2006 Volkswagen Rabbit

Philadelphia Europeans think we're crazy. American buyers snap up the Volkswagen Jetta sedan over its hatchback Golf sibling ten to one. This is especially galling to those who know that the Golf offers more space for large items and is as good as the Jetta for carrying people. The late-arriving, fifth-generation Golf will be called the Rabbit, the U.S.-only moniker used for the first-generation Golf from 1975 to 1984. VW maintains that the Golf badge means little to Americans, whereas resurrecting the Rabbit nameplate gives VW a fun and creative opportunity for marketing the car.

So how does this Golf--er, Rabbit--drive? Very nicely. It features a well-damped chassis that uses VW's four-link independent rear suspension. The electromechanical steering provides good feedback through the twisties and decent on-center feel on the freeway. The five-cylinder engine is smooth and makes good torque, but revving it to its almost diesel-like 5800-rpm redline is uninspiring.

Either way, the torquey engine and excellent chassis give a more upmarket feel than the two-door's $15,620 base price suggests. The better-equipped four-door model starts $2000 higher. Options such as stability control and a sunroof can push the Rabbit close to $20,000.

Whether or not you like the resurrected name, you can relax knowing that the new Rabbit offers sophisticated driving dynamics and interior quality that is usually lacking at this price point.

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