1981 Volkswagen Rabbit L 1.6 diesel from North America


An inexpensive car to drive


I've had to have the shifter rebuilt, when a bushing wore out.

General Comments:

This car got about 46 miles to the gallon on a 300 mile highway trip.

I enjoy driving it.

Also, I intend to run it on bio-diesel fuel and save even more money.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th August, 2002

4th Oct 2002, 07:46

I have a 1981 and get 36 mpg, what should I do to get 40+ mpg?

28th Sep 2003, 11:35

I have a 81 Rabbit.. Am having problems with keeping the car running. Sometimes in order to keep it running, I have to manually open the injector pump. Also, checking Ignition timing against the book, give me no results, if I put the cam timing mark at 12 o'clock I get the car running, its the first rabbit I own, don't know too much about it.. Anyone out there with any suggestions or help... I would really appreciate that very much.

1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel L 1.6L diesel from North America


A decent car


The headliner is not glued to the cardboard anymore.

When I bought the car, the alternator wiring was so corroded the battery would not charge.

General Comments:

The car handles well.

It gets very good gas mileage (about 40 MPG with the 4-speed stick).

It's a small car, but there's enough room for tall people.

However, I have to tape over the side vents in winter because they bring in air from outside the car instead of the alleged heater.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 25th January, 2002

1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Custom 1.6 diesel from North America


The most reliable vehicle I ever owned, I will never part with it!


Fuel pump 2 times.

Alternator 4 times.

Dropped valve once.

Head gasket once.

Driveshafts 4 times.

Right 1 time, left 1 time: wheel cylinders.

Back brakes failed 2 times.

Starter 3 times.

Vacuum pump 1 time.

Air conditioning quit 4 years ago - never got fixed.

Heater core busted 8 years ago - bypassed, never fixed.

Park brake cables froze up 1 time.

Glow plug heating circuit quit.

Previous owner caused him to sell to me, numerous general repairs... IE belts, hoses, batteries etc.

General Comments:

Still gets 30-40 mpg, starts first try every time, makes 86 mile round trip commute to work effortlessly 4 times a week, however since speed limits on US interstates were increased it is difficult to keep up in traffic. Made a rear mower attachement to mow my lawn. Am currently trying to purchase a new Caddy TDI pickup overseas to import home... Wish me luck. If the engine ever quits I will replace it or repair it at any cost.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 12th April, 2000

15th Jul 2008, 08:26

Actually MOST rabbit diesel owners will tell you that their actually median MPG is more like 50. As far as the new diesels go they are far less reliable and require much more maintenance as they are filled with technology. The old school diesels are super simple engines and are nearly bulletproof.

20th Jan 2009, 03:19

My 1981 diesel Rabbit got from Portland to San Diego, about 1000 miles for 80 dollars. I put a whole tank (20 dollars) in my 8 gallon tank only 4 times (twice for the way up, and twice for the way down). Since the price of diesel at the time was 2.50 (averaged between the states), I estimate that I spent around 80 on gas, meaning that 20 gallons took me 1056 miles (averaging 62.5 mpg), but this was for about 4 hours at a time.

1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup LX 1.6 diesel from North America


Had to replace the engine twice, transmission once, fuel injector pump once in 250,000 miles. Now that a reliable drive train is in it, everything is running fine.

General Comments:

This is such an economical and useable vehicle, I only wish it were still imported into the US.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 24th June, 1999

6th Feb 2001, 14:38

My '81 Rabbit pickup was given to me by my brother. It had 250,000 miles on it.

I found a 1.7 engine with very little mileage, had it installed with a larger clutch, had the entire rear end updated and I love the great economy, and with the five speed, the fun of driving it.

I understand that they made 33,000 of them, this is just the '81 pickup. If I need anything done, it just adds to its value, not that I want to sell it!