Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: MK1 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel – When Alternative Energy Vehicles Were Oil Burners

Posted by William Oliver

Remember when diesels were a thing? For millennials like me, diesels represented quirky, niche vehicles owned by people who wanted to own an environmentally vehicle. Those individuals were often quirky too. Hybrids supplanted diesels as the fuel efficient powertrain of choice for many after VW’s emissions cheating debacle. That being said, they’re still intriguing due to their relative scarcity. Speaking of scarcity, this MK1 Rabbit is probably one of the last of its kind. Seems like it’s in pretty good condition too.

The Rabbit/Golf was a pivotal vehicle for Volkswagen. It successfully transitioned the company away from the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicles of the past. Given the relative explosion of front-wheel drive cars in the late 70s and 80s, it was a smart move.

The EPA only provides fuel economy estimates for the 1984 Rabbit, which Volkswagen offered with a 1.6 liter diesel. Models with a four speed manual were rated at 43 mpg highway. That’s the EPA adjusted number (the original unadjusted one was 50-60 mpg highway, depending on year and model). To put things into perspective, a 2020 Nissan Versa gets 35 mpg highway with its manual transmission. Those diesels were very fuel efficient in their day, although gas engines have come a long way since then.

It appears this Rabbit originated from a VW/Audi dealership in Ontario. Unlike VW’s diesel engines, it seems this dealership is still around. At some point it changed its name Humberview Volkswagen. Perhaps a change of ownership took place in the intervening years? Who knows. Only the Audi dealership maintains something close to the real name. They’re now called Audi Queensway. Maybe in another fifty years they’ll revert to the original name. In any event, it’s nice to see something like this still exists.

Heath McClure’s experiences with the MK1 and MK2 Rabbit diesel are essentially required reading. Head here to check out the details on the 1979 and here for the 1983 model.