KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
- Updated Date: 5/29/2009
You'll Like This Car If...
Despite a commonly-held belief that Americans don't like
hatchbacks, the success of Volkswagen's Rabbit two and four-door models – as well as the recent success of the MINI Cooper,
Mazda MAZDA3 and its own GTI – has prompted Volkswagen to retain the five-door hatchback as its bread and butter car. The
2009 Volkswagen Rabbit (previously known as the Golf) is VW's entry-level economy model, offering a number of upscale safety and convenience features, a frugal yet powerful 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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Tangible German lineage and an exceptionally high level of interior fit and finish for this price combine to make the Rabbit the most sophisticated sub-$17,000 vehicles on the road. Compact SUV-like versatility provides practical appeal.
What's New for 2009
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 leather seats, on-board navigation and a Bose audio system.
Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is made standard on all models, while the five-speed manual is no longer available on the four-door. New standard equipment for the four-door Rabbit includes heated front seats, heated washer nozzles and a premium audio sound system with SIRIUS Satellite Radio.
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 car's European-tuned 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 old 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. The five-speed manual transmission is not as enjoyable, however, with long throws and somewhat vague gear delineation. The automatic version is a better choice and shares nearly the same city/highway mileage as the manual. 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.
Heated Side Mirrors
You won't find them offered on the popular Mazda MAZDA3, but heated side mirrors are standard equipment on the Rabbit.
Shared with the Jetta and developed specifically for American driving styles, the 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. If we could ask Volkswagen for one change, it would be to add steering-wheel audio controls, a feature offered on most Rabbit competitors.
Notable Standard Equipment
Functional, practical and sporty design cues identify the
2009 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. Toss in the available power sunroof and 16- or 17-inch wheel options, and the Rabbit makes one sporty economy car.
Notable Optional Equipment
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit's standard equipment list includes a five-speed manual transmission (six-speed automatic on the four-door), cruise control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control, stability control, AM/FM stereo with single MP3-compatilbe CD player and auxiliary audio input jack (10-speaker Premium Audio with six-disc CD changer and SIRIUS Satellite Radio 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 and heated washer nozzles (four-door only), front and side airbags, Side-Curtain Protection, air conditioning, heated side mirrors, rear wiper/washer and a rear window defroster.
Under the Hood
Options offered on the two-door model include the Cold Weather Package (heated seats and washer nozzles) and a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Available for both two- and four-door models are a power sunroof and 16-inch alloy wheels, while the four-door exclusively offers rear side thorax airbags.
The recently-improved 2.5-liter is good for 170 horsepower, which is greater than most of the cars in its class. While the 2.5-liter delivers good off-the-line acceleration, its rather flat torque curve means the Rabbit's strong pulling power tends to lessen as the tachometer climbs. The independent rear suspension helps the Rabbit keep a grip on the road, as do the anti-lock braking and electronic stability and traction control systems.
2.5-liter in-line 5
170 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
177 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 (manual), 20/29 (automatic)
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) begins around $17,000, which is not bad for a compact with a 170-horsepower engine and plenty of standard equipment. The MSRP on the two-door Rabbit with six-speed automatic transmission starts at about $18,000, and a four-door automatic with all the factory options tops out around $22,000. We expect the 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit to maintain resale values on par with the
Nissan Versa, Mazda MAZDA3 and
Honda Civic and to best the Chevrolet Cobalt and