What is it about the Hummer? There are several H2's seen daily in my children's carpool lane. For a vehicle with roots in the military, just what is the appeal to these soccer moms?

Before my week in the new H3, I decided to ask several moms what they like about their Hummers. The most common answer in my admittedly unscientific survey is the feeling of safety. One mom described the H2 as making her feel like "anything can hit it and it won't matter one iota." Two of my newest employees have lingering and knowingly unrealistic daydreams of owning Hummers. One described her yearning being "like that chocolate cake you know you shouldn't have, but you dream about it while you eat baby carrots..."

Another mom described her temporary love affair with the H2 as being like a small house payment. Between paying for the vehicle and feeding its endless hunger for fuel, she simply couldn't afford the dream any longer and traded it in for something less draining.

So how will the H3 fair? Its smaller stance than the H2 makes it more maneuverable in normal driving conditions, improved gas mileage means it can be driven even in these days after Katrina when we're all avoiding the pump, and a very doable price point makes the Hummer dream a reality for the masses. All this without sacrificing that oh-so Hollywood-esque Hummer look.

In spite of everything it has going for itself on paper, my goal is to see how functional the H3 really is. The rear seat sports plenty of leg room so small children can clamber in and still have room for their backpacks on the floor. The easy to use LATCH connectors (seen consistently through all GM vehicle tested recently) are greatly appreciated.

Now that the school year is officially in session, my rating of a car seems to be directly related to whether or not I can fit all carpool members (and their accompanying entourage of booster seats). I'm pleased to inform you that, although a very tight fit, three booster seats fit side by side in the back seat.

The cargo space is thoughtfully lined in plastic and keeps muddy soccer equipment from ruining the carpet. The rear seats fold simply in one fluid motion, expanding to make room for a trip to the local home improvement store.

Climbing into the driver's seat with the help of the running board, I feel like I myself need a booster seat. I can't seem to adjust the driver's seat high enough to see well over the hood.

The most disturbing aspect of the '06 H3 is its rear visibility (or lack thereof). The high-mounted, small rear windshield is partially obstructed by the spare tire mounted on the back. After the article I wrote recently on the increasing incidents of children being backed over by their parent's car in the driveway, this visibility problem is particular unnerving to me.

Although the larger H2 will offer a back-up camera in the next 12 months, one is not available for the H3. However, there are several Hummer dealerships across the nation that will install an aftermarket HitchCam backup camera for an additional $1200 or so.

My safety concern is squelched after playing around with the OnStar system. My test car arrives with one year of the OnStar Safe and Sound plan at no extra charge (a $199 value). This includes features such as; automatic airbag deployment notification; remote diagnostics (allowing an operator to check on the mechanical wellbeing of your car should you have a problem); remote door unlock; emergency services; stolen vehicle location assistance; roadside assistance; accident assistance (where an operator will talk you through the steps you need to take in the event of a crash); remote horn and lights (helping you find your car in the event you lose it); and much more.

During my week turning heads in the H3, my vanity starts to get the best of me. I'm continually frustrated by the large tires that splatter even minuscule mud puddles across the car like big juicy mosquitoes hitting the windshield at mach speed. I also find myself missing the aptly named vanity mirror in the driver's seat.

One last complaint: Don't Hummer drivers need dry cleaning hooks, too? Why, oh why, are there no dry cleaning hooks in this car?

The 2006 Hummer H3 is reaching a whole new audience of Middle Americans, making the Hummer Soccer Mom Phenomenon grow and grow. I kid you not, within one week following my H3 test drive two new H3's have appeared on scene in carpool lane. I'd like to think that I started that trend, but it's more likely that these moms have had lustful Hummer eyes for a long time, and the launch of the H3 has transformed their dreams into a realistic and attainable vehicle.

Let's Talk Numbers

LATCH connectors: 2

Passenger seating (including driver): 5

It's the Little Things That Count

Storage Compartments (puny, fair, ample, galore): fair

Cargo/Trunk Space (puny, fair, ample, galore): galore

Sense and Style

Family Friendly (not really, fair, great, excellent): great

Fun-Factor (None, some, good times, groove-on): good times