2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S

I only drove the Rabbit briefly, but my overwhelming impression is that it oozes quality and refinement for an $18,000 car. There is nothing about it that feels cheap, from the nicely damped exterior door handles to the typically well-crafted VW interior, with its great seats, to the smooth and refined 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. There's nice steering feel and a supple ride, and I didn't even mind that the inline-five, which at 170 hp provides plenty of power, was hooked to an automatic transmission, since it's a six-speed unit that's well mated to the engine. If it were me, though, I'd opt for the five-speed manual and use the thousand-dollar savings toward a four-door Rabbit, which has a base price of $17,485. Still, if you're looking to get into a high-quality small car, the two-door Rabbit with a five-speed manual, starting at $15,490, is a very attractive proposition. And heated seats are only a $225 option!

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

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