1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI hatchback coupe

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had established it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3-inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it about a foot shorter than a 2019 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter/109 ci inline four with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection—an engine VW dared to declare was “brawny.” A five-speed manual transmission completed the rest of the powertrain—there was no optional automatic transmission.

Car and Driver recorded a 9.7 second 0-60 time (Road & Track managed a 10.6 second 0-60) in the 1,918-pound car—faster than the same year’s BMW 320i and many other sporting cars of the era. Top speed was 104 mph. Fuel economy was rated at 26 city/36 highway (21/26 by today’s standards); a 10-gallon fuel tank gave a 210 to 280-mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $20,500 in 2018 dollars—well under what a 2019 Golf GTI S goes for) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires (a size still readily available) mounted on 14 x 6 inch “Snowflake” alloy wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel borrowed from the Scirocco, heavily bolstered sports seats, a center console with additional gauges, and a golf-ball shift knob were included.

Options included air conditioning (dealer installed), a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

The 1983 Rabbit GTI got good reviews (Car and Driver included it in their first 10Best) and sold well—Volkswagon built about 30,000 copies over two years at their Westmoreland County, PA plant. First-generation GTIs certainly have a following, but many were driven hard when no longer new, so there’s a paucity of cream-puffs out there.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Rabbit GTI in #1/Concours condition is $18,200, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $6,000. Values are also up notably; that perfect #1 car was only $10,700 five years ago. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none for sale when I updated this blog entry in December 2018.

Make mine Black, please.

Updated in December 2018.