Compact car; Built in Germany
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $6,700 – $19,500*


2006 Volkswagen GTI/Rabbit


2006 Volkswagen GTI/Rabbit


2006 Volkswagen GTI/Rabbit


2006 Volkswagen GTI/Rabbit

Pros:
  • Acceleration (GTI)
  • Cargo room
  • Fuel economy (SMT)
  • Front-seat comfort
  • Ride (Rabbit)
  • Steering/handling
  • Brake performance
Cons:
  • Passing power (Rabbit w/auto.)
  • Engine noise (Rabbit)
  • Rear-seat comfort

Rabbit and GTI offer many laudable standard safety features, and some uncommonly upscale conveniences, but options could lift their new-car sticker prices to the top of the class. High resale values, especially for the Rabbit, keep those prices high for secondhand-car buyers. Furthermore, Volkswagen scores subpar customer-satisfaction ratings for reliability and dealer service. Still, these are practical hatchbacks with near-premium compact build quality, and the lively GTI offers serious driving-enthusiast appeal.

Overview

Midway through the 2006 model year, Volkswagen updated its sporty compact GTI coupe, which had long been a performance-tuned offshoot of the front-drive two-door Golf hatchback. Back in 1983, the first GTI had helped spark the “hot hatch” segment. This time, Volkswagen claimed to use the original GTI as its benchmark for the 2006 model.

Golf and GTI both began the 2006 model year as holdovers from the 1999-05 design, but the redesigned GTI debuted as a limited run of 2006.5 models. A reworking of the Golf was expected to follow. During the 2006 season, then, Volkswagen dealers sold both the new GTI and the carryover Golf/GTI models.

Identical 2007 GTIs were due later in calendar 2006, to be accompanied by more basic two- and four-door Golf versions. Before the 2007 model year began, though, Volkswagen decided to rename the Golf, calling it the Rabbit–another name taken from the company’s heritage.

Both models were based on the Jetta sedan that was redesigned for 2005. Compared to the 1999-2006 two-door hatchbacks that it replaced, the new GTI was 3 inches longer in wheelbase, and nearly an inch longer and wider overall. A turbocharged four-cylinder returned as the sole engine. But it was a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter, versus the previous 180-hp 1.8-liter.

A six-speed manual transmission replaced the prior five-speed as standard. Replacing the available conventional five-speed automatic transmission was Volkswagen’s six-speed Sequential Manual Transmission (SMT). Named the Direct Shift Gearbox, it was essentially a manual transmission without a clutch pedal. Shifting took place via steering-wheel paddles or a floor shifter; it could also be set to shift like an automatic.

Antilock four-wheel disc brakes and traction control/antiskid were standard. So were front side airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags. Plaid upholstery was standard. Up front, red striping surrounded the black honeycomb grille, and bi-xenon headlamps included washers. Standard wheels were 17-inch; 18-inch BBS wheels were optional. Also available: a sunroof, satellite radio, navigation system, and leather upholstery.

Aiming at young buyers, the sporty GTI competed against the Honda Civic Si and Mazda’s Mazda 3. Rivals to the Rabbit included the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, and regular Honda Civic.

Yearly Updates

2007 GTI/Rabbit
A four-door version of the sporty GTI joined the two-door for 2007. GTIs included an antiskid system that was optional for Rabbits. They also had a sport suspension, with slightly lower ride height for 2007. A new GTI Fahrenheit two-door joined the lineup, with even sportier suspension tuning, specific trim, and leather upholstery with heated front seats. Four-doors could get optional rear side airbags.
2008 GTI
The 2008 Volkswagen R32 marked the return of a super-high-performance hatchback to this automaker’s lineup. The R32 had all-wheel drive, a 250-hp 3.2-liter V6, and 6-speed automatic transmission. R32s had sportier suspension tuning and unique trim. The 2008 GTI also added a new Autobahn Package that included leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a sunroof.
2008 Rabbit
The Rabbit ‘s 2.5-liter 5-cylinder gained 20 hp to 170.
2009 GTI
The all-wheel-drive R32 was dropped for 2009. Heated front seats are newly standard on the 2009 GTI.
2009 Rabbit
The Rabbit was unchanged for 2009.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Rabbit hatchbacks held a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, rated at 150 horsepower, driving either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Befitting its sporty nature, the GTI got a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, cranking out 200 horsepower. GTIs could have a conventional six-speed manual or Volkswagen’s Sequential Manual Transmission, which had no clutch pedal. For 2008, Rabbit’s 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine got a horsepower byump to 170. An R32 model joined GTI’s ’08 lineup. The R32 was all-wheel drive, had a 250-hp 3.2-liter V6, and 6-speed automatic transmission. For 2009, the all-wheel-drive R32 GTI was dropped.

dohc I5
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/151
Engine HP 150-170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 170
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed automatic
22/30
22/30
24.7-25.5
Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 207
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic
23/32
25/32
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/195
Engine HP 250
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 236
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic

18/23

20.2

Road Test

Volkswagen’s Rabbit has adequate around-town power, but with an automatic transmission, it strains somewhat in highway-speed passing and merging. A test Rabbit’s nonlinear throttle response resulted in abrupt off-the-line movement. Though suffering some low-speed turbo lag, the GTI is otherwise quick, delivering particularly impressive highway passing punch. The manual transmission shifts with exemplary precision, but some testers would have preferred shorter throws. Volkswagen’s SMT shifts so quickly and smoothly in manual or automatic modes, that it becomes a tempting alternative for enthusiastic drivers.

Fuel economy, as expected, is more frugal for a Rabbit than a GTI. A test automatic-transmission Rabbit averaged 24.7 to 25.3 mpg. Test GTIs have averaged 16.8 to 19.1 mpg with manual transmission, 23.6 mpg with SMT, both with slightly more highway travel versus city driving. Rabbits use regular-grade fuel, but the GTI demands premium.

Rabbit ranks among the best-riding compacts, with a fine blend of absorbency and composure. The GTI’s firm suspension irons out small imperfections well enough, but it thumps over sharp bumps, and scalloped surfaces can trigger abrupt vertical body motions.

Both models handle adeptly. Rabbit is nimble and fun, with good control and natural-feeling steering, though some noseplow may be noted in fast, tight turns. With even quicker and more precise-feeling steering, the agile, grippy GTI is among the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars out there. Both deliver worry-free braking.

Though it’s not as quiet as a Jetta, the Rabbit’s cabin is well-isolated from wind and road noise.

However, the five-cylinder engine is gruff at idle and in rapid acceleration. The smooth, eager GTI engine is just moderately loud at full throttle, and subdued otherwise, though a test SMT model suffered some clatter at idle. Coarse pavement generates marked hum from the GTI’s 17- and 18-inch tires.

Gauges are unobstructed and clearly marked, but some testers have found their legibility hindered by blue/purple dashboard lighting. Most switchgear is handy and intuitive. Programming the available navigation system requires advance study, and it absorbs too many audio functions. High-quality interiors impress for many soft-touch surfaces, though a test Rabbit’s dashboard creaked.

Front occupants enjoy great leg room, helped by ultra-long seat tracks. Head room is generous even below the sunroof housing, and finding a comfortable driving position is aided by the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Seats have easy manual height adjustment. The GTI’s sport buckets help snug passengers in aggressive cornering. Wide rear roof pillars slightly hinder aft visibility. Rear passengers get good head room, plus adult-size leg room if front seats aren’t pushed all the way back. Entry/exit demands dexterity in two-door models.

Hatchback versatility translates to plenty of useful cargo room and a low load floor. Folding split rear seatbacks have been standard, but they don’t lie flat.

Ratings

Model Tested: Volkswagen Rabbit w/auto. Note: Volkswagen’s GTI earned the same Total Score, but ratings in individual categories differ from the Rabbit’s.

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 7
70%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 7
70%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 58

Specifications

2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.5 164.9 68.3 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
41.8 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 38.5 41.2 35.3
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.5 164.9 68.3 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
41.8 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 38.5 41.2 35.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2007 Rabbit/GTI 4-door hatchback

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 5
100%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Airbags
Description: The airbag warning light may come on because of high resistance in a connector under the driver and/or passenger seat which must be replaced. (2006-07)
Air conditioner
Description: An offensive odor from the A/C vents requires cleaning then coating the evaporator coils with a special product. (2006-07)
Air conditioner
Description: The A/C may gradually get warmer while driving due to a bad temperature sensor allowing the evaporator to freeze up. (2006-08)
Air conditioner
Description: The A/C may gradually get warmer while driving due to a bad temperature sensor allowing the evaporator to freeze up. (2006-08)
Engine misfire
Description: Engine may misfire and the check engine light may illuminate due to moisture getting into the coil-over-plug ignition coils unless improved COP units have been installed. (2005-07)
Audio system
Description: If the sound quality from the premium Panasonic radio is poor, the radio module must be reflashed (reprogrammed). (2006-07)
Audio system
Description: The navigation system may develop several faults (no map, inaudible voice, radio locks up, etc.) requiring software upgrade. (2007-08)
Seat
Description: The heated seat(s) may quit working. (2006-08)
Vehicle noise
Description: Noises may come from the rear springs which is eliminated by replacing the galvanized spring plate with a rubber coated plate. 2006-08)
Windows
Description: Window may separate from its regulator requiring the glass to be glued in place. (2006)
None
Description: Noises may come from the rear springs which is eliminated by replacing the galvanized spring plate with a rubber coated plate. 2006-08)
Navigation system
Description: The navigation system may develop several faults (no map, inaudible voice, radio locks up, etc.) requiring software upgrade. (2007-08)

Recall History

2006
Description: Brake light switch may have been incorrectly installed and could malfunction, causing brake lights to become inoperative or remain on.
2006-08 Rabbit
Description: Some vehicles may not have a required cap, which disables headlight horizontal aim, and some vehicles will have a cap, which disables headlight vertical aim. This can inhibit proper headlight aim and decrease roadway illumination. Dealers will inspect for the presence of a cap in the socket of the low beam horizontal aiming screw and install one if missing, and inspect for the presence of a cap in the socket of the vertical aiming screw and remove the cap if present.
2008 R32
Description: In warmer weather, the fuel tank ventilation valve may not remain fully closed. If this happens, liquid fuel may enter the fuel tank venting system and migrate into the evaporative system, saturating the carbon canister. Should this occur while driving, the vehicle may experience performance issues (i.e., vehicle jerking) and the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) in the instrument cluster could illuminate. Dealers will replace the fuel tank ventilation valve with an improved valve free of charge.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.