By KBB.com Editors
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.
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.
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.
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 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.Exterior
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.
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.
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)
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."
1 person out of 2 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."
By rabt on Monday, November 11, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 110,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, appearance, equipt all worked"
Cons: "seats uncomfortable long drives, shift issues"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Ran over 100K miles without many defects(rear wheel bearings had to be replaced: very expensive) frequently would stall pulling away in first:this was a clutch linkage/motor issue. Nippy car to drive, handled very well."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By coyotechick on Friday, November 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 141,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Hot air is expelled from under the compartment. Dealership service dept said this is normal, nothing is wrong with it.??? Inside lining is coming off at the ceiling. Alternator belt and idle pulley broke. Battery went dead for no apparent reason. A woman called to ask if I would buy another VW. I told her the problems, she promised someone would call and clarify, nobody did."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful