10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Volkswagen Rabbit - SUV VEHICLE

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Volkswagen Rabbit

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Founded in 1937, the German automaker Volkswagen started out by catering to the public’s transportation needs. After all, the word Volkswagen is German for ‘people’s car’. Volkswagen’s first-ever model was the Beetle, also known as the Type 1, and soon thereafter followed the Type 2, and so forth. The first few VW models that came to light shared large amounts of parts between each other, were rear-engined, and had a rear-wheel-drive layout.




The first generation Beetle was offered until 2003 for the international market, but North American Beetles were discontinued earlier in 1979. During the production of the Beetle, VW built one of the most iconic VW vehicles ever made, the Volkswagen Golf. With a wide range of engines and body styles, the Golf, also known as the Rabbit, disrupted the car market.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from the official Volkswagen manufacturer website and other authoritative sources, including Haynes, Hagerty, and Classic.com.

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10 Intended To Replace The Volkswagen Beetle

Introduced In 1974 For The U.S.

Black and White 1977 Volkswagen Golf
Volkswagen


Considering the Beetle was one of the most revolutionary cars ever, VW decided to improve upon its formula in hopes of attracting even more customers. Instead of having its engine sit over the rear axle, and power sent to the rear wheels, the Rabbit hatchback utilized a front-engined, front-wheel-drive layout.

Further differences included the introduction of water-cooled technology, as opposed to the Beetle’s air-cooled tech. As a result, the old Volkswagen hatchback was even smaller than the Beetle, and had more cargo space and interior space as a result.

9 One Of The Very First FWD Hatchbacks

1984 Mk1 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Rear
Volkswagen


The Austin Mini, built by the British Motoring Company, is the first mass-produced hatchback that utilized a front-wheel-drivel layout coupled with a front-mounted engine that’s transversely mounted. Not only did this increase practicality, but it also brought production costs down. Such was the case with other front-wheel-drive compact cars, like the Fiat 500 and various Citroën models.

As a result, a new 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit cost between $3,330 and $4,030 back in the day. Adjusted for inflation, this means that a new ’75 Rabbit would carry a starting MSRP of $19,207.91. Thanks to its innovation, to this day, many modern cars utilize the same cost-saving measures to keep prices down, but not at the expense of quality, hence why the cheapest new cars tend to share the same philosophy.

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8 Volkswagen Rabbit And Its Aliases

Rabbit/Caribe/Citi Golf


The Volkswagen Rabbit hatchback sold under different names across different regions. Across most of the world, the Rabbit went under the Golf name. Since the Mk8 VW Golf exists today, it’s needless to say, the Mk1 Golf is an internationally acclaimed classic car today that’s surprisingly affordable to own.

The U.S. and Canada had a specific name for the Golf, called the Rabbit, of course, but two other major markets had a unique name for the Golf. With some subtle styling changes, Mexico and South Africa both had unique names for the first-gen Volkswagen Golf.

Different nomenclature:

  • Volkswagen Rabbit (U.S./Canada)
  • Volkswagen Caribe (Mexico)
  • Volkswagen Citi Golf (South Africa)

7 Body Styles Of The Volkswagen Rabbit

Four Distinct Variants

VW Rabbit Pickup in red posing in front of trees
VW 


The Volkswagen Golf Mk1 aimed to please all different buyers, no matter what their needs were. Therefore, Volkswagen built four distinctly different types of Rabbits for the world. First and foremost was the hatchback body style offered with either a three-door or five-door design. In 1978, Volkswagen made a tiny pickup truck version of the Rabbit, which had the name ‘Caddy’ for other regions like the U.K. and South Africa.

Thereafter, in 1979, Volkswagen offered the Rabbit as a sedan with the ‘Jetta’ name, and to this day, the Jetta sedan has a lot in common with the Golf hatchback, especially the Jetta GLI and Golf GTI. In the same year, Volkswagen introduced the fourth style of Rabbit, a cabriolet. Named the Golf Cabriolet in Europe, and the Rabbit Convertible in the U.S. and Canada, the drop-top version of the Mk1 Golf sold up until 1984.

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6 Volkswagen Rabbit Engine Choices

Three Different Engines

1976 Volkswagen Rabbit Engine
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Modern-day compact cars tend to feature either three- or four-cylinder engines, while the high-performance versions feature some of the most powerful four-cylinder engines ever built. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, technology still had a long way to go, and internal combustion engines didn’t have the benefits of forced induction.

The Volkswagen Rabbit came with either a choice of two gasoline-fed engines, or a diesel-fed one. The first gasoline engine, named the EA111, came either as a 1.1-liter or 1.3-liter four-cylinder, whereas the other gas-powered EA827 came as a 1.5-, 1.6- or 1.8-liter inline-four. And lastly, the diesel version of the EA287 had a displacement of 1.5 liter or 1.6 liters.


Performance Specifications

EA111 Gasoline

EA827 Gasoline

EA827 Diesel

Engine

naturally aspirated inline-four

naturally aspirated inline-four

naturally aspirated inline-four/turbocharged inline-four

Displacement

1.1 – 1.3-liter

1.5 – 1.8-liter

1.5 – 1.6-liter

Transmission

4-speed or 5-speed manual/3-speed automatic

4-speed or 5-speed manual/3-speed automatic

4-speed or 5-speed manual/3-speed automatic

Horsepower

50 – 60 hp

70 -110 hp

50 – 70 hp

Torque

57 – 69 lb-ft

80 – 113 lb-ft

59 -96 lb-ft

Driveline

FWD

FWD

FWD

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5 Engineered With Help From Auto Union And Daimler-Benz

Designed With Help From A Revered Italian Designer

1984 Mk1 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Driving
Volkswagen


Believe it or not, the VW Rabbit shared many parts with Audis at the time, after the company was acquired by Auto Union. As a result, the water-cooled four-cylinder industrial motor made by Mercedes, and initially intended for use in some obscure Audis, found its way underneath the hood of the tiny VW hatch.

That said, Volkswagen still remained responsible for the majority of the Rabbit’s engineering, such as the transmission, suspension, and styling. Speaking of, Volkswagen had the assistance of legendary automotive designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, responsible for the Rabbit’s dashing looks.

4 The Volkswagen Rabbit Was Produced Until 2009

Black Volkswagen Citi Golf
Volkswagen

These are one of the very few cars where it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you have an American classic car, or an imported version thereof.


Although the U.S. had the VW Rabbit hatchback on sale for a decade, parts of the world saw it on the market for even longer. Markets that had the Mk1 Golf on sale beyond 1985 didn’t see many technological advancements, and just a few exterior updates across the years. Yet, sales figures were still strong, hence why the Rabbit was sold in South Africa for 25 years.

Years on the market:

  • Volkswagen Rabbit (U.S./Canada): 1975-1985
  • Volkswagen Caribe (Mexico): 1977-1987
  • Volkswagen Citi Golf (South Africa): 1984-2009

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American auto enthusiasts love to modify Japanese cars. However, the old Volkswagen hatchback also has its designated fan base. On the one hand, you have those who love to add air suspension and getting stuck on leaves as they drive down the road. These enthusiasts also like to have the shiniest wheels, and the most extravagant paint on their Rabbits.

On the other hand, you get those gearheads who only care about power. While you can always go and fit the largest engine possible in its tiny engine bay, as someone did with their 600-horsepower Lamborghini-beating VW Rabbit, you can always add forced induction into the mix as well. In 2021, a 200-horsepower Volkswagen Rabbit sold on Bring a Trailer for a whopping $62,000. And if you were wondering, this mighty Rabbit hatchback had a 1.8-liter inline-four fitted with a Stage II turbocharger by Callaway Turbo systems.

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2 The Volkswagen Rabbit GTI and GTD

Silver 1984 Mk1 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Parked Front 3/4 View
Volkswagen


Like with all classic hatchbacks, a performance variant exists. The Mk1 Golf/Rabbit had two different performance versions, namely a gasoline and a diesel-powered one. Unveiled in 1976, the gasoline-fed GTI essentially gave birth to the hot hatch segment as we know it today, including high-performance hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R, while the diesel GTD only came in 1982.

Both cars looked slightly sportier than the normal Rabbit with the GTI having a red accent in the grille, black wheel arch extensions, larger wheels, a lower ride height, ventilated brake discs at the front, and anti-roll bars all around. The GTD, on the other hand, had a much more subtle design, but both models had more powerful four-cylinder engines to give it some extra punch.


Performance Specifications

Rabbit GTI

Rabbit GTD

Engine

naturally aspirated inline-four

turbocharged inline-four

Displacement

1.6 – 1.8-liter

1.8-liter

Transmission

4-speed/5-speed manual

5-speed manual

Horsepower

108 – 110 hp

70 hp

Torque

103 – 113 lb-ft

96 lb-ft

Driveline

FWD

FWD

0-60 MPH

9 seconds

14 seconds

Top Speed

113 mph

99 mph

(Specs sourced from Volkswagen)

While a nine-second 0-60 mph time may sound slow, back in the day, this old Volkswagen hatchback was as quick as a C3 Chevy Corvette from the early 1980s, as well as Japanese sports cars like the Datsun 280ZX or and Mazda RX-7 from the same period.


1 The Volkswagen Rabbit Was A Sales Success

1984 Mk1 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Driving
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the best-selling cars of all time, with Volkswagen claiming more than 23 million units sold worldwide across its lifespan. The Volkswagen Golf, albeit not as strong of a sales giant as the Beetle, also forms part of VW’s bread and butter. According to Volkswagen, in the first quarter of 2024, the company sold a total of 2,412 Golf GTIs, and 1,233 Golf Rs, which is more than a 100% increase in comparison to the first quarter of 2023. The Rabbit sold approximately six million units worldwide.

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