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When the Volkswagen Golf was introduced in 1974, it came to the U.S. in 1975 as the Volkswagen Rabbit, a hop-away hit. Initially available as either a two- or four-door hatchback and later on as a convertible and even a pickup truck, the diminutive Rabbit combined a nimble, front-wheel-drive chassis with high-quality German construction and incredible space efficiency. This successor to the beloved Beetle easily embarrassed American economy cars in terms of performance, fuel-efficiency and cabin space. In 1985, the Rabbit nameplate was replaced by the Golf moniker (meant to recall the Gulf of Mexico, not a golf ball), which was what the car had always been called in Europe.
More than two decades later, the Rabbit name returned. In a reversal of the 1980s name swap, VW replaced the Golf name with the Rabbit badge on U.S.-bound hatchbacks in mid-2006. This Rabbit ran with an inline-5 rather than a four-cylinder engine, and it retained the characteristic boxy but very functional hatchback architecture, although it was larger and heavier than before. It also offered some upscale features (such as heated seats) not usually seen in its segment, as well as that solid feel on the road that seems to be a birthright of German-engineered cars.
Sadly, the rascally Rabbit died once again following the 2009 model year as Volkswagen reverted to the Golf name once again when it redesigned the car. However, despite the different name, you'll still find the same well-engineered hatchback, though it's made in Mexico these days
Most Recent Volkswagen Rabbit
The most recent VW Rabbit was introduced for 2006, replacing the Golf. It was offered as a two- or four-door hatchback in just one trim level and with only one engine choice. Two-door Rabbits came with a number of standard niceties such as air-conditioning and full power accessories, while the four-door version upped the ante with heated front seats, a fold-down rear armrest and an upgraded stereo.
During its brief, three-year life, the Rabbit changed little. It originally featured a 150-horsepower five-cylinder engine, but it was upgraded to 170 hp for 2008. Transmission choices included a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, though for 2009 the four-door was only available with the automatic.
In reviews, we lauded the Rabbit's high-quality cabin trim, which imparted a richness that's rare in the compact class. Additionally, the Rabbit's comfortable ride and competent (if not overly sporty) handling dynamics made it a well-rounded and practical economy car. Below-average fuel economy is our only major gripe about the Volkswagen Rabbit, as this economy hatchback struggled to average 24 mpg during combined city and highway driving.
Shoppers interested in an older or newer model than this will want to examine the Golf. It has much of the same characteristics of the Volkswagen Rabbit. It was available from 1985-2006, then reintroduced for 2010. There was also the original Rabbit sold from 1975-'84. From a used-vehicle standpoint, however, the odds of finding one fit for general use are quite low.