While the is smaller and more approachable than its predecessors, don't let that fool you — this baby is all truck. The H3 won favor with women who approached me, saying they liked this downsized version and would consider driving one. They felt the H2 was just too big and masculine looking.

While the trendy H3 is a wellmannered SUV with a smooth ride and comfortable cabin, adventure seekers will find that the H3's off-road, go-anywhere capabilities give it the upper hand. On the trail, the H3 is more nimble as it is more than 2 ft shorter, 6 in. lower, and 6.5 in. narrower than the H2. The H3's wide track, short overhang, and tight turning circle improve its agility. Despite its 4,700-lb curb weight, the H3 is reasonably agile, with no excessive body lean on regular pavement as well.

Full-time four-wheel drive with a 2.64 reduction gear in 4 Lo is standard, but, for hard-core offroaders, an optional 4.03 transfer case offers gearing so low you can slither down rocky slopes without touching the brakes. Ground clearance is 9.1 in., but you won't be disappointed. The truck's 33-in. tires, loads of wheel travel, skid plates, and dealerinstalled rocker protectors let this little giant go wherever it wants.

The H3 is powered by a Vortec 3500 DOHC 3.5-liter in-line 5 engine with 220 hp at 5,600 rpm and 225 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. It feels a little underpowered, especially for highway merging and passing where the saying, "put the pedal to the metal" comes to mind. To stay competitive in its class with those offering Hemi engines, the H3 needs to pack more of a punch.

Slip inside the brute and you'll find a clean, stylish layout. Simple white-on-black gages are easy to read and controls are within reach, with the exception of the power-window switches. You'll need to be a little bit of a contortionist to manipulate them as they're set too far back on the armrest. Creature comforts include: two-tone decor; comfortable reclining cloth bucket seats in front; air conditioning; electrochromic rearview mirror with 8-pt compass, outside temperature indicator, and OnStar controls; five assist handles; and a driver-information center with up to 26 alerts. An optional navigation system will be available shortly.

On the downside, thick roof pillars, narrow glass openings, and the spare tire mounted on the rear cargo door compromises rear visibility. Spare-tire weight also dictates a side-opening rear door, which can be a problem with tight city parking or parking on a hill. On even the slightest incline, the door loudly slams shut, so watch your fingers.

Base price for the standard vehicle is $28,935. Options on our test vehicle included four-speed automatic transmission ($1,695), chrome appearance package ($850), AM/FM six-disc in-dash CD changer with seven-speaker Monsoon system ($845), power sunroof ($800), XM Satellite radio ($325), trailer hitch & wiring harness ($270), oversized cargoarea, front, and rear carpeted floor mats ($245). Add in a $565 destination charge and the total price comes to $35,225. If you're looking for a hard-core truck that goes anywhere, the H3 is worth checking out.