It’s 2016, I’ve got my new Fitbit glued to my wrist and it’s telling me I’ve taken 12 steps from my front door to the Hyundai Tucson I’m test driving.

Ok I’m late to meet a friend, so I have to drive it to James North for a lunch time chat and chew. Later I’ll pace off those 10,000 steps Fitbit keeps bugging me about.

The 2016 Tucson is all new, with a longer wheelbase, and new chassis that improves comfort especially on rough roads, without giving the vehicle a gummy ride.

Though it’s considered a compact SUV, nothing about it feels cramped. Passenger space in both the front and back is roomy and nicely put together, and the seats particularly up front, are hospitable for even the longest drives.

The chat and chew destination we’ve chosen is the Ola Bakery. James Street North is jammed, but I managed to wiggle the Tucson into a spot on the street. It’s an easy vehicle to park, steering is light and direct, and the turning radius tight, favouring the bob and weave of city driving.

On a winter morning Ola Bakery is warm and aromatic with display cases filled with Portuguese bread, sweet custards and sugary donuts.

Before I can sit down a guy in the corner calls out, “Hey Kathy remember be? I’m Tony Bataglia’s cousin.” It’s Joe Matozzo. “We used to own the airport, and we owned the Royal Connaught.” Now Joe has moved on to a new project just down the street from the Ola

Bakery. At 244 James Street North, a new restaurant called Born & Raised will open in mid- February, Matozzo is the general contractor and wants to give me a tour.

Inside a new pizza oven from Italy, stands in the middle of the floor, waiting to be installed, and Chef Vittorio Colacitti emerges from the basement with a sledgehammer in his hands. “I’ve been breaking tile.” Colacitti owns The Good Son on Queen Street West in Toronto, he’s an alumnus of Top Chef Canada, and developed recipes for Loblaws, but he’s got roots here. “My family owned Lowville Golf Course,” Colacitti says. And he wants to be part of the flourishing of James Street North. Born & Raised will specialize in wood fired cuisine with local, seasonal ingredients. There will be pasta, pizza, oysters, small plate specialties, and an outdoor patio. “Honest food,” says the chef, “I want to be in Hamilton.”

Well that’s a lot to chew on, so I take the Tucson on a little ramble to ponder how a big deal chef wants to return to his old postal code.

I drive the Tucson on a favourite route along the industrial waterfront, on Ship Street, McKinstry, Birch, Sherman, and Mars Avenue. The landscape is ramshackle and intriguing, with new businesses next to ones shackled and forlorn. The Tucson is perfect for this sort of urban ramble, easy to drive,with excellent visibility, and a bunch of safety nannies should you need them like blind sport alert, and rear cross traffic

warnings. Unlike many cars, the important functions on the centre console, like heat, and radio and volume controls are controlled with knobs not through a computer touch screen. Ergonomics and instrument functions are strong points in Hyundai design. There’s even a quick reference guide on the 8” display screen that provides illustrated info on how to use the navigation, voice recognition, touch screen and bluetooth.

My test vehicle is the $36,649 Limited edition with AWD and a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is quiet, smooth and powerful enough for the highway, we averaged about 10 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres in combined driving. Aside from city meandering, we twice put the second row seats down in the Tucson and filled it with firewood and appreciated the cargo space. Heated seats and steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof are also included in the Limited model.

The sun is setting so I peel by the HMCS Haida for one last photo of the Tucson, thinking that you don’t have to travel far in Hamilton to find the fascinating. It’s around the corner, or on the next block, waiting to be discovered.

Written by: Kathy Renwald

Providing a fresh perspective for Hamilton and Burlington

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