By KBB.com Editors
Despite a commonly-held belief that Americans don't like hatchbacks, the success of Volkswagen's long-running two- and four-door modelsas well as the recent success of the MINI Cooper, Mazda Mazda3 and its own GTIhas prompted Volkswagen to revive the beloved Rabbit hatchback. The 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit (formerly known as the Golf) becomes VW's entry-level economy model, offering a number of upscale safety and convenience features, a frugal new five-cylinder engine and a roomy and versatile interior. Despite its hefty standard content, the Volkswagen Rabbit manages a sticker price that won't leave consumers hopping mad, which should have sales multiplying like, well, Rabbits.
Tangible German lineage and an exceptionally high level of interior fit and finish for this price combine to make the Rabbit the most sophisticated $16,000 vehicle on the road. Compact SUV-like versatility provides practical appeal.
While it's very much a German car from behind the wheel, the Rabbit isn't as much fun to drive as some of its competitors, particularly the Mazda Mazda3. The Mazda3 also offers features not available on the Rabbit, such as heated leather seats, on-board navigation and a Bose audio system.
A new "S" trim level is added, a tire-pressure monitoring system is made standard on all models and there is 20 additional horsepower, bringing the output to 170.
Driving Impressions Despite its small size, there's a solid feel to the Rabbit and it delivers overall confidence in difficult driving situations. Nimble in city and country driving, it handles busy street...corners and curvy rural lanes easily, thanks in part to the new suspension system and the responsive steering. Increased specifically for the U.S. market are ride height and tire sizes. The 2.5-liter, five-cylinder powerplant is well-suited to the American driving style, offers lots of torque off the line and requires less revving than the previous 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. The five-speed manual transmission has reasonably short throws, in line with its sporty character, and slides effortlessly between gears. The automatic version is just as slick, and both transmissions share the same average highway mileage of 29 miles per gallon. A fair amount of handling firmness reminds you of the Rabbit's German engineering, along with delivering the satisfaction of driving a small-outside, big-inside vehicle.
The Rabbit Logo
Eschewing the traditional nametag, the Rabbit identifies itself only with the once-familiar bounding hare logo.
New Five-cylinder Engine
Shared with the Jetta and developed specifically for American driving styles, the new 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine delivers the quick response worthy of the Rabbit name.
The spacious interior is the surprise here. With far more room than is apparent from the outside, the Rabbit can seat five as well as provide plenty of cargo space. The dash and center console are designed for compactness and ease of use, and nooks and crannies for storage abound. Nifty indicators include one for brake pad wear, and a fuel-cap seal warning to remind impatient drivers to tighten the cap properly. A passenger seat that folds flat and 60/40-split folding rear seats enhance versatility. Adjustable lumbar-support seats (four-door only) hold driver and passenger comfortably on sharp turns. The hatchback has an exceptionally large opening, and the pass-through on the four-door model can accommodate skis.Exterior
Functional, practical and sporty design cues identify the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit as a German hatchback that wastes no sheet metal or bodywork. The hood, headlamps and grille are integrated cleanly with the front bumper, the side panels and doors flow together smoothly and the rear couldn't be simpler. The slightly forward-leaning stance is emphasized by the narrowing side window line and the hatchback rear window.
The 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit's standard equipment list includes cruise control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control, AM/FM stereo with single MP3-compatilbe CD player (six-disc CD changer on four-door models), remote keyless entry, an anti-theft engine immobilizer system and a new high-tech electro-mechanical steering system. Comfort and safety equipment includes heated front seats (four-door only), front and side airbags, Side-Curtain Protection, air conditioning, heated side mirrors and a rear window defroster.
Options offered on the two- and four-door models include VW's anti-skid, lateral control Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) to help curb skids and maximize handling, 16-inch alloy wheels and a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and a Sport mode for manual shifting. For backseat riders in the four-door the addition of rear side-impact airbags is probably reassuring, while the power sunroof with sunshade adds a little style as well as fresh air. Other options include SIRIUS Satellite Radio and an iPod connectivity adapter.
In place of the previous Golf's anemic 2.0-liter, 115-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the Rabbit gets a 2.5-liter in-line five-cylinder unit developed specifically for the acceleration tastes of American drivers. Its 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque are transmitted through a five-speed manual transmission or a new manually-selectable six-speed automatic version with a satisfyingly aggressive Sport mode. The independent rear suspension helps it keep a grip on the road, as do the anti-lock braking and electronic traction control systems. Gone for now, unfortunately, is the popular diesel model.
2.5-liter in-line 5
170 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
177 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 (manual), 21/29 (automatic)
By JGIELS on Sunday, May 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "CPO = good value/price, yup, picks up and moves"
Cons: "german overengineering"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"first time German car owner when you need a key made, chu ching ... spacious backseat, plenty front leg room Yup, moves right along and then some. don't want the issues that come with turbo's, not yet anyway."
3 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Cekita on Sunday, May 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 89,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Solid, substantial interior, fast, reliable"
Cons: "Heating/AC quality"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought my first Rabbit when they first came out. Have had my 2008 for 6 years. It's solid..feels like you're driving a bigger vehicle. Lot's of interior room. I'm tall but don't feel hemmed in and lots of passenger room and/or storage area when you put the back seats down. I've had no major repairs needed or done. I had the heating/AC looked at when the car was in for the last service because it was taking forever to heat up. They "fixed" it but it didn't last and now summer is here and I have no AC. Other than that, no issues. It started on days that were -30 C- never once did it not start. It goes like snot, handles well. Great little car."
By paula on Friday, March 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 118,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "all good"
Cons: "always needs bulbs.. turn signal, brake"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"the only problem i have with this car, is it seems as if i am always replacing blinker bulbs, brake light bulbs.. its always bulbs, bulbs, bulbs.. but it is still a wonderful car."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By tom on Saturday, March 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "See narritive"
Cons: "Engine light issues"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"The good- Excellent fit and finish. Paint outstanding. Interior lacks an armrest. Good rear legroom and trunk(hatch) space. Lots of airbags. Engine has more than adequate power. Transmission logic a bit strange at lower (in town) speeds. Fuel economy less than most competitors. The bad- engine light came on (evap small leak) 3 months ago and after 5 repeated trips to the dealer the issue is still unresolved. Both the dealer and VW have been excellent and fair in attempting to repair the car but the light keeps coming back on about every 3-4 weeks with the same code."
By 123cassie on Monday, February 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 73,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good gas mileage, fast, spasious for a compact"
Cons: "exspensive parts, big blind spots"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I love this car! It is surprisingly roomy, I drove my 6'4" dad around and he had plenty of leg room. I have used this car to move multi times and it fits everything. This car is very fast and fun to drive, it handles Michigan's winters like a pro (have the heated seats and heated mirrors). Now the bad parts, I never noticed this till my bf brought it up but the blind spots on this car are huge but the front windshield is great, since I'm short the big window helps me see everything in front of me. Oil changes and fixing this car obviously cost a lot because of the foreign parts, it took me awhile to find a mechanic that wasn't part of vw store. Common problems are the locks on the handles fail( you will know its starting because it will just constantly lock and unlock all by itself), the computer for the fan on the radiator is known to have issues.Mind you these are just commonly known problems other people have had with their rabbits, my car has not had anything major go wrong with it, other than oil changes and brakes, my check engine light did come on for the radiator fan but nothing was wrong with it. And I'm not sure if this is an issue with vws or not but my clear coat started pealing off before I even put 40,000 miles on it. And the tire sensors are pretty sensitive to the temp outside too."
By EuroDriver on Saturday, February 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 84,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Built quality, reliability, exclusivity, utility"
Cons: "I cannot find any for 7 years of ownership"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great car for the money. I have owned other VW/Audi/Skoda automobiles. Great build quality and attention to build quality. Unified parts with VW/Audi, great torque from this 5 cylinder engine. No technical issues with it. Balance between sportiness and comfort. I took good care of it and it shows. What other cars can you find that windshield wipers don't obscure view? Is it only VW/Audi? Hatchback utility is unrivaled. Drop the seats and fit in a mountain bike. I have changed manual transmission fluid but shouldn't have. When they say lifetime, it's lifetime. Japanese manual transmission - greatness. Clutch shows no sign of wear at 85000 miles."