The Hyundai Veloster Turbo has managed to do something no other Hyundai hatch ever built has done: make people give a crap about it. For the week I had the car, at least a half-dozen people commented on it. To get that sort of response with, say, an Elantra, you'd have to set the thing on fire and cover it in pornography. Luckily, the Veloster Turbo proved compelling enough on its own, since this is a test of it as a baby-hauler and fire and pornography are strictly forbidden until at least the 3rd grade.
The Veloster Turbo takes a little bit of "expectation managing" to make sense. Yes, it's a turbo and has reasonably quick acceleration and is (with a manual) fun to drive, but it's by no means an actual performance car. And, as long as you're not looking for an FR-S with an extra door, that's just fine. It's a sporty car instead of an actual sports car, and that's all okay once you know what you can reasonably ask of it. One thing you can ask of it is to haul around a little kid.
As a baby car, the Veloster Turbo has one big advantage over many rivals in its segment: that extra door. The addition of a rear passenger-side third door makes a huge difference in the car's character. It's more novel and fun than an actual four-door, and it makes baby loading and unloading so much better than, say, the FR-S.
It' not perfect— the low, raked roofline of the car means that I klonked Otto's head pretty much every time I put him in or took him out. And I tried to be careful. That probably means I've just ruled out the better Ivies for his future collegiate life, which I'll have to talk to Hyundai about making right.
Once inside, there' actually plenty of room, and the front seat passenger doesn't have to give up much legroom at all to accomodate the baby seat. There's a decent number of pockets and bins, which is handy, though all the glass area does cause more solar cooking of your kid than you'd really like.
I really enjoyed being inside the Veloster Turbo, and my two-year old did as well, mostly because there's so much glass in the car. Sure, all those holes in the body filled with heavy glass is a one-two punch of body flex and extra weight, but inside it feels a bit like you're in an Eames spaceship. The whole top of the car from the windshield to the rear window is a vast window, broken only by one support on the hatch. It makes for a very open, airy interior.
Otto could tilt his head back in his baby seat and watch clouds or streetlights or skyscrapers or helicopters and that was a big treat. My wife, Sally, found the front seats a bit uncomfortable, but I honestly didn't mind them. I only had two complaints about the interior, one breathtakingly minor and the other a pretty big design flaw.
The minor one has to do with the font used on the little dot-matrix info screen— it looks like a bitmapped font that had been clumsily scaled down. There's irregular line thicknesses and clumsy pixels and the letters just look sloppy. It's the sort of thing I suspect only a graphic designer might notice, but once you do it just kind of bugs you. They knew the size of the screen, they couldn't have found a font that actually works?
That's a really, really minor niggle, but this one is a bit bigger. When you go to adjust the mirror, the exact spot your thumb will land to move the mirror in position just also happens to have the emergency call button. On the first drive of the car, I went to adjust the mirror and was confronted with a disembodied woman's voice asking me if I was okay and what kind of emergency service I needed. I almost peed myself.
Oh, I just remembered one other issue— and it's only an issue if you're an idiot like me. The plug-and-play Atari joystick I attempted to connect to the built-in infotainment screen via normal video cables didn't quite work. I got an image, but the color and sync were both off, making it unplayable. Geez, Hyundai, if your'e going to provide a means to get signals into your screen, at least make sure it works with 8-bit videogames. I mean, come on.
The luggage area can hold our reasonably big jogger stroller, but just barely. You have to unclip the package shelf to get it to fit, but it does work. The rear seat splits and folds down, and with one side folded the car becomes an excellent transport for a toddler and his dog. Oh, and Otto had an absolute blast playing with trains in the trunk area of the car, because being placed in a carpeted bin is just the kind of thing the kid community thinks is awesome.
The matte grey paint was actually quite striking, and I think the car has a great look with that paint— but I wouldn't suggest it if you're considering a Veloster Turbo as a baby car. It's an extra grand, and comes with a set of rules to clean and maintain that sound like they were taken out of Leviticus. Little kids, it may surprise you to learn, are notorious slobs, and their little curious hands are often like tiny, wet Jackson Pollacks, ready transfer a little action painting of peanut butter and mucus onto, say, the fender of your car and its untouchable paint. Stick with one of the normal high-gloss colors.
Driving wise, if you avoid the automatic, the car is pretty fun. It takes off well from a stop (read: does burnouts), which toddlers think is a blast, though I did find the steering a bit twitchy. On the highway, I managed 34 average MPG, which is quite respectable, too.
The Veloster Turbo isn't an ideal baby car, it's not an ideal sports car, and it's not really a standout at any one thing in particular. But the overall package works remarkably well. I really liked this car— it has novel styling inside and out, it's pretty fun to drive, gets good mileage, and has the expected batch of electronic goodies. I found that it copes with the peculiar demands of toddlerhood surprisingly well, especially for a car of its size and segment— thanks, extra door. Honestly, I don't see any reason to chug the ennui cocktail of a Camry when there's options like this out there.
So, will it baby? Sure it will.
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