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2007 Volkswagen Rabbit 2.5 Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Volkswagen Rabbit 2.5

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Pat The Bunny: The 2007 Rabbit 2.5
By Rex Roy

There's a children's book generations old called "Pat The Bunny." It's a tactile wonder between the hard covers. Just like the 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit. This is a fine car to drive. It has the spirit and quality of the higher-performance 2007 GTI we recently drove, but costs substantially less and gets slightly better mileage.

Batteries don't power this bunny.
The Rabbit is most certainly a Golf—what they call bunnies in Europe. And that's a good thing … Teutonic and all that goes with something designed and screwed together in Wolfsburg, Germany. It drives like it's from Germany, too. The ride is taut but never jarring. The front struts and independent rear suspension absorbs big bumps with nary a crash or bang. Ride motions are well controlled with little roll in corners. Steering feels precise with a good on-center feel. Unlike so many budget minded cars using numbing electric power assisted steering gears, the Rabbit's steering is actually communicative—downright lively and involving.

The engine is likewise involving. Torque delivered by the 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder surprises with its immediacy. It's not that its 170 lb-ft at 3750 rpm is all that powerful, but the gearing of the 5-speed manual and the electronic throttle's aggressive programming helps the Rabbit jump off the line like a scared bunny. While perhaps not as sweet as VW/Audi's 2.0-liter turbo used in the more expensive Rabbit GTI, the 2.5-liter pumps out 150 horsepower that peaks at only 5000 rpm. This bias toward low-end power is well suited to the Rabbit's expected duties.

For drivers with a brick foot, there's enough power that it's good the Rabbit features standard traction enhancement hardware and software. It engages smoothly and can be switched off when you need some wheel spin to rock out of deep snow. Once at speed, the Rabbit's four-wheel disc brakes readily dissipates speed with good feedback and capable anti-lock electronics.

The 5-speed manual proves a good match for the engine. Pleasurably direct linkage delivers reasonably quick gear changes—remember, this isn't a Ferrari. Ratios are well spaced, and the overdrive 5th gear keeps rpms low for economical and genuinely relaxed highway cruising. The EPA estimates the Rabbit will run 30 mpg on the highway, with an estimated 20 mpg in the city cycle.

The nicest hutch on the block
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. 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.

In the rear, there's plenty of room, and while the seats have a comfortable backrest angle, the cushion is a bit short for longer trips. The backrests fold down with a single pull and open a spacious passageway to the generous trunk (15 cubic feet).

Our tester had a beige cloth that was set off by textured black carpeting and touches of silver trim. The look is rich, but it may take some work to keep it that way. Black shows everything.

Outside, the look is evolutionary Golf. While the overall design is far from inspired, there are some clever exterior features. To open the trunk, one must use the key fob to unlock the mechanism, and then press on the VW emblem. It doubles as a lift handle for the hatch. Another detail is easily overlooked, as it's nearly hidden. Next time you spy a new Rabbit, look closely at the headlamp and you'll spot a tiny VW logo capping off the halogen bulb. Nice touch.

Happy in the briar patch The market often responds to good cars, especially ones that offer genuine value. Priced at $14,990 for the two-door and $16,990 for a four-door, the Rabbit offers buyers yet another choice in crowded segment that includes literally dozens of models. What differentiates the Rabbit is its solid, responsive chassis and the overall quality of its interior materials. These truly exceed what's offered by Asian manufacturers at a lower price, and other European manufacturers at a higher MSRP.

Maybe it's time for you to visit your local Volkswagen dealer to pat this bunny?

2007 Volkswagen Rabbit 2.5
Base price: $16,990 for 4-door
Engine: 2.5-liter five-cylinder, 150 hp/170 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 165.8 x 69.3 x 58.2 inches 
Wheelbase:  101.5 inches
Curb weight: 2858 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy):  22 city/30 highway 
Safety equipment: Dual front, side, and side curtain 
  airbags; anti-lock brakes and stability control 
Major standard equipment: AM/FM/CD player; power door 
  locks, windows and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles