Alfa Romeo Tonale opens a new chapter for the Italian brand.

Not only is it the brand’s first compact SUV, expanding Alfa’s lineup by 33%, but it also marks the first step in the move towards electrification thanks to two hybrid powertrains.

Tonale is not in the light realm. In terms of price, size and ambition, it rivals the models of all the usual premium brands. The BMW x1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes The GLA is the clear boss of the segment, but there are also the likes Volvo XC40 and Range Rover Evoque for consideration.

So the Tonale won’t be easy, but first impressions are that it offers something a little different, which could be the breakthrough Alfa Romeo needs.

Design and interior

Alfa says the Tonale is a metamorphosis for the brand, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. You know it’s an Alfa the moment you see it, thanks to the famous triangular shield flanked by two sets of triple headlights reminiscent of the Brera and beyond. Even from the side, the shape of the headlights is enough to mark it as an Alfa, and the three-piece taillights, joined by a full-width light bar, add a distinctive touch to the otherwise generic rear end. The overall effect is a shriveled, pointed Stelvio – which isn’t a bad thing.

The interior is less Stelvio-styled, though the round air vents are familiar, and there’s a similar twin-hooded instrument panel, which here houses a fully digital display. A beautifully textured instrument panel runs behind the 10.25-inch touchscreen, and its design echoes the upholstery of the sports seats, which are finished in cloth, Alcantara or vegan “leather”. Materials are generally of the quality you’d expect at this price, although there’s still a bit of flexible plastic if you look.

The cabin is not the most spacious in the class. Leg, head and shoulder room feels tight compared to the Evoque or XC40, and while rear seat passengers are relatively well-served, this comes at the expense of front passengers, where taller drivers will feel cramped. At least there’s plenty of room for your luggage in the 500-liter trunk.

Engine and control

The Tonale marks the beginning of a dramatic shift for Alfa Romeo, as the brand famous for its wailing V6 engines moves towards full electrification. Its first EV will be here in 2024, and three years later the entire lineup will be battery-powered. The Tonale, however, is a gentle introduction to the idea of ​​electric Alfas, starting with a mild hybrid four-wheel drive before a hybrid variant arrives.

Power comes from a 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline engine with a 15 kW electric motor. Unlike most mild hybrids, which simply provide a minimal boost of torque to a running engine, the Tonale is capable of driving on pure electric power in some circumstances. The electric vehicle function is mainly used for low-speed maneuvers and traffic jams, but can also be activated for low-demand traffic at higher speeds. It’s still no match for a ‘full’ hybrid, but it feels more useful than a regular MHEV and offers a claimed economy of up to 49.6mpg.

158 hp. and the Tonale’s 177 lb-ft doesn’t sound impressive on paper, but outside of town – where it can be a bit harsh – it’s actually remarkably peppy. It responds well in any gear and picks up pace more willingly than its 8.8-second 0-62 time suggests, although you’ll need to keep a firm grip on the throttle to encourage it, and ideally want to be in ‘Dynamic’ drive mode.

This dynamic mode sharpens the otherwise slightly blunt throttle response, adds a bit of weight to the steering and brings out one of the Tonale’s key strengths – its handling. Tonale’s demeanor has a liveliness and immediacy that sets it apart from its staid and largely inert rivals. We’re not talking Giulia levels of engagement, but there’s a nice weight and quickness to the steering, and on the open road the Tonale is more nimble and fun than its rivals.

Go for Veloce spec and you get adaptive dampers that stiffen up in dynamic mode. They may work fine on smooth European roads, but here in Blighty you’ll be glad of a button that switches them into a softer mode. With or without the adaptive dampers, the Tonale’s ride oscillates annoyingly between compliant and jittery, handling big bumps well but struggling over smaller imperfections.

Price and spec

Alfa keeps the Tonale range simple, with just two regular trims to choose from – Ti and Veloce – plus a limited edition Special. Ti models start at £39,995, with the Veloce a further £2,500. All versions are richly equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels (tele dials, of course), a 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, dual-zone air conditioning, matrix LED headlights with automatic high beam, a power tailgate and adaptive cruise. control.

The Veloce brings an extra sporty vibe with 19-inch alloy wheels, painted brake calipers, a special body kit and dark exterior trim. Metal pedals and massive metal gearshift paddles create a sportier interior, along with Alcantara upholstery and adaptive dampers.


The Tonale is up against some very serious competition, but does enough to warrant a closer look. Others may still beat it when it comes to interior design, space and quality, but its lively handling, distinctive exterior design and generous specification make for an interesting new contender in a crowded segment.

Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce

Price: 42,495 pounds (43,145 pounds as tested); engine: 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, turbo, gasoline, mild hybrid; Power: 158 horsepower; Torque: 177 lb-ft; Transmission: Seven-speed automatic; Maximum speed: 132 miles per hour; 0-62 mph: 8.8 seconds; Economy: 47.9 mpg; CO2 emissions: 135 g/km

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