2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline
2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline. Click image to enlarge

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Test Drive: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit 2.5 four-door

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2009 Volkswagen Rabbit

Surrey, British Columbia – The current VW Rabbit, formerly called the Golf, is designed, engineered and built in Germany, and has consistently been one of the most popular cars in Europe, where it’s still known as the Golf. In Canada, VW also sells a car called the City Golf, which is essentially a variation on the last generation Golf which is made in Brazil. To make things more confusing, the next generation Rabbit will once again be called the Golf.

Though considerably more expensive than the City Golf, the 2009 Rabbit is a larger, better equipped, more technically advanced car with a bigger and more powerful engine. In addition, the Rabbit is a close relative of the GTI, the hottest hatch in the VW line-up.

Notable standard features on a Rabbit that are either extra or unavailable on a City Golf are its power windows and locks, cruise control, air conditioning, traction control, brake assist and side airbags.

A 170-horsepower 2.5-litre, inline five-cylinder engine with generous torque (177 lb-ft), gives the Rabbit excellent off-the-line acceleration. And its four-wheel independent suspension and a longer wheelbase give it a nicer highway ride, with good stability and handling. A more sophisticated, fully independent multi-link suspension hides under the rear of a Rabbit, instead of the torsion-beam set-up used in the City Golf.

2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline
2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline. Click image to enlarge

Transmission choices are a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, the latter a Tiptronic which offers a manual-shift feature. My test Rabbit came with the manual transmission.

It also has an electric variable power-assist steering system, which is a trend in new vehicles these days because it helps to save fuel.

Rabbits come in a choice of two-door and four-door hatchback body styles in Trendline and Comfortline trim levels. My test Rabbit was a base Trendline with the Sport package ($1,600), ESP ($450) and very appropriately — a Cold Weather Package ($275). All of which brought its total price to $23,300.

Built on the fifth-generation Golf platform, the Rabbit is 21 millimetres longer, 24 mm wider and 35 mm taller than the City Golf. The most telling measurement difference is its wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles), which is 65 mm longer.

It’s a more rounded shape, with sleeker transitions on its body surfaces. Well-defined wheel openings add a muscular touch to what is, in general, a smooth organic design. The Rabbit body structure is also about 80 per cent stiffer than its Golf predecessor.

2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline
2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline
2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline
2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline. Click image to enlarge

It’s also roomier on the inside than a City Golf; the Rabbit gives its rear passengers an extra 31 mm of rear leg room. Typical of VW, the interior looks and feels more expensive then you’d expect and better than most competitors in this class.

With the rear seat in an upright position, there’s still a generous 140 litres of cargo capacity and tie down hooks are provided to secure the cargo. My test Rabbit also came with a handy centre armrest pass-through for long, skinny items, such as skis or that snow shovel you need to buy.

The Rabbit is a car I’d be happy to take on a long highway trip. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive. The steering column both tilts and telescopes, to help a driver find that “just right” position behind the wheel. The move to larger control switches on the audio system is a pleasant change from the fiddly little controls on the previous system. The Rabbit also has numerous small but meaningful features, such as the illuminated door lock/unlock switches, its extra-wide door pockets, big glovebox and side window defogger vents in the A-pillars.

Anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, front-seat side airbags and front/rear head curtain airbags are all standard. Even rear-seat side airbags are optional on the four-door Rabbit. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Rabbit “Good” (its top rating) in its frontal-offset and side crash tests.

About 90 per cent of the 2.5-litre engine’s maximum torque is available from as low as 1750 r.p.m. It’s what gives the Rabbit that snappy (pardon the pun) jump from a standstill and good passing power. It pulls well, even if a higher gear than is really required is selected, which makes is an easy car to drive with a manual transmission.

Flat-out acceleration from zero to 100 km/h takes just under nine seconds. While this is certainly adequately quick, it’s not particularly fast by today’s standards.

2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline
2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline. Click image to enlarge

Official fuel economy numbers are 10.7/6.9 L/100 km (city/highway) – higher than many of its four-cylinder competitors.

The Rabbit’s ride quality and general handling are impressive and most of the credit for this can be attributed to its stronger body shell and revised rear suspension. VW has also done a great job of making it a much quieter vehicle, which is a feature you really appreciate on a long journey.

My test Rabbit came with the optional electronic stability control system. This computer-controlled driving aid helps keep the car on the driver’s intended path when cornering or in an emergency situation. I highly recommend this option.

Though it’s a little pricier than most in this class, I think it’s still a solid value when you tally up its features and quality attributes.

Pricing: 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit Trendline
  • Base price:$19,975
  • Options: $2,325 (Sport package, $1,600; ESP, $450; Cold Weather Package, $275)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,335
  • Price as tested: $23,735
    Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

    Specifications
  • Specifications: TBA

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Chevrolet HHR
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Dodge Caliber
  • 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Jeep Compass
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Kia Spectra5
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Mazda3 Sport
  • 2009 Mini Cooper
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Nissan Versa
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Pontiac Vibe
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Saturn Astra
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Suzuki SX-4
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Toyota Matrix

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