The Tonale packs Italian styling, great tech, and a strong hybrid powertrain - at a cost.
When an entire car brand consists of only two models, a new introduction is going to feel big. The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale is the first new model from the Italian automaker since the Stelvio debuted in 2016, and we've been eagerly awaiting the Tonale's arrival since the concept was shown in 2019. The Tonale is the first plug-in hybrid Alfa Romeo, and it's also the only powertrain offered in the United States. It ushers in a new era for the automaker as future Alfas will all be EVs; the company aims to be fully electric by 2027.
Power comes from a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and battery, combining to deliver 285 horsepower, which the automaker says is the best in its class. The Tonale competes in the compact luxury crossover segment with the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Volvo XC40, none of which offer a plug-in hybrid option in the US market, although the Volvo crossover can be had as a fully-electric model with over 400 hp. With the Tonale, shoppers who want an entry-level luxury SUV now have a hybrid option; but will that be enough to draw them into an Alfa Romeo showroom? CarBuzz spent a day with the Tonale to find out.
From the moment Alfa Romeo revealed the Tonale Concept in Geneva, we knew this would be a pretty vehicle. It may sound like marketing mumbo jumbo, but the Tonale's design features pure Italian DNA from the company's Design Studio at Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. The designers attempted to evoke elements from past Alfa models, like the '3+3' headlights inspired by the SZ, the 'GT Line' from the Giulia GT Junior, and the unique Alfa Romeo Scudetto shield triangular grille up front. The Tonale won't be mistaken for an Audi or BMW on the road.
In typical Alfa fashion, there are some dazzling color options for the Tonale. Alfa White is, disappointingly, the only no-cost option, although base models can be had in Back for free, too. Alfa Rosso (Red) and Misano Blue Metallic are available for $500 and $660, respectively. There's also a stunning Verde (Green) Fangio - named after the five-time Formula One world champion - for a whopping $2,200, but it's only available on the top two trims. Don't worry, black and metallic grey are available if you don't want to be fun, albeit at a cost
A decent-looking pair of 18-inch 5-hole wheels come standard on the base trim, but 19-inch wheels can be added for $1,500 (these are standard on Veloce), as can 20-inch wheels for $2,000 on the top two trim levels.
Alfa Romeo has not been a brand that leads with technology and interior quality first; it's always been adequate, but the brand wants its design and driving experience to do most of the talking. For a subcompact model, the Tonale is at least on par with its competition - depending on the trim level. We had a chance to drive a Veloce trim, which can be equipped with either perforated leather or Alcantara seats. Those seats can even have ventilation, a rare option in this segment. The lower two trims come standard with what Alfa calls 'Sport Cloth' upholstery, which feels premium to us, but may not appeal to the leather-obsessed US market.
As for the technology suite, we have zero complaints there. All Tonale trims include a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Uconnect 5 Nav, a system we enjoy using, paired with a 12.3-inch color digital gauge cluster. The gauge cluster features different themes, including a classic one that replicates a retro Alfa Romeo. We wish more automakers would copy this idea.
Alfa Romeo doesn't nickel and dime its customers like some of the other European brands, and instead, the automaker bundles adaptive cruise control, collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, park assist front and rear, and lane-keeping assist - all as standard. A $1,850 Active Assist Package on the top two trims adds active driving assist, parking sensors, and a surround-view camera.
This is the first Alfa Romeo PHEV model, but it's oddly not the first car we've driven with this exact powertrain because it's shared with the Dodge Hornet R/T. Just like the Hornet, there is a 1.3-liter turbocharged engine under the hood producing 180 hp on its own. An electric motor contributes to the mix, combining with the gas engine for 285 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque in the Tonale. Alfa says 0-60 will take 5.6 seconds. Despite using the exact same setup, the Hornet R/T is rated at 288 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, likely because of its Power Shot feature; another possible reason for Alfa's frustration with Dodge. Power goes out through a six-speed automatic to standard all-wheel-drive, with the rear electric motor supplying the rear wheels exclusively.
Dodge hasn't officially released EPA fuel economy for the Hornet PHEV, nor has Alfa Romeo for the Tonale. Both companies target around 30 miles of electric-only range from the 15.5 kWh battery pack with a total range of 320 miles when the gas engine kicks on. Our brief 60-mile drive netted 34.6 electric miles and a 52.3 mpg average. If you can charge it on a Level 2 plug, the battery should only take around 2.5 hours to juice up.
The executives attending the launch event were keen to point out that the Tonale was engineered to bring a more mainstream audience to the brand compared to the Giorgio-platformed Giulia and Stelvio. For that mission, the end product seems to be on target. Alfa's engineers did a phenomenal job tuning the drivetrain, and the Tonale comes with easily-understandable DNA drive modes. 'N,' which stands for Natural, is the base setting. It relies mostly on electric power, only using the engine under heavy throttle. 'A' stands for Advanced Efficiency and allows the electric motor to remain the only power source, even with the throttle pinned to the floor. Stepping past kick-down will fire up the engine. The Tonale is anything but rapid in this mode, but it manages to keep up with traffic.
'D' is the Dual-Power/Dynamic setting that leaves the engine running for maximum performance. It also tightens up the weight on the already sharp steering, which keeps drivers entertained when the road gets twisty. We'd love to hear a little more of a rumble from the engine, but we realize that most luxury buyers in this segment would prefer to have less noise enter the cabin. The 1.3-liter mill isn't the party piece, after all.
Even with 20-inch wheels, Michigan's rough roads didn't seem to upset the adaptive dampers, which are only available on the top Veloce trim. Smaller wheels would only improve the ride comfort.
Only offering the Tonale as a PHEV may be both a blessing and a curse for Alfa Romeo. While it does give the Tonale better performance and an efficiency edge over its gas rivals, the price reflects that advantage. The base Tonale Sprint starts at $42,995 (not including a $1,595 destination charge). For reference, the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes-Benz GLA all start at around $40,000, with the Volvo XC40 priced over $44k. The Dodge Hornet R/T, meanwhile, starts under $40k and comes with a generous safety specification, too - and more power.
Though the Tonale is well-equipped in all trims, we'd still want to add some options. The Ti trim starts at $45,655, and we would add bigger wheels ($1,500), the leather interior with upgraded audio ($2,500), Active Assist Package ($1,850), and a nice color for good measure ($660). Just those additions would bring the all-inclusive price to $53,100. A quick reminder that the larger Stelvio starts at $46,575. The top Tonale trim is the Veloce, and it costs $49,695, topping out at $58,840 with every box ticked. You could get a Stelvio Lusso or a Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 (and change) for that price. A fully-kitted-out Dodge Hornet R/T isn't likely to be this expensive, either.
Factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit, the Tonale would be one of the more compelling options in the segment - but it no longer qualifies under the IRA due to its Italian birthplace. Luckily, you can still claim the credit on a lease, which could put this car back in the conversation. It offers standard features that are optional on other cars, a unique drivetrain, and eye-catching Italian styling. If you're in the market to lease an entry-level luxury crossover that's a bit outside the box, we'd recommend taking the Tonale on the test drive. Just keep in mind that it'll cost you more than most competitors.
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