2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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From a VW owner’s perspective, perhaps the most significant changes to the 2007 Rabbit (formerly Golf) relate to performance and fuel economy. The Rabbit’s new standard 150-hp 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder (the same engine as in the new Jetta) is significantly larger and more powerful than the previous standard engine, a 115-hp 2.0-litre four cylinder. While the new five-banger lops a second or three off the Golf’s 0 to 100 km/h time, is notably smoother, and has considerably more torque, the trade-off is fuel economy: its official City/Hwy fuel economy numbers of 10.7/7.2 L/100 km (man) and 10.5/7.1 (auto) are definitely thirstier than the Golf’s 9.8/7.1 (man) and 9.6/7.2 (auto), notably in the city – and the Golf was already one of the least fuel-efficient vehicles in its class anyway. In a vehicle class where fuel economy is a priority, the Rabbit is near the bottom of the pack.

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge

The flipside is that the Rabbit’s more powerful engine, new independent multi-link rear suspension, stiffer body, improved steering, and new optional six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission, all add up to an improved driving experience. For many Golf/Rabbit buyers who enjoy the vehicle dynamics of a car designed to sustain high speeds on the Autobahn, this will be reason enough to buy the new Rabbit. It’s worth noting too, that the new Rabbit is built in Wolfsburg, Germany (except the engine, which is built in Mexico) whereas the previous-generation Golf is (still) built in Brazil.

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge

Crash-safety has always been a strong point with the Golf/Rabbit too, and the 2007 Rabbit did very well in recent government crash tests. It was named a ‘Top Safety Pick, Silver’, based on results from frontal offset, side and rear crash tests conducted by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (see www.hwysafety.org for more details). It also received four stars for the driver and passenger in frontal tests, and five stars in side impact tests from the NHTSA (www.safercar.gov).

In terms of styling, the Rabbit’s proportions and key features are immediately identifiable as an evolution of the previous Golf (which interestingly is still being sold as the budget-priced 2007 City Golf in Canada. The classic hatchback bodystyle first started by the original Rabbit back in 1973, now in two and four-door bodystyles, provides maximum interior and cargo space for its relatively small dimensions.

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge

For 2007, there’s more cabin room (95.3 cu. ft. vs 88.3 cu. ft.) courtesy of a longer wheelbase and a wider cabin, but there’s less cargo space (14.1 cu. ft. vs 17.7 cu. ft. behind the seats). Still, it’s a roomy hatch, seating four adults in comfort, or five in a squeeze.

Notice that the Rabbit doesn’t have the somewhat controversial ‘deep chin grille’ of the GTI and other Volkswagen models. Its conventional body-coloured grille has two simple horizontal slats while its body-coloured bumper has three lower air intakes and a couple of removeable ‘ding preventers’ on either side of the bumper. Sensibly, the lower 20% of the front and rear bumpers is painted black so that it won’t get too dirty or scratched on curbs. Dual chrome exhaust tips at the rear add a sporty look.


Driving impressions

As I mentioned, the Rabbit’s standard 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine is a fairly large engine for a compact hatchback and the only five-cylinder engine in its class. For about the same money, the Toyota Matrix XR includes a standard 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder engine; the Dodge Caliber SXT has a 2.0-litre inline four; and the Mazda3 Sport GS has a 2.3-litre inline four.

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge

VW’s five-cylinder motor is not a high revving engine: its redline is 5800 rpm, and it doesn’t really like to rev much beyond 5500 rpm. What it does have, though is torque: officially 170 lb-ft @ 3750 rpm. For comparison, the 2006 Golf 2.0-litre inline four cylinder had 122 lb-ft @ 2600 rpm (which itself is unusually torquey for a four-cylinder engine). What this means in everyday driving is a more responsive throttle at slower speeds and less downshifting. My car had the standard five-speed manual transmission, and I found myself tooling around town in third gear much of the time, and on the freeway in fifth gear, I found sufficient torque to maintain speed on uphill grades. In addition, there’s more power when passing and accelerating on the freeway.

Though the new Rabbit four-door is almost 100 kg heavier than the previous Golf, its 0 to 100 km/h time of about nine seconds is between one and three seconds faster than the Golf, depending on the transmission. The inline five-cylinder is also smoother and quieter than the previous four, despite the odd number of cylinders. In top gear at 100 km/h on the freeway, the engine turns over a relaxed 2400 rpm, and at 120 km/h it’s doing 2900 rpm. Autos’s Paul Williams reported that the Rabbit with a six-speed automatic spins at only 2000 rpm at 120 km/h.

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge

I found the highway ride very comfortable, a function of its longer wheelbase, fully independent suspension (front MacPherson strut/rear multi-link; previously rear torsion beam) and quiet cabin. Road noise is the most audible disturber. My car was equipped with the optional Continental Conti Contact 205/55R16 all-season tires (15-inch are standard), and though handling is nimble, the car does feel slightly heavier than previous generation Golfs. The new Bosch electro-mechanical variable-assist rack and pinion steering includes a basic form of ‘active’ steering that compensates for side wind gusts.

The standard five-speed manual transmission is easy to shift, and clutch pedal effort isn’t strenuous. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the optional six-speed Tiptronic. With standard discs all around equipped with ABS, braking performance is terrific. Traction control is standard and my car had the optional ESP (electronic stabilization control) for automatically correcting understeer and oversteer.

The driver has excellent visibility in all directions. The newly designed rear head restraints can be lowered almost flush with the top of the seats; and the rear window includes a wiper with an intermittent wipe setting and washer, as well as a defroster.

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge


Interior impressions

The Rabbit’s cabin is roomier than the Golf’s, particularly rear seat legroom: the wheelbase has been stretched 67 mm (2.6 in.) and the Rabbit is 24 mm (0.9 in.) wider. Getting in and out of the Rabbit’s four large doors is fairly easy, and there is generous headroom front and rear (in the two-door Rabbit, accessing the rear seat isn’t quite as easy). The front seats are covered in a good quality fabric material and the driver’s seat has a manual height adjustment lever, and large thigh and torso bolsters to keep you from sliding around when cornering. Combined with the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel, most drivers can find a driving position they like.

To alleviate the monotony of the dark dash, a thin strip of carbon-fibre like trim extends across the dash and doors, and subtle chrome trim around the shift lever adds a bit of class. The Rabbit’s large round tachometer and speedo sit astride two small gauges for fuel and coolant, and a central digital display showing the odometer, outside temperature, and time. At night, the gauges are backlit in an attractive purpley-blue colour with illuminated red needles. The centre stack includes red backlighting for the radio and heater controls, and a large LCD display to show radio and CD functions.

My car had the optional variable seat heater controls with five heat settings – which will be very handy on a cold winter’s morning. Though all the controls are nicely laid out and easy to use, I found one unusual feature: to activate the air conditioning, you have to turn off the ‘Economy’ button. I think it would have been simpler to just have ‘A/C’ ‘on’ and ‘off’.

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge

The radio and CD controls are clearly marked and simple to operate, and the larger LCD screen displays functions in large easy-to-see letters; however, glare can obscure it at times. Storage areas are scattered around the cabin: there’s an open bin on top of the dash, a small bin with a 12-volt outlet at the bottom of the centre stack, a covered bin between the front seats, large front door pockets, a larger-than-average passenger glovebox with a separate slot for the owner’s manual, and a flip-down coin holder near the driver’s door.

The rear seat is split 60/40 and includes a folding centre armrest/pass-through. One noteworthy improvement: the three rear head restraints don’t have to be removed before folding down the seatbacks. However, the seatbacks don’t fold down perfectly flat. The entire cargo area, including the side walls, is lined in a sensible non-scratch fabric liner, and underneath the cargo floor is a temporary spare tire and a couple of hidden storage bins. There’s also a 12-volt power outlet in the trunk.

The rear hatch is opened by pushing on the VW badge in the centre of the hatch, but it takes some practice to do with one hand (while holding grocery bags in the other). The hatch opening is large and the loading height is low.


Standard equipment

Though the Rabbit’s base price of $19,990 (two-door) and $20,990 (four-door) is higher than many of its competitors, the Rabbit includes more standard equipment, including front, side and curtain airbags,

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. Click image to enlarge

active front head restraints, air conditioning, keyless remote with folding key, central power door locks, alarm, power windows with automatic up/down on all windows and pinch protection, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 folding seatbacks with centre pass-through, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and cruise control.

My four-door test car also included the following options: ‘Convenience package’: 6-disc in-dash CD changer, heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, floor mats $605; 16-inch alloy wheels and tires $565; ‘Sunroof package’: power sunroof w/roof console, sunglasses holder, map lights $1,400; Electronic Stabilization Program $450; and rear side airbags $450. With Freight and A/C tax, my test vehicle came to $25,255.


Verdict

The major differentiator between the Rabbit and other cars in its class is the Rabbit’s comparatively large standard 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. With more torque than the typical four-cylinder, it feels more responsive around town and on the highway. The downside is that it is not as fuel-efficient.


Pricing

  • Base price: $20,990
  • Options: $ 3,470 (Convenience package: 6-disc in-dash CD changer, heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, floor mats $605; 16-inch alloy wheels and tires $565; Sunroof package: power sunroof w/roof console, sunglasses holder, map lights $1,400; Electronic Stabilization Program $450; rear side airbags $450)
  • Freight: $695
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $25,255 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives



Specifications

Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact hatchback
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 2.5-litre 5-cylinder, DOHC
Horsepower 150 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque 170@ 3750 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (6-speed automatic with Tiptronic optional)
Tires 195/65R-15 H all-season (205/55R-16 H all-season optional)
Curb weight 1393 kg (3072 lb.), manual transmission;
1423 kg (3137 lb.), automatic transmission
Wheelbase 2578 mm (101.5 in.)
Length 4210 mm (165.8 in.)
Width 1759 mm (69.3 in.)
Height 1479 mm (58.2 in.)
Cargo capacity 400 litres (15.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption, manual transmission City: 10.7 L/100 km (26 mpg Imp); Hwy: 7.2 L/100 km (39 mpg Imp)
Fuel consumption, automatic transmission City: 10.5 l/100 km (27 mpg Imp); Hwy: 7.1 L/10 km (40 mpg Imp)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km


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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Mazda3 Sport
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Subaru Impreza Wagon
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Toyota Matrix


Crash test results


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