2008 Rabbit New Car Test Drive
The Rabbit is hopping back into the Volkswagen lineup. The 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit is an all-new car that replaces the Golf.
The Rabbit comes with the intention of providing a German designed, German engineered and German built alternative to the Asian-nameplate vehicles that dominate the entry level of the American automotive marketplace, namely the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and Hyundai Elantra.
Unlike many of its competitors, whether Asian or domestic, the Rabbit is a hatchback and therefore offers the advantage of cargo-carrying utility not provided by the typical two- or four-door sedan design. Hatchbacks are becoming popular again. Dodge, for example, has abandoned its traditional Neon sedan in favor of a new entry-level five-door hatchback called the Caliber.
The Rabbit offers only one engine, but it has been tuned for American-style driving. Volkswagen's 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder offers the sort of torque that Americans want for off-the-line acceleration and for merging into freeway traffic. Though no rocket, we found the Rabbit to be quick, responsive and fun to drive. Its four-wheel independent suspension and relatively long wheelbase give it a nice ride along with good stability and handling.
This responsive engine is available with a six-speed automatic transmission that only adds to its flexibility and responsiveness, making the Rabbit a good choice for commuting in heavy traffic. The Rabbit also gets excellent fuel economy, whether equipped with the five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The automatic has a Tiptronic manual-shifting feature, giving the driver the option of semi-manual shifting when desired.
The Rabbit comes in what Volkswagen calls two- and four-door models, though some would call it them three-door and five-door hatchbacks. The full, roof-hinged rear hatch door provide good access to the cargo area, making the Rabbit a practical car. It's roomy and trimmed nicely, making it a comfortable, pleasant place to be. It also comes standard with safety features such as side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes that are optional on many cars in this class, making it a relatively car for this class.
The 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit is available in two-door ($14,990) and four-door ($16,990) versions. The four-door comes with more standard equipment.
All models are powered by a 2.5-liter, inline five-cylinder engine that generates 150 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. They come with a five-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic ($1,075).
Safety features that come standard on all models include anti-lock brakes, traction control, side-impact airbags for front-seat passengers for thorax protection and side-curtain airbags for head protection in a rollover or side impact. These are in addition to the federally mandated front airbags. Rear-passenger side-impact (thorax) airbags are optional ($350). Also optional is an electronic stability program ($450) to help the driver avoid accidents. Both front seats have head rests designed to minimize whiplash.
Standard features on all models include cloth upholstery, air conditioning, cruise control, rear-window defroster, an outside temperature display, a 10-speaker audio system with AM/FM, in-dash CD player and MP3 capability, split-folding rear seats, power windows/locks/mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, electro-mechanical power steering, and 15-inch wheels.
The four-door version is upgraded with velour seat fabric, eight-way adjustable and heated front seats, a fold-flat front passenger's seat, a rear-seat center armrest, an upgraded audio package with a six-CD changer, heated windshield washer nozzles, a cooled storage compartment in the front center armrest, and front and rear floor mats.
Options include a power sunroof ($1,000), satellite radio ($375), and 16-inch alloy wheels ($400). Dealer-installed accessories include larger wheels and tires, bike and snowboard racks, body-side graphics, and an aero body kit.
One additional note: The first 4000 new Rabbits arriving in the United States will be designated as 2006 models. However, they will be identical to the 2007 version except they will not have the standard auxiliary sound system jack or the optional tire pressure monitoring system.