We never envisioned the Milanese purveyors of temperamental sporty machinery to any form of electrification in its lineup.
What if I told you that this is an Alfa Romeo…
I know. This is not the Alfa Romeo we grew up with and fell for its flawed charms. We never envisioned the Milanese purveyors of temperamental sporty machinery to produce two crossover/SUVs. Nor did w envision any form of electrification in any of them.
So, here we are. A smaller Alfa Romeo crossover/SUV with a plug-in hybrid driveline. The sign of the times.
Like the Alfasud, the Tonale is seen as a step ahead of what was expected from Stellantis’ premium Italian brand. It was developed prior to Carlos Tavares’ arrival into Turin and Auburn Hills. The platform is derived from the Jeep Compass and has already spawned a dance partner – the Dodge Hornet.
Rest assured, there is nothing Peugeot about this Alfa Romeo. Not a millimeter of it. As it should be. Not after years of the Alfetta sedan battling with the 504 for some hard-earned currency.
One thing to be assured with the Tonale is the design still signify its Milanese roots. The badge is undeniable. The shield grille that harkens back to decades of racing. The curves that were inspired by Pininfarina and held true by that team at Centre Stille. The profile that is influenced by the larger Stelvio.
There are modern touches that augment the classic shape. The triple-bulb LED headlamps that are repeated in the back for the taillamp units. LED running lights frame these units giving it a new signature. The 19-inch five-hole alloy wheels were derived from recent generations of Alfa Romeos, which serves as a bridge between classic and modern elements in the exterior design.
The Tonale certainly looks like a small premium Italian crossover/SUV. As intended – and expected in a competitive segment where money is spent on image. I’m a sucker for it.
Then, you step inside. The first thing you notice is the cowl above the 12.3-inch Cannocchiale digital instrument cluster. You would think there are two Jaeger analog dials recording speed and “giri x1000” that flicker at every move. You can still get these dials in the Heritage screen = and, yes, they flicker like those old Jaeger instruments.
That’s where the classic design elements stop. Everything else is modern. Nothing wrong with that – it is the way of the world these days. The steering wheel, with its ignition button right on it, the paddle shifters, the switches and controls.
Equally modern is the 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen. They call it Alfa Connect – another fancy branded term for UConnect 5. The system works fine with wireless smartphone connectivity and charging. Sound goes through a set of Harman Kardon speakers placed throughout the cabin.
My tester is the middle trim, the Ti. However, it is an upgraded version with a. few packages. One of those packages adds leather-upholstered seats that are heated and cooled. The front seats felt firm, with plenty of bolstering and support. You can seat up to five, but perhaps four average-sized adults. Cargo space is flexible, starting with 22.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats. If you fold down the 60/40 split rear seatbacks, giving you up to 50.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
One flip side to the cargo hold is my rollator/wheelchair will require the rear seats to fold down to fit. Also, the cargo cover will need to be removed. I could break down the mobility device further to make it fit under the cargo cover.
The reason why the Tonale is important to Alfa Romeo globally is the offering of its first electrified driveline. The plug-in hybrid system starts with a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Add an electric motor and a J1772 receptacle to charge up the battery. Combined, this drive system puts down 285 horsepower and approximately 350 pound-feet of torque. This driveline sends power through a six-speed automatic transmission all the way to its four wheels.
When you are plugged into a Level 2 charger, Alfa Romeo states that it takes 2.5 hours for a full state of charge. If you end up using your household outlet, then it will take over eight hours to fill the battery to the brim. Also, according to Alfa Romeo, the Tonale can drive around 32 miles before the battery switches over to the gasoline engine. In terms of fuel consumption, I averaged 32.0 MPG overall.
If you expecting this Tonale to offer the same driving dynamics as a modern Giulia or a 2000 GT Veloce from the 1970s, I’m afraid that an adjustment in thinking is in order. First of all, this is a crossover/SUV with a higher ground clearance. It offers a solid ride overall. Rougher surfaces are heard, but they were absorbed by the suspension system. The Tonale corners just fine and is responsive in evasive maneuvers.
I also found the steering system was also pretty responsive. The smaller size lends to a tighter turning radius getting you out of trouble easily. We did experience some vagueness in the system, along with some struggle with the Lane Keep Assist on this tester. The brakes were also pretty decent with solid stopping power in normal and panic situations. Pedal feel was fine and responsive.
The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale is offered with a choice of three trim levels – Sprint, Ti, and Veloce – starting from $42,995. My Ti tester came with a sticker price of $55,950.
Let’s get one thing clear: The Tonale was developed by Alfa Romeo prior to the merger that is now called Stellantis. This should be an Alfa Romeo through and through. And, it is – combining elements of the brand’s heritage with modern technology. It is the brand’s first electrified vehicle, which is not unusual as Alfa Romeo had many revolutions in terms of driveline development and execution. They had a horizontally-opposed engine at one time – something we North Americans never got to experience first-hand.
What does that fact have to do with the Alfa Romeo Tonale? When you are given the license to try something different, you do so. Developing a small crossover/SUV with a plug-in hybrid driveline is not exactly different, per se. In the case of Alfa Romeo, this is indeed different given its heritage and image.
Should we expect more electrification from Alfa Romeo in current and future models? Who knows. We could assume so. However, if you are in the premium/luxury small crossover/SUV space, please give the Tonale some consideration while you are doing your due diligence while shopping around.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Stellantis North America
All photos by Randy Stern