TO THE POINTWhat’s New? The 2006 VW Rabbit is all new, replacing the Golf as the entry model in the lineup. Choose between a three- or five-door hatchback in a single trim. Selling Points: Fun to drive, front comfort, quality materials, useful utility, low-emission engine, top-notch safety equipment Deal Breakers: Unimpressive fuel economy, unimpressive acceleration Our Advice: Despite the Rabbit’s wholesome goodness, the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 are strong alternatives to consider unless you must have a Vee-Dub badge.
DesignThe new Rabbit gets a clean interior design constructed of quality materials. Cargo capacity is 46 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
The 2006 VW Rabbit distinguishes itself from its family members by eschewing the oversized chrome grille that decorates other Volkswagens. Executed with a convincingly articulated bumper, grille and lower fascia in body-color trim, Rabbit’s lack of a prominent Audi-like nose seems almost refreshing. Thick D-pillars and body-color lower moldings on the five-door models create a solid slab of sheetmetal that maintains the Rabbit’s coveted European flair. Teardrop-shaped taillights sit high in the rear quarters, looking great with the hatch open or closed.
A cleanly styled interior takes advantage of Volkswagen’s long touted cabin-building competence. Fit-and-finish is impressive for a $15,000 vehicle, and of particular note are the Audi-quality gauges and controls. Other materials, such as the laminated visor and hard plastic door inserts, appear less than top-drawer. We appreciated the Rabbit’s large glove box, but would also opt for expanded and more creative stowage in the center console, as well as taller cupholders to fully secure many of today’s larger drinks.
Both the three- and five-door models carry 15 cu.-ft. of cargo behind the rear seats. Cargo capacity expands to 46 cu.-ft. when the rear seats are folded. The need to carry longer gear is accommodated by a smart rear seat pass-through and a folding front passenger’s seat on the five-door version. Comparatively, Dodge’s Caliber swallows 18.5 cu.-ft. with the seats up, Ford’s three- and five-door Focus hatchbacks tackle 17.6 cu.-ft., and Toyota’s Matrix manages 21.8 cu.-ft.