Volkswagen's fifth-generation Golf, which hit European showrooms more than two years ago, has made its way to the U.S. and is now called the Rabbit. The automaker introduced the car to the U.S. at the Los Angeles auto show in January, calling it the Golf. A last-minute name change came three months later at the New York auto show. As a result, buyers might find both a 2006 Golf and 2006 Rabbit sitting together on dealers' lots.
Available in two- or four-door body styles, the new Rabbit retains the basic hatchback shape that has made the model famous since its 1974 introduction. It has a larger interior and more power than its predecessor, though it retains the nameplate's value-oriented principles with plenty of standard safety and convenience equipment. Other advancements include an independent rear suspension instead of the previous torsion-bar setup.
City fuel economy takes a short dive due to the new Rabbit's larger engine, rated at 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which is less than some competitors. A diesel-powered variant, sold in the previous generation as the Golf TDI, is not offered yet. But considering a fifth-generation Golf TDI is available in Europe, there is considerable likelihood one will arrive on U.S. shores.
The new Rabbit is a rare half-year model — mixing briefly with previous-generation Golfs for 2006 — but Volkswagen seems to enjoy these designations, as its Jetta sedan pulled the same trick last year. The 2006.5 Rabbit will be available in June 2006.
Headlights closely resemble the new Jetta's, although a body-colored bumper doesn't create a one-piece grille appearance, as do the chrome units in other Volkswagens. The Rabbit's simple lines and uncluttered fascia make it look very similar to its Golf predecessor. The same slatted grille holds a large VW logo in the center, while a lower air dam separates into three sections. Headlights hold two large bezels.
Length, width and height are identical to the previous Golf. Fifteen-inch wheels are standard, with 16-inch wheels optional. An independent rear suspension should allow better handling, but a new electromechanical steering system — which lacks much road feel in the Jetta — might mitigate this.
The Rabbit follows the Jetta and GTI with a three-spoke steering wheel and high-mounted center stack. Upscale touches include one-touch power windows and heated side mirrors. Both are standard, as are many other features, including cruise control, a CD player and remote entry. Options include a moonroof and heated front seats.
Despite exterior measurements equaling the previous Golf, the five-passenger interior has 7 percent more passenger volume. Most of that goes to the backseat, as rear passengers gain nearly 2 inches of legroom and more than an inch of headroom over the previous model.
Cargo capacity benefits thanks to a 60/40-split, folding rear seat. A fold-flat front passenger seat is also available, giving the Rabbit capacity to carry longer items, such as skis.
Under the Hood
The Rabbit shares its 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder engine with the Jetta. The engine makes 150 horsepower and 170 pounds-feet of torque. The new 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder engine makes 150 hp and 170 pounds-feet of torque. It drives through a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The Jetta's optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is not available in the Rabbit.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, as are active head restraints. Side-impact and side curtain airbags also come standard. An electronic stability system is optional.