2008 Volkswagen Rabbit Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

The 2008 Volkswagen is a satisfying, high-quality compact that will suit many drivers as is. Those who need more zoot can step up to the GTI or R32.

The economy-car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied the latest road tests on the new 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit to write this definitive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Volkswagen Rabbit, Volkswagen GTI, and Volkswagen R32, and have added more information and driving impressions of those models. This review also compares the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit is the U.S. version of the fifth-generation Golf--what Rabbits are called in Europe. The Rabbit is available in two- and four-door hatchback body styles. As you might expect from something built in Wolfsburg, Germany, the Rabbit is Teutonic and all that--which explains the conservative, boxy shape that's well detailed but unexciting.

Inside, the Rabbit's front seats give great support, and the quality of the materials is high. The driver's seat helps you get comfortable with plenty of adjustability, but the controls are in three different locations: fore/aft at the right-front corner of the seat, a lever on the left side that raises and lowers the bottom cushion, and a big knob to change the backrest angle at the left rear of the seat. They're effective, but kind of convoluted. The view out is good, but the base of the windshield is rather high, a result of European pedestrian collision standards.

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The engine in the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit is likewise involving. Torque delivered by the 150-horsepower 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder surprises with its immediacy. It's not that its 170 pound-feet at 3,750 rpm is all that powerful, but the gearing of the five-speed manual and the electronic throttle's aggressive programming help the Rabbit jump off the line like a scared bunny.

The ride from the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit is taut but never jarring. The front struts and independent rear suspension absorb big bumps with nary a crash or bang. Steering feels precise with a good on-center feel. Unlike so many budget-minded cars using numbing electric power-assisted steering, the Rabbit's steering is actually communicative and downright lively.

From Volkswagen, 2008 offerings based on the Rabbit include the GTI and R32 models. A 197-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo is fitted to the 2008 Volkswagen GTI. The limited-edition all-wheel-drive 2008 Volkswagen R32 delivers even more power from its V-6: a full 250 horsepower. More performance and luxury items are added to each model. While the GTI remains somewhat reasonably priced in the mid-$20,000 range, the R32 commands more than $32,000. Performance fans like the models, but other sportscars in that range will slice and dice the Rabbit on the track with their V-6 and V-8 power.

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