Volkswagen brought its fifth-generation Golf to the U.S. in 2006 and dubbed it the 2006.5 Rabbit — bringing back an old model name and retiring the Golf badge.
For 2007, the Rabbit is available in two- or four-door body styles and 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.
The Rabbit comes standard with an auxiliary audio input, and an iPod adapter and tire pressure monitoring system are available. Cruise control has been simplified, and new exterior colors are offered — Tornado Red, Candy White and United Gray.
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.
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 grows 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. It teams with 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.