2009 VW Golf: The Next Rabbit

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  • Competes with: Nissan Versa, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Matrix
  • Looks like: A more sophisticated economy car
  • Drivetrain: 158-hp, 1.4-liter TSI four-cylinder engine with DSG transmission
  • Hits dealerships: TBD

VW revealed the next-generation Golf or, as the company renamed it for the U.S., the Rabbit. The new design is a slight evolution of the current generation, which was recently reintroduced to the U.S. market in 2007. Sales haven’t been setting the world on fire, mainly due to the car’s mileage.

In a time of increased interest in fuel-efficient cars, the Rabbit’s 22/29 mpg city/highway doesn’t beat a lot of small entrants. The Nissan Versa gets better mileage at 26/32 mpg city/highway, for example. Plus, the Rabbit costs a few thousand more than most Japanese hatchbacks.

The main reason for the subpar mileage for the 2008 was its engine; it was the same inline-five-cylinder found in the Jetta, teamed to a five-speed manual or six-speed atomatic. The 2009 will not be produced with the inline-five. VW hasn’t announced which engine will make it to the U.S. from its array of thrifty diesel and gasoline power plants, but we’d guess it will be the top-of-the-range 1.4-liter four-cylinder — which uses both a turbocharger and a supercharger — good for 158 hp and roughly 37 mpg. A DSG — dual clutch transmission — replaces the standard six-speed automatic.

The interior also gets a really nice upgrade with a completely new gauge cluster and center stack of controls that look to be very high-quality, which VW is known for.

There is no word on when the new Rabbit will reach the states, but VW has confirmed it will go on sale in North America following its release in Europe later this year. Check out more photos below — including a few 2008s for comparison purposes — and let us know if you think this Rabbit will compete in today’s gas-sipping car market.

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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