2008 Volkswagen Rabbit Hatchback Review | Edmunds.com

2008 Volkswagen Rabbit Hatchback

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Volkswagen Rabbit Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.5 L Inline 5-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power Info is not yet available.
  • Fuel Economy 22/29 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit

  • With a polished interior, comfortable ride, solid German engineering and more power this year, the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit remains one of the top picks in the economy hatchback class. You pay for what you get, however.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Roomy and upscale cabin, comfortable ride, high crash test scores, impressive build quality.

  • Cons

    Well-equipped four-door has high base price, a bit too vanilla when compared to sleeker rivals.

  • What's New for 2008

    Volkswagen's compact Rabbit receives a welcome infusion of power for 2008, celebrated with a modified moniker as it's now called the Rabbit S.

Full 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit Review

What's New for 2008

Volkswagen's compact Rabbit receives a welcome infusion of power for 2008, celebrated with a modified moniker as it's now called the Rabbit S.


For most economy cars, value is the key selling point. But with an emphasis on value, "fun to drive" and "enjoyable to own" often don't make it into the final product. With its 2008 Rabbit, however, Volkswagen aims to buck that trend. Now in its third model year, the latest Rabbit is actually the current stateside version of the company's Golf hatchback sold overseas -- a situation that harkens back to the nameplate's first appearance on our shores back in the '70s.

The 2008 VW Rabbit is based on the same platform as the compact Jetta and is therefore a bit larger than the old Golf, which pays dividends in terms of generous interior headroom and legroom. The Rabbit is powered by a smooth inline five-cylinder engine and hops along more impressively this year due to a 20-horsepower bump to a more competitive 170. A stiff body structure and multilink rear suspension combine to help deliver comfortably compliant ride and handling, though the taut European character of past generations is missing in action. Enthusiasts will also lament the loss of some steering feel due to the adoption of electric-assisted power steering.

Though perhaps not as fun to drive as previous models, the more powerful 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit offers reasonably satisfying performance and a spacious cabin for its size with above-average ambiance and quality. It's also well equipped, though that does mean a higher MSRP. Overall, we think most owners will find it more satisfying to own than domestic economy hatches like the Dodge Caliber or Ford Focus, though segment favorites like the Honda Civic and sporty Mazda 3 should not be overlooked. Those shopping for a two-door hatchback might also want to take a look at this year's refreshed Scion tC coupe or the stylish new Saturn Astra.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit comes as a two-door or four-door five-passenger hatchback in a single trim level called the S. Both body styles share the same wheelbase and overall length. Standard equipment includes 15-inch wheels, air-conditioning, heated outside mirrors, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. Two-door hatches have a single-CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary jack and eight speakers, while four-doors receive a 10-speaker premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer and satellite radio.

The four-door also comes standard with upgraded cloth upholstery, eight-way manually adjustable front seats (versus six-way adjusters on the two-door), heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, rear-passenger ventilation and a rear center armrest with pass-through. Optional features include 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels, metallic paint, sport and ground-effects body kits, a sunroof (four-door only) and an iPod adapter.

Powertrains and Performance

All VW Rabbits are equipped with a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A standard five-speed manual transmission sends power to the front wheels, while a six-speed automatic with manual-shifting capability is optional. Thanks to the engine's respectable amount of torque, acceleration is brisk at lower speeds with either gearbox, and the optional six-speed automatic makes great use of the engine's power band. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2008 Rabbit is 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway with the five-speed manual -- a bit lower than average for this class of car. Models sold in California-emissions states earn a cleaner PZEV tailpipe emission rating.


Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, front seat side-impact airbags and full-length head curtain airbags are standard on all VW Rabbits. Stability control with electronic differential lock is optional, as are rear seat side-impact airbags on four-doors. In government testing, the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit four-door scored four stars out of five for front occupant protection during frontal crashes and a top-ranked five stars for both front and rear occupants in side-impact tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Rabbit a top score of "Good" for the protection of occupants in both frontal-offset and side-impact crashes.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Rabbit's well-appointed cabin is certainly one of its strengths. At night, the gauges illuminate in stylish VW blue with contrasting red needles, and all the knobs and switchgear feel as if they were borrowed from a premium-priced Audi. The three-spoke steering wheel is perfectly shaped, and multiple adjustments for the front seats plus a tilt and telescoping steering column assure a proper driving position for drivers of different sizes and shapes. Two-door Rabbits have front seats that slide forward for easy rear-seat access, though four-doors are the obvious choice if you plan on regularly carrying more than a couple adults or children.

Driving Impressions

The 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit is tuned to provide a satisfying balance between a comfortable ride and capable, reasonably fun handling. Although not as taut and responsive through the curves as earlier generations, the current model is more refined, with reassuring, rock-solid stability and a surprisingly noise-free ride. The steering is direct and nicely weighted, but doesn't offer as much feedback as we'd prefer.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Excellent car

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S PZEV 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 5M)

Bought this car brand new when I was 16, for just under $16,000 and haven't looked back since. It's pushing 7 years and over 100,000 miles now and no problems at all. Changing the oil every 10k miles and changing brakes as needed I'm sure helped the quality remain top-notch. Quick enough for getting around town along with decent fuel economy, however I wish the mpg were a little better.

2 of 20 people found this review helpful

No more vws

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A)

This 2008 Rabbit is the 2nd Golf/Rabbit in the family since 2003. The 1st was a 1999 Golf which nickeled and dimed us to death, mostly with lightbulbs, but also other sometimes unbelievable electrical failures. The reliability ratings on the 2006 and up VWs were vastly improved over the previous years, so I took a chance and bought this one in 2010, certified, from a VW dealer with 50K miles, as a graduation gift to my daughter. She couldn't afford to operate it so I bought it back from her with 59K miles thinking it would be a good work car for 3-4 years. WRONG! (continued below)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Great quality, price and reliability

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A)

I have 90,000 miles on my car and it has been by far one of the best purchases I have ever made. The car starts without hesitation, stops on a dime, and has great pick up. VW offers a fairly comprehensive warranty and tends to repair certain items out of "goodwill" even when out of warranty. I never take my car to the dealer(unless it a recall) and have learned how to do every maintenance or repair on my own through the various forums that VW enthusiast keep up to date. This has helped keep my costs down while being able to own a safe German designed foreign car. For those without the ability to work on their own VW I would recommend checking out the prices for services in your local area.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Love vws

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A)

Great car, easy to handle, good in snow with Nokian snow tires on it, very good on gas. Bought it with 60 k miles. Now at 122 k with no repairs. Tires, oil, filters i.e. maintenance only. A couple of bulbs changed. That's all. Used to drive VW Passats, earlier with no major problems. The single issue is Check engine light which is turning on and off by itself. If you want a good VW buy one built in Germany.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

Little bargain monster

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Vehicle: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S 4dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A)

If you want a cool looking fun to drive cheap to run runabout then this is it!! I actually traded down from a 2009 GTI with DSG to my VW Rabbit with the standard automatic and I actually prefer the drive of the Rabbit than I did to the GTI. Power delivery is obviously less but not a huge difference as it has 170bhp which has plenty up and go for me. The car is very versatile, comfortable on long journey's, love the 60/40 split rear seats to give HUGE cargo space for such a little car, 4 door's makes it a good family car with kids and cheap enough to buy out right so I have no car payments :-) I love it!!! You cannot go wrong with this well built European styling little rocket.

Best purchase

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Vehicle: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S 4dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A)

This is my third car and by far my favorite. I enjoy everything about this car. You can still fit 5 adults in the car even though from the outside wouldn't think so. I haven't had any issues with the car at all. I take it to the dealership and Im treated like a princess every time I go there for whatever reason it is. Volkswagen overall has impressed with me with their product and service.

Talk About The 2008 Rabbit

2008 Volkswagen Rabbit Discussions See all Started By

I just spoke to my VW dealer about purchasing a 2007 Rabbit. The one I wanted couldn't be found in Canada so he tried to order one from the factory. Sorry, no more are being built... the allotted amou...

yes with any problem.I put a gti steering wheel to my vw rabbit 2008....


Gas Mileage


  • 22
  • cty
  • 29
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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