I too love the way the Golf (er, Rabbit) drives. Funny, it seems even VW doesn't know what to call the hatchback either as our test vehicle featured rubber floor mats with a "GOLF" logo. At least the Rabbit name has given VW of America an excellent way to market the car.
The Rabbit feels a step above the rest of the cars in the class. The steering and dampening are both excellent, as is the general layout of the interior. But there's a reason for the cut above the others feel. The Rabbit is an expensive car to build and VW loses money on each one they sell in America. I learned this on a trip to Germany with VW last spring. With the weak U.S. dollar, VW is getting killed on any of its German-built cars. Still, at least buyers can reap the rewards of this situation and get an excellent car for not a lot of money.
Still, I'm not in love with the slightly gruff five-cylinder engine. This newest 170 hp version is better than the old 150 hp version but I'd still like to see VW offer its smaller, more fuel efficient engines into the USA. There are rumors that VW will drop their new Jetta TDI engine into the Rabbit in the fall of 2009 so that's good news. I'd love the efficiency of the TDI combined with the more practical, hatchback layout of the Rabbit. But VW, can't we please have some more frugal gasoline engine options as well? Diesel fuel is just too expensive right now.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor