2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale – Uniquely Distinctive


Alfa Romeo’s several decades of absence in North America ended a few years ago, with the arrival of bestseller models like Guila and Stelvio. The Tonale is the latest addition that competes in the subcompact premium segment, aiming to challenge the BMW X1, Volvo XC40 and others. In typical Alfa Romeo fashion, the Tonale not only has handsome styling, but it offers a unique value proposition with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

The Looks – Exterior and Interior

The Tonale debuted back in 2019 at the Geneva Auto Show, but surprisingly took several years to reach production. By just looking at it, it was worth the wait. It offers the traditional Alfa Romeo design details with handsome styling throughout the vehicle. The sharp-nosed front fascia is the signature Alfa Romeo design feature that makes the car recognizable from a mile away. The LED headlights with three-piece daytime running lights give a more aggressive look, but the rest of the vehicle does not have a lot of sharp angles.

The most striking part about the side profile is the traditional 5-hole rims that have been offered in other Alfa models for the last two decades. Even though it is a plug-in hybrid version, there are no indicators other than two “gas” caps on both sides, Alfa Romeo decided to keep the EV feature under the radar. The sporty design language continues in the rear, such as the one-piece taillight that goes across the trunk, and dual exhaust tips which are 100% functional.

The interior design is a hate or love situation, as the Tonale shares its platform with its American cousin, the Dodge Hornet, Stellantis decided to find a middle ground to please North American shoppers in mind. It offers a nice balance of greatness and disappointment in different areas. There are lots of physical controls that operate the HVAC controls and other fundamental features, once you get used to the layout, it’s very easy to live with it. The build quality is not class-leading especially when you compare it with other European entries, but acceptable for a premium entry. It also has column-mounted paddle shifters like a racecar, something you rarely see in this price range.

The Tonale comes with the latest Stellantis infotainment system paired with a 10.25-inch central touchscreen that offers great resolution and screen quality. The Android-based operating system is easy to use except for the smaller icons located at the top of the screen. It also comes with a 12.3-inch digital cluster with different configurable layouts. Most premium entries offer very customizable screens, but Alfa Romeo really shines when it comes to the overall information buried in the cluster. The only gripe I had was the navigation screen took forever to load in the gauge cluster, but once it works it gives that extra premium feeling you expect from this type of vehicle.

The seating position and seat comfort are good with the right amount of firm padding and a decent amount of adjustment range. There is also Alfa Romeo emblem stitching on the headrests, which makes it feel more special than the competition. The rear seat passengers also get a decent amount of legroom and headroom for a compact crossover, it can accommodate a child seat quite easily. The rear seat occupants also get nice features like air vents, USB ports and heated rear seats.

The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale has an average amount of trunk space, nothing spectacular. Even though it’s on the smaller side, I would prefer having fewer cubic feet of cargo space for more rear-seat legroom. Due to the sloping roofline and sporty silhouette, you do not get tons of vertical storage space, but it is still a very usable cargo space for small families.

The Drive – Specs & Experience

The Tonale offers a unique European flair in terms of the design language, and the trend also continues in the drivetrain department. It is the only premium compact crossover available with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. The plug-in hybrid variant comes with a 1.3 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which generates around 180 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor can push 121 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. When both motors are in action, the combined output is 285 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque. Technically it is more powerful than the performance-oriented variant of the Tonale, as you can also get the gas-only version with a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine that generates 268 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

The numbers look very impressive and for a small crossover, it makes the Tonale feel like a raised hot hatch. The plug-in drivetrain is paired with a 6-speed torque-converted automatic transmission that you can also manually shift through the paddle shifters. Thanks to the electric motors and immediate power delivery, you don’t need to have as many gears as you would with the gas-only engine, which comes with a 9-speed transmission instead. The 6-speed transmission offers smooth shift points, is predictable and has a balanced gear ratio for both efficiency and performance.

Another feature that makes the Tonale unique in this segment, is just having a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Most brands have either gone with fully electric, or mild hybrid drivetrains, but PHEV can be the optimal solution for people driving short distances on a regular basis, as you can benefit from running almost 50 kilometres of pure electric drive without dealing with range anxiety. After you run out of the battery, the gas engine kicks in, and the 14.8 kWh battery pack can still send power in hybrid drive mode. Charging at home with a Level 2 charger (40A) will replenish the battery pack from 0% to 100% in about two and a half hours.

Regardless of the trim, or drivetrain you choose, all Tonales come with an all-wheel-drive system standard. The plug-in hybrid variant comes with an eAWD system, meaning that the electric motor sends power to the rear wheels when you need the extra traction, or simply when you are in EV mode. Unfortunately, you cannot fully disable the stability control, but the Tonale feels quite nose-heavy at the limit. It understeers quite a bit until you give enough throttle input so electric motors can send more power to the rear wheels, but that’s when the party ends because of the intrusive stability control tuning, it wouldn’t allow you to have fun.

As long as you don’t try to go over the limit, the Tonale PHEV is sure-footed and gives you enough confidence in the corner. The front end is quite responsive to steering inputs, and the chassis is communicative with the driver. The electronically adjustable suspension offers two settings, and there is a noticeable difference between them. It is on the firmer side even the softest setting, but it is still tolerable on city streets where you have to deal with road cracks, potholes and other road imperfections. When you compare it with other entries, the Tonale wants you to feel the road more than the others.

In typical Alfa Romeo fashion, there’s a “DNA” selector switch providing different driving modes.. The Tonale shuts off the gas engine completely in “A” (also called Advanced Efficiency) until the battery runs out of juice. The “N” (Normal Mode) heavily leans towards running it in electric mode until you need the extra power, that’s when the gas engine gets involved for more power. The “D” (Dynamic mode) is the sportiest mode, both gas and electric motors are ready to provide the maximum power output rather than efficiency. When you run out of battery, you feel the overall power output drops significantly, so you need to make sure the battery is at least 50% or more for maximum performance.

The Verdict

It’s really hard to stand out in a very competitive market, especially when you have to challenge heavy hitters in this segment. The Tonale is an excellent first attempt for Alfa Romeo, a brand relatively new in the North American market. Its shortcomings are obvious, but forgivable if you are looking for a European premium crossover with great looks, a rare plug-in drivetrain in this segment, and a unique character.

Engine1.3 liter turbocharged inline-4 & electric motor
Transmission & Drivetrain6-speed automatic & eAWD
Max power (combined)285 hp
Max torque (combined)347 lb-ft
0-100 km/h5.8 sec
Curb Weight4291 lbs – 1946 kg
Fuel Economy (observed)57 MPG – 4.1 L/100 km
Price (starting)$54,865 CAD

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