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Classic Touches: 2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition Test Drive

For 2019 Volkswagen is banking on the fact that there are a whole bunch of people who are feeling nostalgic. Back in the 1980s, the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI was the baddest hot hatch you could buy. It came with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that made a whopping 90 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. It would hit 60 in just over 10 seconds, meaning that by today’s standards, it was considered ungodly slow. Yet this little car is responsible for the hot hatch movement here in the United States, which is why now, almost 40 years later, a new Rabbit is back, but this time it comes with modern GTI performance and a fun factor that’s hard to beat.

Volkswagen GTI Rabbit

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition Exterior

From an exterior perspective, the Rabbit Edition doesn’t stray too far from a formula that continues to make the GTI great. Notable additions are the 18-inch gloss black alloy wheels that wear 225/40-series tires, gloss black mirror caps, and a special micro spoiler that sits atop the rear hatch of the standard GTI. There are also two special Rabbit-only colors by way of Urano Gray and Cornflower Blue.

Otherwise, the Rabbit Edition follows the same automotive evolution that has kept it current for the last four decades. Small, simple and functional, the GTI has been the standard by which the modern hot hatch is measured. From its inception in the late 1970s, the hatchback design has caused the rest of the world to play catch up, and when the first GTI was released in 1976, the world went on notice that VW was a world player.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Rabbit Edition is a must-have over the standard model, but what it does bring forth is a sense of fun-loving nostalgia that fans of the brand will enjoy. The short front-end houses LED headlights with an adaptive front-lighting system that helps to improve visibility, with a pair of auxiliary driving lights sitting below in an aggressive front fascia. Our tester came to us wearing the aforementioned Urano Gray paint, and we must say that it looked pretty darn impressive. Heading towards the rear, the mirrors with their embedded turn signals, the blacked-out window trim, the twin polished exhaust tips, along with a subtle Rabbit badge, help to round out a nicely designed package.

Volkswagen GTI Rabbit

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition Interior

I don’t care what anyone says, the Titan Black Clark plaid interior in this Rabbit, is simply outstanding, and it takes me back to college when I was carted around in a buddies original GTI for the better part of two years. As someone who gets nostalgic about things like that, I can absolutely see the appeal of this special edition. There is also something refreshing about getting into an automobile that’s void of superfluous features and add-ons, especially when the materials used are of high quality. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is leather-wrapped with contrasting red stitching, while piano black plastic and brushed trim give the dash an upscale appeal.

An eight-inch glass touchscreen is the interior focal point and allows drivers access to further radio controls, vehicle settings, and standard Bluetooth setup. However, with a price tag of $30,890,* I would’ve expected satellite radio and navigation. All VW Golfs also come with the most intuitive HVAC system in existence. In regards to storage, there are no disappointments as the Golf offers up 23 cubic-feet behind the rear seats, and 53 cubic-feet with the seats folded flat. That, combined with a high roofline of a hatchback means that not only is the loading and unloading of cargo a snap, but that larger items fit with ease.

Volkswagen GTI Rabbit

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition Performance

In today’s world of high performance, 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque may not seem like a lot of power. However, it’s the way that Volkswagens 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot delivers it that makes the difference. First, the engine makes all of its torque at just 1,500-rpm, meaning that when you mash the gas, the GTI just gets up and scoots.

Our tester was fitted with the seven-speed DSG transmission that sent power to the front wheels. It works flawlessly, but the optional six-speed manual with the golf ball shifter would’ve been our first choice.

When it comes to handling, the GTI is surefooted and hilariously fun to drive. It lays flat in corners, has phenomenal steering feel, and thanks to large 13.4-inch vented discs in the front, and with 12.2-inch disc brakes in the rear, it stops with authority. Stomp on the accelerator and you’ll hit 60 mph in just over 5.5-seconds. The little turbo pulls hard all the way to its 6,000-rpm redline — and is more than capable of getting you into trouble if you’re not careful.

Buts it’s the fun-to-drive factor of the GTI that makes it so special. Part of that is due to the Golf’s 103.8-inch wheelbase, fantastic chassis, and the fact that its light on its feet, thanks to the 3,000-pound curb weight. Also, factor in standard electronic stability control, and electronically assisted power steering, and I honestly can’t remember when I’ve had more fun in a $30k car. Whether driving through traffic, down a twisty bit of road or merging onto an expressway on-ramp, the GTI always impresses which explains why it’s a favorite amongst the journalist community. Fun factor aside, it also boasts decent EPA fuel economy numbers of 31-mpg on the highway, 25-mpg in the city, and 27-mpg in combined driving.**

Volkswagen GTI Rabbit

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition Safety

The 2019 Golf GTI Rabbit Edition comes to us with such standard safety features as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, electronic brake pressure distribution, airbags throughout the cabin, automatic post-collision system, forward collision warning, and emergency braking, along with a standard backup camera and more.

Additional safety features can be seen over at

Volkswagen GTI Rabbit

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition Overall

The Volkswagen GTI Rabbit gives fans of the original some classic touches, along with modern improvements that make this the hot hatch to beat. It’s not overdone, but instead, adds a nice bit of flare making a great car that much better.

Drop by your local AutoNation Volkswagen dealer today to check one out!

*Fuel economy values (mpg) are EPA estimates. Actual mileage will vary and depends on several factors including driving habits and vehicle condition.

**Vehicle MSRP of $30,890.00 excludes taxes, title, transportation, options, and dealer fees.

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