2013 Hyundai Veloster boasts form, function -- but not room for a child seat

With a modest starting price of $18,395, including

With a modest starting price of $18,395, including a $795 destination charge, the 2013 Hyundai Veloster is affordable. (Credit: Cars.com)

The Hyundai Veloster is a small car with a huge personality. As part of a small family with just one child and a flair for the unconventional, the Veloster seemed like it would suit us perfectly.

With the 2013 Hyundai Veloster's unique three-door configuration and convenient hatchback, I was convinced that this car could be both drool-worthy and family friendly, but it failed on the family front.

My test car, the Veloster Turbo, is more than desirable with its eye-popping design, good fuel economy and a killer drive experience. To say I enjoyed my week with it would be an understatement; it was quick, nimble and garnered an obscene amount of attention wherever I took it. It's a loud, rough ride, but it handled well, and with my test car's turbo four-cylinder engine, acceleration was never an issue. Not one other mom rolled in to the playground parking lot with a Veloster, and that was my favorite part of all.


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The good news is that even though the Veloster didn't fit my family, it can work for others. If you've got kids who've outgrown their convertible child-safety seats or you're looking for a second family car, you just might be able to keep the Veloster on your short list.

With a modest starting price of $18,395, including a $795 destination charge, the Veloster is affordable. However, with an upgraded turbocharged engine, panoramic moonroof, backup camera and navigation, my top-trim test car cost $27,520.

EXTERIOR

Despite the Veloster's aggressive styling, it's not overly masculine, yet there's nothing cutesy about the tiny compact. While it's youthful, it won't cause your friends to raise an eyebrow and accuse you of entering a midlife crisis if you drive one. I loved everything about this little car's looks, and with my test car's Marathon Blue paint color, I felt like a superhero every time I ran errands.

It's a hassle getting a small child into a two-door car, but I was convinced the Veloster's third door, which is on the passenger side, would eliminate all those issues. Unfortunately, the third door wasn't much help. Here's the thing about the Veloster and kids, they can mix but not if the kids are in bulky child-safety seats.

The Veloster sits low to the ground, and the passenger-side door openings are small. Once my daughter's forward-facing convertible seat was installed, it blocked almost the entire rear door opening. This made it difficult to get her loaded into the seat. To avoid knocking her unconscious on the low, sloping roofline, I had to get into a deep squat position (great for my thighs and glutes, yes -- but challenging all the same) and squeeze her in as close to the front seatback as possible. Once her head was clear, I could lift her up and position her into the car seat. Then it was me that was almost knocked unconscious by the low roofline every time I stood up after getting her in.

If your kids aren't in child-safety seats, they'll love that third door. The door handle is low enough to be reached by older kids despite it being placed high on the door near the window.

The cargo area is deep but narrow. Grocery bags and luggage can be accommodated, but my single stroller only fit once I removed a wheel. I ran into trouble one day when I headed to the grocery store without remembering to leave the stroller at home first. I had just four bags, but the cargo area was occupied. I couldn't load the groceries into the backseat using the third door because my daughter's safety seat blocked most of the opening, so I had to use the driver's side door and pull the seat forward. I squeezed the bags through the small opening, but I ran into that banging-my-head-on-the-roof problem again when I reached in to unload them.

A base Veloster has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower; it gets an EPA-estimated 28/37 mpg city/highway with the six-speed automatic transmission. However, my Veloster Turbo test car was significantly more superhero-worthy with its upgraded 201-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The added pep affects gas mileage slightly, with the Veloster Turbo getting 24/31 mpg with the automatic transmission. Both engines use regular unleaded gasoline.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

INTERIOR

The Veloster looks small from the outside, but it gets even smaller once you get in it. Some of that feeling is simply due to it being a compact car, but it's also because of its uber-sportiness.

As the driver, I found the interior's tightness exciting. I was supported by firm seats; I was close to all of the gauges and instruments, and I felt positioned for the ideal driving experience. In the front passenger seat, I just felt cramped and uncomfortable. Legroom in the Veloster was scarce, even for my vertically-challenged family. I did appreciate that the front seats had a hard plastic covering on the back, which protected them from my daughter's constant kicking.

As small as things were inside, the styling details and features inside the car made a big impact. I loved the optional panoramic moonroof in my test car, as well as the blue ambient lighting. Even the door handles stood out as the coolest, best-designed door handles I've ever seen. I never tired of the Veloster's interior's looks.

The Veloster's backseat holds two passengers. There is a center console with two cupholders and a small storage tray that divides the backseat. It's close quarters back there, and once a safety seat is installed, the interior space seems to shrink significantly. Without safety seats, two children will have a blast, but the car's belt line was high and frustrated my daughter on long trips as she couldn't see out the window.

What also made the Veloster seem small inside was its limited rear visibility due to the drastic styling. It pains me to admit that the Veloster falls into the form-over-function category, but I can't deny that I couldn't see well. I was grateful for my test car's backup camera; it's a must-have for those considering the Veloster.

For such a teeny car, the Veloster has plenty of storage. My smartphone, sunglasses, latte and snacks for my daughter always found a place inside. It comes with four cupholders, additional bottleholders in the doors, a large bin in the center stack for a smartphone, and center console storage.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample (for its class) Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): More than Fair, less than Ample

SAFETY

Even though child-safety seats can take up a lot of space inside the Veloster, they can be installed easily. The four-seater has two sets of lower Latch anchors that slightly peek out from the seat cushions, making them easy to access. Installation was hassle-free.

The 2013 Veloster Turbo has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. A backup camera with rear parking sensors is available, as well as Hyundai's Blue Link system, which can provide assistance in emergency situations as well deliver an impressive suite of parent-friendly teen-driver-monitoring options like geo-fencing and curfew alerts via text message.

Currently there is no crash-test information available for the 2013 Veloster from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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