Few cars have the ability to rise from the ashes after having been discontinued for over twenty years. A few cars were born in 1975, died in 1984 and were reborn in 2006. And even fewer cars are as recognizable and reliable as they were in their initial production over thirty years ago. The Volkswagen Rabbit is one of the few and certainly the proud. It took the place of the VW Bug in the maker's lineup in 1975 to contend with the influx of economical and compact Asian-made cars. While many people believe the Volkswagen Rabbit to be a completely different car than Volkswagen's Golf, the only real difference lies in the name. Volkswagen, for reasons unknown, for many years referred to the same vehicle as the Rabbit in the United States and as the Golf elsewhere.
The compact front-wheel drive car switched things up for consumers. While the Beetle had a rear-mounted engine, the Rabbit had a front-mounted and water-cooled inline engine. However, the original 1.5L engine only had a meager 70 horsepower. In 1977, Volkswagen developed a 1.5L diesel fuel engine for the Rabbit that was spectacular on gas mileage, but barely reached 48 horsepower. In 1979, Volkswagen made the leap across the Atlantic and opened its first stateside manufacture plant. With new American manufacturing, Volkswagen veered away from its German roots in body style as well. Headlights and taillights were altered. An interior that matched the exterior became standard. Also, much to the delight of the American public, a 5-speed manual transmission was introduced.
As yuppie fever started to trickle into American cities, Volkswagen stopped producing the Beetle Convertible and replaced it with a new convertible Rabbit. One of the most distinct features of the Rabbit Convertible was the padded roll-bar for extra structural integrity and passenger protection during a collision. In 1985, Volkswagen finally decided to stick with one name for the car and started calling it the "Golf" in North America. This caused a bit of confusion among American buyers who believed their beloved Rabbit had disappeared.
Well into the 90s, the Golf continued impressing American buyers with its European styling. However, it now had to compete with a revamped version of the Beetle, the Passat, and the Jetta. And that was just within its own manufacturer's lineup. Nevertheless, Volkswagen released a 20th anniversary edition of the Golf in 2003 that evoked some of the original German design.
Though in 2005 Volkswagen was concerned that they may not produce another year of the Golf, they've gone and pulled one of their tricks on the American public again. Rather than doing away with the car altogether, Volkswagen has decided to change the name again, presenting the Rabbit.