seat back can be released. The front of the load floor is about 6 inches higher than the back. The cargo load floor is covered with textured rubber.

The side-opening tailgate facilitates loading. The cargo area is 37 inches tall and 42 inches wide. Maximum length is 63 inches.

Anti-lock, four-wheel disc brakes are standard, as are front airbags. Side-curtain airbags and a rollover protection system are optional. GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system comes on vehicles with the automatic transmission.

The optional OnStar system has GM's advanced crash notification system that provides crash data to 911 personnel so they can dispatch appropriate help.

Price The base price of the test vehicle was $37,545. Options included the navigation system, automatic transmission, power sunroof, roof rail airbags, satellite radio and a trailer hitch. The sticker price was $43,885.

Warranty Four years or 50,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

2007 Hummer H3

Engine: 3.7-liter, 242-hp 5-cyl.

Transmission: automatic

Wheelbase: 111.9 inches

Curb weight: 4,700 lbs.

Base price: $37,545

As driven: $43,885

MPG: 15 city, 19 hwy.