For 2008, Volkswagen's entry-level Rabbit receives more power and a new, single trim level: the Rabbit S. The compact hatchback is Volkswagen's answer to compact cars like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
The Rabbit comes 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.
Using the EPA's new 2008 testing procedures, gas mileage with the optional automatic transmission is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. That's a nominal increase over last year's numbers (after the 2007 numbers are recalculated to make up for the testing differences). The Rabbit still trails the Civic and Corolla, though, as both have significantly smaller engines.
The twin-bezel headlights closely resemble those on the Jetta, 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 face 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.
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.
The Rabbit follows the Jetta and GTI with a three-spoke steering wheel and high-mounted center stack. Upscale elements include one-touch power windows and heated side mirrors. Both are standard, as are many other features, including cruise control, a CD stereo with an auxiliary MP3 jack, remote keyless entry and air conditioning. Options include a moonroof, an iPod-specific connector 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. Thanks to improved airflow and valve-train management, output in both cars increases to 170 horsepower and 177 pounds-feet of torque, up from 150 hp and 170 pounds-feet last year. In the Rabbit, the engine teams with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
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.