What I liked most about the redesigned Golf 'er I mean Rabbit is its interior. The Sage Green tester was outfitted with a beige interior capped with rich black accents on the upper dash and the top of the doors. Inch-wide carbon-fiberesque plastic piping stylishly separates the contrasting hues.
At night, however, is the best time to view the interior. The gages luminesce a subdued blue that gives the cabin an eerie, yet appealing glow. And crisp red accents on the control knobs and gages make them easy to read. The hatchback's also surprisingly roomy. There's ample shoulder and head room fore and aft, along with over 35 in. of legroom for three rear passengers. Rear occupants also enjoy adjustable headrests cleverly designed not to impede the driver's view out the back. Stowing gear is also a snap, thanks to a larger hatch, 15 ft3 of storage area, and collapsing front passenger seat.
The Rabbit, or Golf as it's known outside the U.S., is in its fifth generation. It comes in two and four-door trim with a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with Triptronic is optional. The Rabbit sports a laser-welded unibody that's stronger and more crashworthy than last year's model.
Refinements to the vehicle's driving dynamics include a mulitlink rear suspension with telescoping gas-pressured shocks and stabilizer bar. Front axles use independent McPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, and integrated stabilizers. Under the hood the Rabbit sports a class-leading, -2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. The twin-cam, 20-valve power-plant cranks out 150 hp at 5,000 rpm and 170 hp at 3,705 rpm, about 40 hp more than last year's 2.0-liter engine.
On the outside, the Rabbit is sporty with rounded corners, a wide stance, and muscular fenders. The reshaped grille holds triangular-shaped headlamps and in the rear there's wraparound taillights and a double-barreled exhaust.
VW equipped the Rabbit with a plethora of high-end creature comforts as standard fare. These include AC with pollen and odor filters, height-adjustable and telescoping steering column, power reclining drivers seat with adjustable height and lumbar support, and a fold-flat front passenger seat. Other "no cost" appointments are heated front seats, an in-dash six-disc CD and MP3 player, 10-speaker sound system, and an anitheft alarm. Some spiffy options such as the power sunroof, electronic stabilization program, 16-in. alloy wheels, and Sirius satellite radio boosted the price of our four-door tester from its nearly $17K base to just under $20K with a $630 destination charge. The two door's base is just a "hare" under $15K.