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Avg. Price Paid:$6,871 - $8,188
Original MSRP: $15,600 - $18,650
MPG: 22 City / 29 Hwy
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2008 Volkswagen Rabbit Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit was new.

The 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit provides solid performance for its class. With its 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, most reviews find that the Rabbit provides drivers with a substantial amount of power that matches up nicely with its easy handling capabilities.

New Car Test Drive echoes most reviewers in its assessment, saying the Rabbit "is a quick and perky vehicle with enough power to make it fun to drive," and the hatchback design "provides practicality and flexibility that make the Rabbit an attractive option in its price class."

The majority of reviewers find the Rabbit delivers impressive power. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman notes that "this bunny roars," while Kelley Blue Book notes, "the new 2.5-liter five cylinder engine delivers the quick response worthy of the Rabbit name." AutoWeek says that the "Rabbit owners we heard from loved the ride quality and performance of the platform, with many admitting they took the long way home to take advantage of the car's spirited drive character."

However, some reviewers are not impressed with the engine power. But even they make sure to give props to the Rabbit for its spirited overall performance. Car and Driver says, "More power is always good, but this motor is a bit underwhelming. Just when the Rabbit's lump starts to sing, you have to shift. Engine aside, the overall driving experience is quite good."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Rabbit only has one engine, available with two transmissions: a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic and Sport mode The 2.5-liter, five-cylinder makes 170 horsepower and 170 pounds-feet of torque. The experts at AutoWeek don't like that there is only one available engine, but said its track testers "liked the engine's smooth operation and the lack of resonance typical of five-cylinder engines."

The EPA estimates the Rabbit's fuel economy at 22 miles per gallon in the city, and 29 mpg on the highway with a manual transmission. Using an automatic, the Rabbit should achieve 21 mpg in the city and 29 on highways.

New Car Test Drive test drove the six-speed and lauded its nimbleness: "[the transmission] only adds to its flexibility and responsiveness, making the Rabbit a good choice for commuting in heavy traffic." The Auto Channel gave the five-speed manual transmission a whirl, and says it provided substantial gust: "With the four gears, acceleration was good and there was no need to constantly shift down from fifth whenever I needed a jolt of power." Newsday feels the standard transmission, a "slick-shifting five-speed" is difficult to get accustomed to, because "it engages quite abruptly."

Handling and Braking

Reviewers are almost unanimously impressed with the 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit's handling capabilities and steering. The experts at New Car Test Drive say,"Its steering and suspension give it a nice balance of smooth ride and responsive handling and help the driver maneuver safely in emergency situations." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that what distinguishes the new Rabbit is its "tactile handling, with a definite Germanic feel, as well as the sort of supple ride you might not expect in a car that is less than 14 feet long. The combination results in a conveyance that is effortless to live with daily." The reviewers at Road and Track call the clutch "light" and feel "the steering is accurate with good feedback."

Experts at Newsday praise the Rabbit's suspension, but issue a small warning: "The fully independent suspension does a great job of keeping the body level and bounce-free in hard driving, but be warned that it delivers a ride that some of you might find too firm, especially for long trips."

With a standard advanced anti-lock braking system and traction control, most reviewers say the Rabbit has solid braking abilities. New Car Test Drive says that "the brakes also are responsive" and points out that "the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes allow the driver to brake and steer at the same time in a panic stopping situation … The optional Electronic Stability Program is a computer-controlled aid designed to help keep the car on its intended path rather than spinning out of control in emergency maneuvers, and we strongly recommend getting it."

Cars.com adds their praise for the braking system, with kudos for including four-wheel discs (vented on the front), electronic brake force distribution and hydraulic Brake Assist. They all combine to make this hare nearly stand on end when you hit the brakes."

Review Last Updated: 2/19/09

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