It has been more than three years since the Alfa Romeo Tonale appeared in concept form at the Geneva Motor Show. Yet much of the original form has been preserved, which means that there is a beautiful, recognizable SUV in front of us. It has styling elements from the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, but we also see gizmos Alfa 147 and touches of Alfa 159 and Brera. The headlights and taillights of the Tonale in particular are inspired by the latter two – in our opinion the most beautiful Alfas of recent decades.
Because the Alfa Romeo Tonale is the youngest member of the Stellantis group, you expect a chassis à la Peugeot 3008 and Opel Grandland. But no; the Tonale began its development period before the Stellantis deal and still stands on its own Alpha. That means a distinctive, independent rear axle with McPherson struts and a 1.5-litre turbo engine with four cylinders, instead of a 1.2-litre three-cylinder. Also striking is the electrical support of the 1.5. Unlike other mild hybrids, the 20 hp electric motor can also propel the Tonale independently, provided you press the accelerator for a maximum of 15 percent.
Unlike most competitors, the Tonale is only available with a seven-speed, self-shifting dual-clutch transmission.
We fall for the beautiful lamp units at the front and rear. Optically they consist of three separate lamps, which makes both the nose and the back very recognizable between all those calibrated fronts and butts with their anonymous, drop-shaped light sculptures. The configurable binocular instrumentation also harks back to the past – beautifully done.
From an Alfa Romeo named after a mountain pass, you expect razor-sharp steering and driving characteristics. And it has to be said: the Tonale’s steering is very direct and the torsional rigidity is of a high level. The Tonale only tilts slightly. Furthermore, the engine sound of the smooth four-cylinder (240 Nm from 1500 rpm) is excellently muffled and as far as you can hear it, it sounds much more mature and pleasant than the average three-cylinder.
As standard, the Alfa Romeo Tonale comes with shock absorbers that adapt to the frequency of the unevenness in the road surface. Especially on cobblestone roads, this prevents chattering teeth and wandering kidneys – great!
People who still have old-fashioned doubts about the quality or reliability of an Alfa Romeo are silenced with a factory warranty of five years. That’s more than most European brands have to offer.
Unfortunately, the Alfa Romeo Tonale is less sporty than hoped. This starts with the driving position: the driver’s seat cannot be lowered far enough. In addition, the seat is on the short side.
You also expect from an Alfa that he not only sends directly, but also that the steering has a bit of ‘meat’. With the Tonale this is no more than a film of carpaccio; the steering wheel is much too light in the round. That is not good for the sporting experience.
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We are not enthusiastic about the transmission either. It seems like he has to slurp down an espresso lungo before downshifting for a turn or incline. The lower gear then seems to like it so much that the box stays in it for too long. When we turn the DNA knob to the Dynamic position, the gear changes are a bit smoother, but we are not completely satisfied yet. Fortunately, you can lend a hand to the box by shifting gears yourself. We prefer to do this with the beautiful aluminum flippers, but these are not standard with all versions.
If you don’t buy the Tonale with the view of an Alfist, but as an average SUV enthusiast, you will mainly notice that there is not enough space in the back seat. As long as the front and rear occupants stay under 1.80 meters, it is doable. Above that it gets cramped. For the caravan fans we can report that the Tonale has a maximum towing weight of 1500 kg.
To start with, the Alfa Tonale will only come to the Netherlands as an Edizione Speciale. It has the entry-level engine with 130 hp and 240 Nm, but with above-average luxury equipment. The dealer is happy to receive a signed order, but the cars are not expected until June 2022.
The Tonale 1.5T Hybrid 130 AT7 costs 46,080 euros. Considering the complete equipment, that is a competitive price. It stands on 20-inch alloy wheels, and smart LED lighting is standard. The furniture is upholstered in chic Alcantara and behind the wheel you will find beautiful shifters made of real aluminum. In the center of the dashboard is a 10.25-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration and navigation. You can charge your phone wirelessly, the tailgate can be opened electrically and a reversing camera prevents pole accidents. Traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control should not be missing, and they do not.
In addition to the 130 hp variant, a Tonale with 160 hp will also be available. Prices are not yet known. In addition to the Edizione Speciale, other versions and packages will come later, including the TI and the Veloce. Our expectation is that the entry-level 130 hp will cost around 41 mille. A plug-in hybrid Tonale with 275 (!) hp will follow in 2023. A year later, the turn of a fully electric version.
Alfa Romeo Netherlands hopes to get XC40 customers away from Volvo in particular. I wholeheartedly recommend that to the brand. A little more variety in the car landscape is never gone. And if such a fine Italian takes care of that variation, I’m in favour. Moreover, it is questionable whether you will miss the meat in the steering on the Dutch A1 between Amersfoort and Apeldoorn. Let alone on the A2 between Utrecht and Amsterdam. Then the Tonale undoubtedly offers a lot of comfort and sufficient performance (from 0-100 in 9.6 s, top 196 km/h). I’m more curious about the practical use. According to Alfa Romeo, that is 6.2 l/100 km (1: 16.1), but in the northern Italian mountains I was nowhere near that.
If I was in the market for a midi SUV, the Alfa Romeo Tonale was definitely on my shortlist. Together with the Mazda CX-30, the Volvo XC40 and the Peugeot 3008. The Alfa owes this position mainly to its design and its four-cylinder engine.
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