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VW to get a new hop in its step

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by Joe Duarte

posted June 15, 2006

After two years of waiting and wondering, Canadians finally get a chance at the new Golf and it's not even a new Golf ... it's a new Rabbit.

The Rabbit was beaten to Canada by the new GTI, which will also carry its own identity rather than also tie it to the Golf (of which both are versions). A 5-door GTI is available as of July 2006.

It was 1984 when the Volkswagen Rabbit was last marketed in Canada to coincide with the change in Golf generations. The Golf has been one of the best-selling nameplates in history and will undoubtedly continue, since the Rabbit is simply a rebadge only for North America (as it was between 1975 and 1984).

The reason is that VW wanted to capture some of the nostalgia of the name, but in the process it also brings the car appeal to a younger audience.

VW Canada originally projected sales of 4,500 cars through to the end of the 2006, but is already adjusting its projections upwards under the knowledge of initial demand, and an aggressive lease strategy.

There are several exclusivities to Rabbit, including the 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine that isn't available to Golf (but is also dropped into Jetta), and its being sourced out of Wolfsburg (most of Canada's Golfs were made in Mexico).

The engines continue to be sourced out of Mexico, which means they'll rack up the frequent flyer miles since they get shipped to Germany to be bolted in cars that then enter Canada through Halifax. VW Canada's Executive VP, John White says there is no import gains realized in relation to Free Trade.

Rabbit comes to Canada in 3-door and 5-door hatchback bodystyle, all powered by the 150-hp 2.5 20-valve inline-5. Power delivery to the front wheels is entrusted to 5-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic sequential mode. That allows the automatic to actually attain better fuel economy, due to the extra gear and the capability to short-shift.

Both transaxles feature gears that take good advantage of the engine's power bands, meaning progressive acceleration. The manual's crisp shifter and smooth clutch make for very relaxed driving.

As with any VW, the cars are stocked with an abundance of safety assists, including anti-lock brakes, traction control (ASR, for anti-slip regulation), and electro-mechanical steering assist, which VW claims is nearly an active steering system.

A fully independent suspension grants a typically solid Golf ride, soaking up just about any severity of broken pavement. Handling is relatively stable and there isn't any reason to believe the new Rabbit won't adopt the Golf trait of lifting the rear inside wheel on tight, high-speed corners.

Standard equipment includes semi-automatic climate control (you can set the temperature and it the system will maintain it, but the fan speed and vent location are manual), power windows, locks and mirrors, height-adjustable driver's seat, active head restraints, and front side-impact airbags and full side curtain-airbags.

The 5-door Rabbit adds 8-way adjustable front seats, upgraded centre console with adjustable armrest, and a rear armrest with pass-through for the 60/40 split folding seatback.

Popular options include the 6-speed automatic, stability control (ESP), a power sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear side-impact airbags (5-door only), in-dash 6-CD changer, and heated front seats and washer nozzles. An iPod plug-in is available later in 2006.

so its cool and nostalgic for other comapnies to rebadge a car?

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My dad had one and only one non-Gm car the whole time he

has lived in the USA. (since 1983) It was a 5-speed 4dr blue

Rabbit with the square sealed beams. I was crushed when it

was junked and... crushed. :(

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if the rabbit had a better four instead of a five i might be interested.  A 170hp 4 would slot nicely between the GTI and econoboxes of other makers.

Especially the 1.4L Twincharger... 170 horsepower and 38.2 imperial MPG combined.

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I think calling the new Golf the Rabbit for North America is silly.

I'd rather drive a Golf than a Rabbit. (I know they're the same).

Edited by MyerShift

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