The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit features the same sporty yet practical design as prior models, but gets a standard automatic transmission for its four-door version. While the Rabbit still reaches nowhere near the popularity in the U.S. that it enjoys in Europe, the five-seat, front-drive compact hatchback appeals to economy-minded buyers with its small but powerful engine, quality build, and affordable price tag.
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit comes as a two-door or four-door hatchback, based on the platform of the same-generation Volkswagen Jetta. While the Rabbit offers just one trim (the Volkswagen Rabbit S), the four-door version offers a greater selection of features. Both body styles come equipped with a standard 2.5-liter, inline-five engine, but the two-door model pairs with a five-speed manual transmission while the four-door now comes standard with a six-speed automatic. A functional design and spirited engine make the Volkswagen Rabbit a tough competitor in the crowded sport compact segment, though some may be disappointed with the 2009 model’s mediocre EPA ratings.
Body Styles: hatchback
Engines: 2.5-liter five-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Models: Volkswagen Rabbit S
Previously equipped with a standard five-speed manual gearbox, the four-door version of the 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit now comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. In addition, all models have been updated with standard stability control.
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit gets characterized by a forward-leaning stance and a stylishly sporty design. Two-door Volkswagen Rabbit S models come equipped with standard 15-inch steel wheels, all-season tires, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a rear window wiper, a rear defogger, and cargo tie-downs. The four-door S gains heated windshield washer nozzles and distinctive exterior trim. Options for both versions include a sunroof and 16-inch wheels, while the two-door Rabbit can be upgraded with the heated washer nozzles.
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit features an above-average build quality for the compact class. Inside the cabin, drivers find premium materials, a futuristic blue-light-illuminated control panel, and numerous amenities.
The two-door Rabbit S comes with cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, power heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, power locks, one-touch power windows, cruise control, front and rear cup holders, air-conditioning, interior air filtration, a clock, an external temperature display, a cargo area light, 12-volt power outlets, and a 10-speaker audio system with single CD player and auxiliary MP3 audio input. The four-door Rabbit S adds velour upholstery, front and rear center armrests, rear air vents, heated front seats, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with a power recline feature, satellite radio, and a premium sound system with a six-disc CD changer. Both models can be upgraded with an iPod adapter, while the two-door model offers the four-door Rabbit’s standard heated seats.
The Volkswagen Rabbit boasts a surprisingly large cabin with enough room to seat five people with cargo space to spare, though average-sized adults may feel a bit cramped in the back seat. Front occupants get 39.3 inches of headroom, 41.2 inches of legroom, and 54.7 inches of shoulder room, while rear passengers receive 38.5 inches of headroom, 35.3 inches of legroom, and 54.6 inches of shoulder room. Cargo capacity totals 15 cubic feet with all seats in place.
Performance & Handling
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit gets its power from a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine. The two-door Rabbit comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic transmission comes standard on the four-door and remains available on the two-door. With an output of 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, the powertrain marks one of the most muscular in the sport compact segment. Unfortunately, this gets reflected in the Rabbit’s gas mileage. When fitted with the automatic transmission, the hatchback receives an EPA-rating of 21/29 mpg city/highway, which falls below average for a compact. Thanks to a stable chassis, multilink rear suspension, and balanced steering, the Rabbit feels both nimble and comfortable to drive. However, it’s still not quite as agile as its sport-tuned sibling, the Volkswagen GTI.
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit features standard anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, emergency braking assist, front and rear head airbags, front side-mounted airbags, driver and passenger head restraints with whiplash protection, and a post-collision safety system. The four-door version also offers optional rear-seat side airbags. Despite its small size, the Rabbit consistently performs well in safety tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the hatchback its top rating of ?Good? for front and side collisions. In government collision testing, Rabbit models earn four out of five stars for frontal-impact protection and a perfect five stars for front- and rear-passenger safety in side impacts.
EPA Fuel Economy
Volkswagen Rabbit S (manual): 20/29 mpg city/highway
Volkswagen Rabbit S (automatic): 21/30 mpg city/highway
- Strong engine
- Upscale build
- Versatile design
- Long list of features
You Won't Like
- So-so gas mileage
- Above-average price
Europe’s best-selling sporty hatchback finds its footing in the U.S.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Mazda MAZDA3
- Saturn Astra
- Honda Civic
- Ford Fiesta