The 2019 VW Rabbit Edition GTI is bittersweet


You may have seen the blue VW with the bouncing rabbit motif recently added to VW’s online configurator. That’s the GTI Rabbit Edition. Though this particular color is borderline ridiculous, it evokes nothing but warmth and fondness in my heart for both concept and production VWs of years past.

VW has confused me lately. For example, I was told they weren’t going to do any specific marketing for the Jetta GLI; then there was weird-ass commercial about not needing to lock cars with a stick shift, which was even more confusing than the mixes messaging of the Jetta GLI itself.

My gripe with VW is that I want every new VW to remind me of the older ones. So I can’t say whether my expectations for the GTI Rabbit Edition were high or low. Rabbit is a good name for a car, and, even if it’s temporary, I’m glad it’s back. My first new car was a 2007 Rabbit, which lured me in with the promise of its sub-$15,000 starting price. That car nailed it, for what it was—equipped with the essentials yet concentrated on providing a great driving experience.

Of course, more than a decade later, a sub-$15,000 car is all but impossible. The 2019 GTI Rabbit Edition, with a sticker of $29,995, has much to answer for: more complicated consumer demands, increasingly stringent safety standards, and the fact that it’s a GTI rather than the base Golf that once carried the Rabbit name.

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition
2019 GTI Rabbit Edition seat

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition rear 3/4

However, the GTI Rabbit Edition gets close to scratching the itch, easily more so than the aforementioned conflicted Jetta GLI. The GTI Rabbit Edition is refreshingly free of BS and distractions. It slots in just above the base trim, with a fair number of additions for the $1300-or-so premium over the standard GTI.

With the Rabbit Edition, you’ll get an exclusive gloss black hatch spoiler, gloss black 18-inch alloy wheels, and LED lighting. The Rabbit Edition also includes the driver assistance package (blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection) which costs $450 to add to the base GTI.

Do you really need to account for the remaining $850? Fine. You get the Rabbit badge. The emblem alone isn’t worth the cost of entry—see, I’m being pretty reasonable here—but VW pretty closely guards this simple logo and it’s been awhile since it was taken out for a romp. Combined with the spoiler and wheels, the logo is just enough to stand out. You’ll also get exclusive Rabbit-motif floormats and comfortable sport seats upholstered in the telltale plaid that have distinguished Rabbit-branded VWs for decades.

Evaluating the GTI Rabbit Edition is really only relevant in the context of the GTI. Regardless of how you feel about the GTI’s price positioning in the market (which may be tied, consciously or subconsciously, to how long you’ve been interested in Volkswagens) the Rabbit Edition is a good value. (It’s limited to 3000 examples for 2019, and you know how VW fans eat that up.)

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition

On that note, of the GTI Rabbit Edition’s four available colors—Deep Black Metallic, Pure White, Urano Grey, and Cornflower Blue—the latter two are limited to the Rabbit Edition, and you should absolutely go for the blue. Urano Grey looks great and everything, but Cornflower Blue is awesome because it’s reminiscent of the Jazz Blue of the 2003 20th Anniversary Edition GTI, one of the most notable cars to wear a Rabbit badge besides an actual Rabbit. That limited edition was gorgeous when new and is still a standout dot of color on the landscape today, should you be lucky enough to see one. It’s not exciting in the way that, say, a super-clean Corrado is exciting, but it’s enough color to brighten your day.

And that’s the thing with the GTI Rabbit Edition. It’s close enough to the original Rabbit to bring a smile and fond memories, but far enough from the original to remind the past is truly past. The Rabbit name was never really about blind-spot monitors and pedestrian detection.

Otherwise, the driving experience is consistent with any other GTI. The turbo-four was smooth as usual; its 228 horsepower is on the modest side for the GTI’s price point but still plenty engaging, and though I would have preferred the manual, the dual-clutch automatic transmission leaves little reason for complaint.

If you’re in the market for a GTI, the Rabbit Edition is absolutely worth a look. From a practical standpoint, it nails the Rabbit’s original goals of simplicity combined with a fun driving experience, and the nostalgic element is simply a value-add, especially if you’re the nostalgic type. All this is especially poignant in light of the fact that VW can’t be bothered selling the next Golf in the United States.

2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition
Cherise Threewitt
2019 Volkswagen GTI Rabbit Edition
Cherise Threewitt

Does the Rabbit Edition need to stand out at all? There’s something to be said for eye-catching vinyl wraps of the sort that adorned the concept car, and that bunny motif is timelessly, tirelessly adorable. If that were a dealer option, this car would be a lot more fun.

In real-world terms, is this a car you’d actually buy? The GTI Rabbit Edition isn’t a true time machine, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get in terms of funky VW heritage and nostalgia, which is fine. It’s comfortable, it did exactly what I expected it to do, and that’s just right for what it is.

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