Compact car; Built in Germany
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $6,700 – $12,500*

  • Cargo room
  • Instruments/controls
  • Front seat room/comfort
  • Ride/handling
  • Road and tire noise
  • Rear-seat room

Like the related Jetta, Volkswagen’s Rabbit sets the class standard for overall refinement and solidity. Rabbits also boasts a high-quality interior. The hatchback body style makes it a versatile little hauler, too. Fuel economy is disappointing in this class (especially in city driving). So are Volkswagen’s customer-satisfaction scores for reliability and dealer service.


Before the 2007 model year began, Volkswagen decided to rename its Golf model the Rabbit-a name taken from the company’s heritage. Both the Rabbit and the redesigned-for-2006 GTI were based on the Jetta sedan that had been redesigned for 2005. Rabbit rivals included the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and new Nissan Versa.

Rabbit hatchbacks came in two- and four-door form, all with front-wheel drive. Rabbits used a 150-horsepower five-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission was standard. Optional was a six-speed automatic that included manual-shift capability. Safety features included all-disc antilock brakes, traction control, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags. Rear side airbags were available for four-door models. An antiskid system was optional. Standard wheels held 15-inch tires. A sunroof, navigation system, and digital-audio adapter were optional. Volkswagen’s Jetta four-door sedan shared the Rabbit powertrain and basic underskin design.

Yearly Updates

2007 Rabbit
Little changed for the 2007 model year.
2008 Rabbit
The 2008 Rabbit gained power, as its 2.5-liter five-cylinder got an increase of 20 horsepower to 170. Rabbits came in a single S trim level. Heated front seats with lumbar adjustment were standard in four-door Rabbits and optional for two-doors.
2009 Rabbit
An antiskid system became standard instead of optional on VW’s compact hatchbacks. A five-speed manual gearbox was standard on two-door Rabbits. Four-doors had a standard six-speed automatic transmission, which was optional for two-doors. Early in 2009, Volkswagen announced that the Rabbit name would be dropped, and future U.S. models would go back to the Golf nameplate (as used elsewhere in the world).


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Only one engine has been offered in the Rabbit: a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that initially produced 150 horsepower (increased to 170 hp for 2008), mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

dohc I51
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/151
Engine HP 150
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 170
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed automatic
dohc I5
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/151
Engine HP 170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 177
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed automatic

1. Figures shown for 150-hp engine are for 2007 models. The Environmental Protection Agency changed its procedure for 2008 to yield more realistic estimates.

Road Test

Acceleration is more than adequate for most situations. The automatic transmission is smooth and responsive, but can sometimes be reluctant to downshift when needed for more power. Its useful manual-shift gate is an unexpected surprise in this price class. One early test Rabbit’s nonlinear throttle response resulted in abrupt off-the-line movement. The manual transmission shifts with exemplary precision, but some testers would have preferred shorter throws.

Fuel economy has varied, and could be better. An early test automatic-transmission Rabbit averaged 24.7 mpg. More recently, an automatic-transmission model averaged only 19.8 mpg. Rabbits use regular-grade gasoline.

Rabbits are among the best-riding compacts, providing a fine blend of absorbency and composure. Suspensions are firm but well-controlled over all but the sharpest bumps. Overall comfort is enhanced by Rabbit’s solid body structure.

Handling is another bonus. Competent in most any situation, Rabbits are nimble and fun to drive-albeit less than the related GTI. Natural-feeling steering has good feedback, though some can occur in fast, tight turns. Brakes have a solid pedal feel and excellent stopping power. The antiskid system that was optional on early models and became standard for 2009 is a welcome safety plus in this class.

Though not as quiet as a Jetta, the Rabbit’s cabin is well-isolated from wind and road noise. The five-cylinder engine is gruff at idle and in rapid acceleration. It sounds strained above 4000 rpm, but is reasonably quiet below that speed. The biggest complaint is undue tire noise, even on apparently smooth pavement.

Gauges are large and legible, unobstructed and clearly marked, but some testers have found legibility hindered by the blue/purple dashboard lighting. Most switchgear is handy and intuitive. The navigation system (if installed) takes study but is reasonably easy to program. It absorbs too many audio functions, but no climate adjustments. VW’s high-quality interior impresses for its many soft-touch surfaces, though one test Rabbit’s dashboard creaked.

Six-footers get ample legroom from ultra-long seat tracks. Headroom is generous, though the optional sunroof cuts a bit into head clearance. Driving position is aided by the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The driver’s seat has easy manual height adjustment to fine-tune a comfortable position. Wide rear roof pillars slightly hinder aft visibility.

Rear headroom and legroom are sufficient for smaller adults. Legroom gets very tight if front seats are set far back. Entry/exit demands dexterity in two-door models. Tip-and-slide front seatbacks on one test car required unusual force to move, further hindering entry/exit.

Hatchback versatility and a low load floor help when stowing luggage. The usefully cubic cargo hold can swallow plenty of stuff with some careful packing. Rear seatbacks fold but don’t lie flat. Small-item storage is good, but not great. The glovebox is fairly large, but door map pockets are on the small side.


Model Tested: 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit S 2-door w/automatic

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.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 6
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 6

Total: 57


2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.5 165.8 69.3 58.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
NA 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)
101.5 165.8 69.3 58.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
NA 14.5 6
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 38.5 41.2 35.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2006 Volkswagen Rabbit 4-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 5


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

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

Trouble Spots

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)
Keyless entry
Description: The remote keyless entry may quit working, may only lock the doors or other strange behavior due to lost synchronization. (2005-09)
Description: Ice can build up between the bottom of the front fender and the front door causing sheet metal damage when the door is opened unless corrections were made to route the water elsewhere. (2006-09)
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)
Heated/Cooled seats
Description: The heated seat(s) may quit working. (2006-08)

Recall History

2007-2009 Rabbit vehicles equipped with 2.5L engines
Description: The Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen, and Rabbit vehicles may have a small plastic tab located on the windshield washer fluid reservoir that may chafe against an underhood fuel supply line. The New Beetle and the New Beetle convertible vehicles may have a fastening clamp on a hydraulic hose of the power steering system that may be located in an improper position which could cause chafing against an underhood fuel supply line. If chafing occurs, there is the potential for a fuel leak to develop. Fuel leakage, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire. Dealers will inspect and if necessary replace the underhood fuel line. Additionally, depending on the vehicle model, dealers will either remove the plastic tab from the windshield washer fluid reservoir, or inspect the position of the fastening clamp and adjust the related fastening clamp into the correct position.
Description: Some vehicles may lack required cap that disables headlight horizontal aim, and some may contain a cap that disables the vertical aiming screw, inhibiting proper headlight aim adjustment.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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.