‘We’re back, boys! And not with an afterthought: no, the Alfa Romeo Tonale is the best, most sporty, most beautiful, innovative and funniest car to drive in this segment. And that’s just the beginning! ‘ Jean-Philippe Imparato, the boss of Alfa Romeo, almost suffocates in superlatives when he addresses us during the press release about ‘his’ new car.
His enthusiasm is contagious and easily worrying at the same time. If you can believe him, the competitors are almost girls, who are immediately put at a great disadvantage by the Italians’ superhuman efforts.
The former speaker, Domenico Bagnasco, had already contributed a great deal. No little boy, this Bagnasco: he was in charge of the chassis of Alfa greats like the 8C Competizione, 4C and Giulia GTA and GTAm.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale is best for everything, according to Alfa
He bombarded his audience with graphs of measurements of the Alfa Romeo Tonale in comparison to the ‘best driving’ and the ‘most comfortable’ competitor in his segment (for the better heard: BMW X1 and Audi Q3). Needless to say, Tonale makes minced meat from them in those graphs. It gives high expectations. Which, and there’s the worrying part, immediately makes you wonder if Tonale can actually live up to all of them. no pressureTonal …
Apparently it’s good. The Alfa Romeo Tonale is, as one might expect, a small version of the Stelvio (which immediately explains the name: Tonale is also the name of a mountain pass in the Alps), but has enough individuality not to be a Mini-Me of its own. to be a big brother.
And there is a lot of reference to other Alfa models from the brand’s rich past. The headlights give the impression of being made up of three units (hi SZ), the digital meters look like those on the GT Junior and of course the license plate in front is again very off-center. The small Italian flags in the mirrors are an appropriate expression of national pride.
Alfa Romeo Tonale is the last non-Stellantis Alfa
Tonale may be the first new Alpha in eternity, but it is also the last in an era. It has almost nothing to do with Stellantis, the new owner of the company, but is still developed in the not-so-good old FCA days. Then the Italians did it with Chrysler-Jeep, which means that Tonale is still on the platform that Jeep Compass also uses. There is also nothing French (yet) in terms of engine: The 1.5-liter four-cylinder with turbo and mild electric support is still of its own making.
The tone is different from the compass
Which again does not mean that Alfa Romeo Tonale is a compass with a different coat – Alfa has done its utmost to make everything as ‘Alfa’ as possible. The chassis has been extensively modified, there are standard Frequency Selective shock absorbers, the turbo has variable geometry and an extra 22 hp electric motor has been placed in the gearbox that makes electric driving possible.
Now, do not imagine too much of the latter. It’s just about driving very slowly with very little gas. Well, it hurts. In addition, the electricity also serves to increase the acceleration and keep the torque high, not only at very low revs, but also at high revs. That gearbox, by the way, is always a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; there are no more shifts.
The engines of the Alfa Romeo Tonale
The Alfa Romeo Tonale initially comes with only 130 hp, but later this year the 160 hp version that we are already driving. It does not seem to be able to guarantee tremendous performance, but you will get good out of it. A sprint to 100 km / h takes 8.8 seconds in our variant and the top is 210 km / h – quite acceptable, we think. If you want more, you have to have patience for next year; then comes the 275 hp plug-in hybrid.
In more expensive versions, you can also choose an adaptive chassis. We would certainly do that, because it gives the different modes of driving, as befits Alfa, collectively under the name DNA, the chance to stand out extra from each other. Without the adaptive part, the three modes mainly relate to the way the steering wheel, accelerator and electronics react to your inputs and different conditions, but if the whole chassis also participates, almost automatically something more ‘Alpha’ is added to your driving style.
Sportsmanship and experience
For that, of course, is first and foremost the area where Alfa Romeo Tonale must stand out from all other competitors in this full segment. He must offer something extra in sportsmanship and (terrible word …) experience. And as anyone who sometimes looks around the street and notices the amount of tracksuits and yoga pants knows: sporty is not just in the packaging. And where the Tonale package so far seems perfectly fine, this is also where the first doubt arises.
It starts with the sitting position. That way you are pretty tall. Well, it’s part of an SUV, but it would have been nice if Alfa had at least offered the option to lower the seats. We also do not get enough steering wheel for us, which literally and figuratively creates distance. The side support of the seats is excellent, but the seats are typically Italian: too short. These are small things, but they do not help to make you feel ‘involved’.
The dashboard on the Alfa Romeo Tonale is beautiful
The dashboard is again one of the most beautiful in its class. The (fully digital) meters are of course adorned with Alfa’s characteristic canopy, which appears to consist of two pipes. You can make them look different, including the beautiful nostalgic ‘analog’ meters, but you can also select the entire navigation screen. The central touch screen is beautiful, razor sharp, fast and easy to operate.
There are a lot of features hidden in it, but you can also give it your own twist of the heart’s desire; the smartphone clearly shows its influence here. Fortunately, the air conditioner and a number of other features still have their own buttons. Also nice: your phone can be charged wirelessly and there are not only USB-C connections – there is also a ‘regular’. The equipment is very complete including reversing camera, electric tailgate and all conceivable electronic angels and helpers.
In general, the finish is excellent, although there are also a number of materials to be found (everything that should be reminiscent of aluminum, for example), which can be compromised on a few things in terms of quality. Fortunately, the design compensates too much; you can confidently leave it to the Italians. Unfortunately, they have looked a little too much on themselves when it comes to the space in the back seat – it does not hold really for tall Dutch, especially in terms of ground clearance. It works, but spacious is different. The trunk is generous again.
Then drive. First the good news: The handling of Tonale is excellent. There are always plenty of grips, corners are not a challenge but fun, and in that respect Tonale is exactly the dynamic thing Alfa intended. The suspension is firm, maybe a little too much, but it seems to be a conscious choice to make the sporting intentions extra clear.
The controls are even more amazing. It is super direct and precise, but far too light and far too insensitive. There is little correlation with what the tires go through, and that is at the expense of the sporty feel that Alfa is so eager to offer. ‘Well, any family member should be able to deal with it too’, the defense reads. As if you could no longer find your way to the Jumbo with a little more weight and feeling …
The transmission in Alfa Romeo Tonale
And while we’re at it, the transmission doesn’t always seem to know what it wants. In the normal positions, it often shifts rapidly to higher gears and then has three steps left for a short turn. In Dynamic mode, he often stays in one gear for far too long, which in turn gets on your nerves. It all goes better if you drive it ‘on your Alpha’ (or use the nice big aluminum paddles behind the wheel), but this will not often be the case in our country, for example on the way to the Jumbo.
Has the Alfa Romeo Tonale failed?
So no. It is also partly because of the high expectations that we are more likely to take the mistakes more seriously. Overall, Tonale is a very welcome addition to the segment, which in many ways actually offers things that competitors do not.
Just think of the NFT, in which maintenance and mileage are recorded, which provides extra security for the used market. In addition, it appears to be well put together, which Alfa emphasizes by giving a full five-year warranty. The price (from 46k for the 130 hp version) is on a par with, for example, the XC40, and can therefore be called competitive. Alfa has certainly succeeded in creating something special with Tonale, though perhaps not all choices made for this purpose have been equally successful.
Specifications Alfa Romeo Tonale 1.5T Hybrid 160 hp (2022)
0-100 km / h in 8.8 sec
top 210 km / h
5.7 l / 100 km
130 g / km CO2 A-mark
4,528 x 1,841 x
1,601 mm (lxwxh)
2,636 mm (wheelbase)
55 l (petrol)
500 / 1,550 l (luggage)
49,000 € (NL)
€ 40,300 (B)