Alfa Romeo has finally taken the wraps off the production version of 2019’s Tonale concept, and not a moment too soon. There’s a huge weight of expectation resting on this small crossover’s shoulders.
The sporty European arm of the sprawling Stellantis empire is in dire straits. While sales held fairly steady in the U.S. in 2021, they did so at a pitiful 18,000 units. Alfa managed 26,000 units in Europe, but that was down by close to 30 percent on 2020’s numbers, and around one eighth of what it was moving 20 years ago.
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QUICK FACTS: 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale
› What is the Alfa Romeo Tonale?
It’s Alfa Romeo’s first compact SUV that rivals the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA.
› What powertrains will available on the Tonale?
The range includes two conventional hybrids, a plug-in hybrid, plus regular ICE engines, all paired to automatics, in both FWD and AWD configurations.
› How big it is?
The Tonale measures 178.4-inches (4,530 mm) long, 63.0-inches (1,600 mm) tall and 72.4-inches (1,840mm) wide.
› When will the Tonale go on sale?
It will land in most European dealerships in the summer of 2022, with the UK to follow in September of the same year, and the USA in early 2023.
› How much will it cost?
While pricing will be announced at a later stage, we expect the Tonale to be priced in the USA somewhere between $30,000 to $35,000, or a just under its German rivals.
The good news is that the small SUV segment is booming and the Tonale recipe is bang up to date, and includes three hybrid options, making this Alfa’s first ever electrified car. It also promises a much better quality interior than found in other (more expensive) models in the range, and Alfa says it has employed several methods to ensure strong residual values, including using NFT technology. Intrigued? Read on to find out more about Alfa’s make-or-break compact SUV.
Tone-d down for production
The 2019 Alfa Romeo Tonale Concept pictured above with the production 2023 Tonale below
Compared with the 2019 Tonale concept (top picture) the 2022 production car (lower image) looks less slightly less aggressive due to its blockier front and rear lights, which do at least still ape the iconic Zagato SZ’s, bigger door mirrors, and conventional door handles in place of the show car’s flush fit jobs.
The rear overhang also looks awkwardly longer, but in every other respect what you see here is pretty much what we were promised three years ago, at least as far as the exterior is concerned. And those changes to the headlight apertures won’t come as a surprise to anyone who remembers the leaked images of the production car that surfaced online in late 2019. If you’re not convinced the stock 18-inch wheels are going to adequately fill those voluptuous arches, 19s and 20s are only an option-tick away.
Underneath the skin is an evolution of an older FCA platform seen on cars like the Jeep Compass, but with a wider track and greater use of aluminium and modifications made to suit the new hybrid drivetrains that we’ll get to later. Measuring 178.4-inches (4530 mm) long and 63.0 inches (1600 mm) high, the Tonale is 1.8 inches (46 mm) longer and 0.6 inches (16 mm) further from the sun than rival Audi’s Q3.
Alfa also claims the 13.6:1 steering ratio is the quickest in the class, and says the fixed four-pot Brembo brake callipers, Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) standard-fit Koni shocks, and optional adaptive versions, means it’s more fun to hustle than your average small SUV. There’s no mechanical limited slip differential, but you do get a brake-based version to help battle understeer at high speed and traction problems on low-mu surfaces.
Alfa (finally) goes electric
No fact highlights how out of step Alfa has been with automotive trends and customer needs than the fact that it has no hybrid option in its current lineup. That changes with the introduction of the Tonale, which features not one, but two conventional hybrid variants, a PHEV, plus conventional ICE engines. Which of those you’re offered depends largely on where in the world you’re living, but the hybrids are a lynchpin in every market.
The two regular hybrids both consist of 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas motors mated to 48-volt 15 kW electric motor, the entire package driving the front wheels alone through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The base model makes 128 hp (130 PS) on gas before its 20 hp (21 PS) shot of electricity is added, but the more expensive version gets a VGT (variable geometry turbo) blower that lifts ICE output to 158 hp (160PS) and gets the same hybrid boost on top.
Both models will let you start off, cruise and park using purely electric power, Alfa promising economy equivalent to a diesel engine (which a few European markets will still get). But if you prefer your hybrid to come with a plug, or want your Tonale to come with AWD, you’ll want to step up to the Q4, which Alfa claims is built with the U.S. and Middle East markets, rather than Europe, in mind.
The Q4 PHEV actuality runs a smaller ICE engine than the other hybrids up front, swapping out the 1.5 for a 1.3-liter MultiAir that drives the front axle, while the rear end is pushed along by a dedicated electric motor. The powertrain is based on the package revealed in 2020 on the Jeep Compass 4XE in Europe, but instead of a total system output of 237 hp (240 PS), it delivers 272 hp (275PS). And instead of the 7.5 seconds the Compass 4xe needs to reach 62mph, the Q4 can do the job in 6.2 seconds. Alfa is keeping quiet about how quick the other variants are.
You also get a 15.5 kWh battery in the Q4, versus 11.4 kWh in the Compass, that delivers up to 50 miles (80 km) of electric driving on the city cycle, and 37 miles (60 km) combined, says Alfa. If true, those figures will make the Tonale PHEV even more useful than Ford’s unusually long-legged Kuga PHEV.
What about a Quadrifoglio or GTA?
Alfa also made a brief reference to a non-hybrid car design for the U.S., but gave no details. But don’t get your hopes up that it’s some kind of GTAm lightweight. Alfa claims that technically, yes, it could build a hot hatch version, but also says that “this segment is more rational”, so no decision has been made.
Engineers also say that although the platform was originally conceived for ICE cars, it could be used to build a full EV Tonale in future, and that’s almost certainly a bigger priority. But CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato has previously confirmed that the first electric Alfa will debut in 2024, and that the company is considering Quadrifoglio EV variants.
No manual, but supercar-style aluminium paddles and a high-quality interior
Sadly, Alfa decided against offering a manual Tonale, a spokesman suggesting that the decision to position it as a premium product meant ditching a three-pedal option. But the the long supercar-like aluminium shift paddles really set of an interior that judged on these images stands head and shoulders above anything we’ve seen previously on an Alfa production car.
Again, we had a sneak peek at the cabin when the exterior shots were leaked a couple of years ago, but these first official images reveal the configurable TFT instrument display and new Amazon Alexa-equipped tablet infotainment system in more detail. The 12.5-inch gauge pack still sits under Alfa’s trademark 1960s-style double-cowl, and one of its three selectable layouts even features a retro typeface for speed and revs, while the 10.25-inch main touchscreen allows you to customise the position of its widgets.
At the base of the console, but mounted at an angle, rather than flat, as on the Stelvio and Giulia, is the familiar DNA driving mode selector which can be used to change the character of the steering, throttle and adaptive dampers (if fitted), but now of course also modifies the behaviour of the electric portion of the powertrain on hybrid models.
What’s the model lineup?
Alfa is keeping things as simple as possible for prospective buyers and offering the Tonale in just Super and sportier-looking Ti trims. We don’t yet know the equipment each one will offer, which will vary from market to market anyway, but we do know that each of those trims can then be optioned with its own unique upgrade package. Super variants can be modded with a Sprint pack, and Ti buyers can upgrade to Veloce.
It looks and sounds good, but why would I buy an Alfa Romeo?
Bragging about best-in-class driving dynamics is all very well, but Alfa knows it’s the purchase and ownership experience that it needs to nail to persuade people out of the Audis, Benzes and BMWs. So it’s extended the main vehicle warranty to five years, and covers the batteries on hybrid models for eight years or 150,000 km (93,000 miles). And to try to improve residual values it’s promising that buyers looking for a used car will get the same experience and warranty cover as those buying one new.
But wait, there’s more. Alfa has also dreamed up a bizarre Videocheck system to improve transparency when additional repairs are needed behind what had originally been agreed. It requires technicians to work according to a mobile app’s instructions, and to deliver a video to the customer outlining the reason for the additional work.
And if that’s not strange enough, Alfa is claiming an automotive first for the inclusion of non-fungible token (NFT) technology. With a customer’s consent the NFT will record data about the car that can be later used to solidify residual values by proving that the car was properly maintained.
Is the Tonale good enough save Alfa?
Do you think the Tonale offers enough to finally change Alfa Romeo’s fortunes? Leave a comment and let us know.