2008 Volkswagen Rabbit S Review

The 2008 VW Rabbit added an “S” and another 20 horsepower over the 2007 VW Rabbit. The 20 hp is welcome; the “S” seems a bit superfluous.

By Brendan Moore


I recently drove around a 2008 Rabbit S 4-door automatic for a couple of weeks, and have the following quick observations:

The Rabbit is a little more expensive than some of the other cars in its segment, but it gives you a high level of standard equipment and looks and drives more expensive than it is, particularly inside, where it leads the class in looks and materials.

The car’s exterior looks great from the rear, good from the side, and just OK from the front.

The Rabbit has a high level of standard safety equipment and some nice optional safety equipment like electronic stabilization (anti-rollover technology).

The inline-five engine is smooth, powerful, and meaty in the bottom end, and, it happily sips 87 octane gasoline, but the 6-speed automatic transmission is a little noisy. In fact, the one I drove was even noisier between 60 mph and 70 mph for some reason. Curiously, at 80 mph and up, it’s very quiet.

Brakes are excellent, and suspension is very good.

Observed (that means very roughly approximated) fuel mileage was very good at a sustained 80 mph across Arizona and New Mexico.

On that same trip, it was staggeringly hot outside (as high as 108° F) and the standard AC works very, very well.

The standard stereo has a 6-disc CD changer, 10 speakers, a built-in MP3 jack (hidden in the glovebox), and it is a pretty good unit for a factory sound system.

Of course, the hatchback swallows a lot of gear and groceries.

The Rabbit S is not available without daytime running lights, which is a huge pain for those people that would prefer not to have their headlights on during the day.

Speaking of lights, foglights are not available at all on the Rabbit S, which is certainly a negative on the Pacific Coast where foglights are actually needed sometimes and are not just a fashion accessory.

Our car came without a sunroof and the headroom in the Rabbit sans sunroof is expansive and is appreciated – something to consider if you’re tall.

Despite trying for thousands of miles, I just couldn’t seem to ever get the seat adjustment perfect. All I managed was “pretty good”.

The rear seats will actually fit normal-sized adults in them, and the rear AC vents were much appreciated by those adults in the hot weather.

The switchblade-type key fob (with remote locking) is pretty nice except for the fact that I keep my car keys in back pocket, and when I sat down anywhere, this would invariably depress the button for the release mechanism on the key fob and cause the key to pop out.

Last, but certainly not least, the fit and finish looked great on the car, and there were no quality issues in a week of hard driving. Of course, people that have problems with their Volkswagens always seem to get hammered with those problems later in the ownership experience, not in the beginning, so its difficult to say how much weight initial fit and finish should carry in this instance.

That’s it – overall, the verdict on the 2008 VW Rabbit S is very positive. I think most buyers will find the slight price premium worth it over the segment competition that is lower in price. For the cars that are higher in price (I’m looking at you, Audi A3 and Mini Cooper S), it seems like quite the bargain.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at .

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  1. Golf was a great name. Rabbit is way too cute and I think VW made a mistake by changing it back to Rabbit in America.

  2. I have a new 2008 Jetta with the same stereo unit and you’re right, it’s good quality for an OEM stereo.

  3. Unless you drove at a sustained 80 mph from fill-up to fill-up, you would have to VERY roughly guess at your fuel mileage at 80 mph, since you would have had to “blend” your 80 mph fuel mileage with the fuel mileage you were getting at whatever other speed you were traveling.

    That is really a guessing game and probably not even “roughly” approximate.

    Just sayin’

  4. I prefer the Golf name too.

  5. Can you actually feel the extra 20 ponies over the 2007 model? It seems that it would not be a significant difference in the driving experience, considering the porky weight of the Rabbit.

  6. I live in Phoenix, have the Jetta, and the AC does work great. We’ve had a lot of 100+ degree days in a row here, so the AC gets a lot of work here.

  7. I don’t dig the daytime running lights on cars, either. I think the reasoning that it helps other people see you only works if you’re the only one that has your lights on during the day and are therefore unusual against all the other cars in traffic. It’s so common now that some careless motorists look right “through” the car, regardless of whether your headlights are on or not, just like they did before DRLs.

    Which, BTW, is the same thing that happened with the center high-mounted brake lights. As soon as they became standard on every car, people stopped paying extra attention to them.

  8. Excellent point, rabbit redux redux. I’ve often thought the same thing.

  9. That trade sux, you get DRL and you can’t even get foglights as an extra-cost option. I live in Seattle and you need foglights here on a lot of days. So if I get a Rabbit I have my lights on when it’s sunny whether I want them on or not, and I have no foglights when it’s foggy and I need them. How does this make sense for me, living in Seattle, I’m getting a car with foglights.

  10. Just an FYI, there are fully integrated fog light kits available from several sources which are VW standard parts sold in Europe and available here. Not to mention the wide variety of other aftermarket solutions most young owners cobble on to their rides.

  11. Just as an FYI, the dealer can disable the Rabbit’s DRLs (or any VW model for that matter) through the control module. The default setting is ‘on’, but if you ask to have them disabled when you first purchase the car, the dealer probably won’t charge you for it. However, if you change your mind later, it will probably cost you at least $50.

  12. No dealer is going to disable what is considered safety equipment on a new or a used car. That’s not going to happen because of liability issues.

  13. When I got my 2007 Jetta, the dealer refused to program the DRL off, citing liability concerns for turning off a safety feature. Which is BS, because BMW offers their customers to enable/disable DRL upon delivery of the vehicle as part of their personalization checklist. For those who are not familiar with VWs, the Jetta is a Golf/Rabbit with extra length and a trunk, and some minor cosmetic differences. I, too, prefer the Golf name over the new Bunny… :-p

  14. The base stereo totally rocks and is much better than other stereos in other cars. My Rabbit is great – I already have 6100 miles on it in two months!

  15. yeah I just bought this car and I love it but…. I’m a guy and i get teased because of the name. I guess it doesnt really matter to me but yeah, I prefer the Golf name as well.

  16. just test-drove the 3-door 2008 rabbit. coming from a subaru outback wagon (manual trans.), the rabbit’s clutch pedal exhibits an unusually long pedal travel and it took some practice to keep from over-revving the engine before clutch up-take. i expected to feel more available torque with 177lb./ft. in the 1500-3500rpm range, but more than 4k, the torque just dropped off dramatically in 1st & 2nd gears, forcing me to upshift at lower rpms, a little frustrating. maybe it’s just this one car…or is it just me??? i may just buy the auto. trans/DSG.

  17. Golf name was much better than Rabbit name. Now it’s a great car with a bad name.

  18. I agree with everybody, the Golf name is way much better than Rabbit. It’s confusing when I’m saying that I’m driving a Rabbit, everyone think it’s an old car from the eighties.

  19. just pop that little chrome bunny off the trunk lid and give to your kid to play with. You’ll be left with a great ride and your ego in tact. BTW anyone get 30+ mpg on the highway with it?

  20. 2008 Rabbit owner here, and I just cracked 11,000 miles. No repairs yet, just regular maintenance, and I now love my Rabbit instead of liking it. I paid less than $20k, got a tremendous amount of standard equipment (even heated seats!) for that price, and I am also getting great fuel economy. I came out of a Toyota Corolla and now I wonder why I drove that boring buzzbox for so long.

  21. Hmmm, Golf exciting, Rabbit boring. Wierd. I think bringing back the Rabbit name is a great idea, it infers a fast little car with lots of energy. Why do people think the Rabbit name is sissy? With 2.5 liters and 5 cylinders I wouldn’t call that sissy. Wooo Golf, er um, the word golf is the dictionary definition of boring.

  22. We just bought a new 2008 Rabbit and we absolutely love everything about it, including the name! But, we tend to call it our Blur Bunny, and not Wabbit! There are So many Golfs out there, that the distinctive metal rabbit on the back clearly marks the superior vehicle! The perfect family car for us!

  23. waxpatch, I do voer 30 mpg in my 2008 Rabbit consistently, but I don’t ever drive over 65 mph. With the 6-speed automatic, the engine is just loafing along at 65 mph.

  24. 13,000 miles so far and nothing wrong yet, so it’s all good. I’m loving the Rabbit,especially with gas going up to $4. Agree with a previous comment, much better than the Japanese car I had before.

  25. Great car, great fuel mileage, very nice inside, lots of standard features for the price. I’m very happy with the Rabbit and now VW is saying they’re going to stop selling them in the U.S. because they lose money on every single one they sell. Bad for them but good for me because I got a bargain at the price I paid, even though I only got $100 of MSRP.

  26. Love love LOVE my Rabbit. I personaly love driving around in something that I don’t see around on the road all the time too. It’s a lil pocket rocket indeed. Takes turns like a champ. Got an auto, and even love the Tiptronic. Heated seats, wiper nozzles, mirrors. Has a lot more room inside then the outside would make you think. Great sounding engine… The list goes on.

  27. Isn’t VW going to stop selling the Rabbit in America in 2009 because they’re losing money on every one they sell? I thought I read that somewhere a few months ago. If that’s a fact, then the 2008 Rabbit is going to be the last Rabbit you can buy in the United States until 2010.

  28. Just drove a 2009 VW Rabbit here at the dealer in Florida. Nice car.

  29. I have a 2008 Rabbit that is my company car, and since I have a route in West TX that I travel, I have a lot of miles on mine all ready. I repair copiers and printers all over the place in my region.

    The odometer just clciked over 30,000 last week and I just had the factory maitainence done that’s required at 30k. Other than the required maintainence, nothing has gone wrong with the car except that the AC needed recharging, which the dealer did for free on this visit. It’s pretty hot in TX sometimes.

    I’m real happy with the little car. Lots of folks told me not to get a VW because they have problems, but I have had the exact opposite experience.

    So far anyway. And it gets great gas mileage, is fun to drive, and the AC works great in the god-awful heat of Texas. It’s the best car I’ve ever had, but that’s so far, I only have 30k on the odometer at this point.

    I do keep it up, but nothing unusual. I just make sure it always gets in for the scheduled maintainence on time, never late.

  30. I am about to purchase a 2008 4dr Rabbit.
    I test drove it today.. and it purrred!!!
    Strong, sturdy.. fast…
    It has a 5mm circumference of rust on the hatch? Anything to be worried about? Will this be covered under warranty? (12yr rust?) Especially since it only has 40kms??

  31. I love my 2007 Rabbit and I love its name. The name is what first got my attention. Rabbits are quick and fast and this car is just that. Plus you gotta love that little rabbit symbol on the back.

  32. I have the same exact car, but in black, and I have 42,300 miles on it now, and NOTHING has ever gone wrong with it. NOTHING. Only regular maintainence has been done on the car, and I drive into NYC every damn day, and that ain’t no dream cruise, let me tell you. Great car, great bargain, and I would definitely get another one, and I don’t care if it’s called a Rabbit or a Golf.

  33. Mine’s been a great car, too. Would definitely buy another.

  34. Hey, I liked the Rabbit name. I was sad when they went to Golf so long ago, happy when they went back to Rabbit a few years ago, and sad all over again now that it’s Golf again.

  35. I have a friend of mine that is an artist and she got a 2009 VW Rabbit, and NEVER had the oil changed after she bought it new. Never. Her brother finally took it into the dealer for it’s first maintainence at 31k miles and had the oil changed for the first time then. It’s still running okay, but who knows how long it will run. There is a betting pool on it right now. She is oblivious as to why this was a bad thing to do, and says it really didn’t need an oil change because it seemed like it was running fine, and she’s sure everything will be okay, and just what the hell is everyone getting so upset about?

  36. William Slattery – my bet would be between 70,000 and 75,000 miles.

  37. Mine was a disaster, I really can’t say anything good about it.

  38. How can anyone take VW seriously? They’re always near the bottom in Consumer Reports rankings in terms of reliability. Young hipsters like them, but they don’t know any better, so what does that prove?

  39. Does anyone know if VW ever actually got to the point where they are making money on the Golfs they sell in the North American market? I read they lose money on a Golf, too.

  40. VW should get their mojo back with an easy to fix cheap economy car and get back to their roots.

  41. The warranty goes to 50,000 miles and I had no problems at all with the car until the cruise stopped working. At 51,223 miles. Natch. It only cost me 188 bucks, but still, it sucks that it couldn’t have stopped working just a little sooner. But, overall, it’s been a great car for me.

  42. Just bought a used one with only 19,000 miles on it, so I hope it’s as good as these comments would suggest.

  43. What a stupid looking little econobox!

  44. Well, I’ve had really good luck with mine, too, although my friend had a Mexican-built Jetta that was a piece of crap. I wonder how the quality is going to be on the U.S.-built Passats.

  45. Well my Honda civic was recently written off and I have test driven different cars. The vw rabbit stood out and is a cur above the rest. I ended up buying one and ame so happynwith it. The rabbit certainly maintains it’s value!

  46. People, it’s a little economy hatch-mobile. Who cares? Certainly not worth all of these comments.

  47. I never liked that Rabbit name. I’m really glad they went back to Golf almost right away. It must suck if you have one of these, a Golf with a Rabbit nameplate on it.

  48. My wife has a 2008 Rabbit, 71,000 miles, and we love that car. Bought it used (it was a rental) with 45,000. quick and fun to drive, no problems so far, and, on a trip to Long Island last summer from Virginia, we got well over 30 mpg. Nothing to complain about at all.

  49. Just about to purchase a rabbit. After test driving a lot of cars comparable in size we knew as soon as we sat in it that this could be the one. After reading most comments, it sounds like a good bet. Last car was a subaru and we have put a lot of money into this baby, beyond regular maintenance. Head gaskets hurt. If this deal goes through I will keep you posted.

  50. 2008 VW Rabbit, I just hit 160K, bought brand new. No major issues other than the radiator fans need to be replace. The clutch still original. In fact, the Honda Si cannot keep up with the Rabbit on the highway… then you remember you dont have a 6th gear and there goes the Honda. BTW, does anyone know how much longer I have before the clutch starts to give up. Assuming anyone has reached that special moment when the gears just slip.


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