2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale First Drive

Uncharted Waters.

By Dan Heyman Wheels.ca

May 11, 2023 6 min. read

Article was updated 7 months ago

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The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale is an important vehicle for Alfa for a number of reasons; Alfa Romeo – like so many other brands – has plans to electrify their line-up, and the Tonale luxury compact crossover is their first foray into that world. It’s also their first entrant in the competitive subcompact/compact luxury segment, one that by Alfa’s own admission, is set to continue to grow at a fever pitch – to the tune of 231 percent by 2025.

With a base MSRP of $44,995 for the gas version and $54,995 for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV), it’s also the least expensive way to get into an Afla and if all goes to plan, should open up a whole new segment of buyers for the brand. So, yeah – there’s quite a lot riding on the (admittedly quite cool-looking) shoulders of this baby Italian crossover.

[caption id="attachment_176086" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale The Alfa Romeo Tonale is the brand’s first compact crossover. (DAN HEYMAN)[/caption]

It is indeed very “Italian”, starting with where it’s built: Alfa’s Pomigliano production facility just outside of Naples, Italy. That factory has existed since before even Fiat owned the brand and while that may seem like a trivial thing, if there’s one thing Alfa knows how to do, it’s tap into their heritage when it comes to designing and engineering their cars.

Even the Tonale, an entry into a new segment, wasn’t going to make the grade without the requisite Alfa-ness. You can see it in the way they’ve shaped the LED DRLs – squinting shows hints of the old 147 and 155 sedans – the “telephone dial” wheels with red brake calipers behind them, and the way the rear fascia gets a full-length light bar. Alfa says it’s designed to recall the modern Brera hatch; for me, I couldn’t help but see a callback to the 164, a unique forward-looking design from the ‘80s. The classic Scudetto grille and mirror caps with Italian flags painted on them just screams Alfa, as does the Verde Fangio (green), Rosso (red) and Misano (blue) paintjobs. The classic Alfa serpent emblem remains, but on the PHEV model it appears in certain areas with its head replaced by an electrical plug. Get it?

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

The Tonale rides a little lower than the likes of the BMW X1 or Mercedes-Benz GLA, but that’s the point; by Alfa’s own admission, they really wanted the Tonale to look like a tall hot hatch and if we’re honest, how much ground clearance does someone with a subcompact crossover really need? The result is a crossover that looks suitably squat, ready to dispatch the curves if not the backcountry.

Inside, the new Tonale continues the Alfa trend of designing interiors that provide a flash of modernity, but are more of a black-tie affair. The dash of our tester has a splash of brushed silver here and bright trimwork there, but it is mainly a deep black affair. Alfas are drivers’ cars and they don’t want to distract too much from that; case in point: at 12.3 inches, the gauge cluster display is larger than the infotainment display, which measures 10.25". The reason? Simple. In a driver’s car, the instruments are what matter most, less so the widgets on your media screen (or UConnect 5 and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto) though those can be customized to your liking. There are also supplementary gauges for oil pressure and power meters. The standard digital gauge cluster has multiple styles including “Classic”, styled to look just like the analogue gauges found on classic Alfas – heritage, remember?

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

In addition to looking classic-cool, the interior also offers the most front- and rear legroom and storage behind the rear seats in the segment; there’s actually more room behind the Tonale’s rear seats than there is in Alfa’s own (larger) Stelvio because that SUV gets such a steep rake to its rear window.

Alfa says the Tonale can transport four 6’4” adults comfortably; I found the legroom to be fine, but headroom is such that I barely cleared the headliner, especially with the $1,495 moonroof option. Since said mooroof is a full-length version, rear seat occupants don’t fare much better. Good that you can opt out of it no matter which trim you choose without losing any other features.

We spent the duration of this test in the top trumps PHEV Veloce model, which provides 285 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque from a turbo 1.3-litre inline-4 plus rear axle-mounted 90 KW EV motor. It provides 50 km of EV range, so if you can plug-in at night (with charge times in and around the 2.5 hour range on a level II charger), your Tonale PHEV could, ostensibly, become a Tonale EV.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

Here’s the thing, though; with that kind of power as well as standard all-wheel-drive and a 9-speed gearbox with column-mounted paddle shifters (built big, so they can be reached no matter the steering wheel angle), there’s too much fun to be had to really make that efficiency claim. You want to drive with gumption, meaning dynamic drive mode, meaning heavy reliance on the EV motor.

Power is enough to get you to 100 km/h from a standstill in about 6.5 seconds, but the real thrill comes as speeds increase. The torque curve is such that you’ve got good acceleration in most any gear to comfortably perform your everyday at-speed manoeuvres such as highway passes.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

As the world turns and the road begins to twist, the Tonale returns very – VERY – quick steering response, although I would like a little more road feel; in this day of over-boosted EPAS, of course, that’s not really a surprise. I’ll take that turn-in response, though, and even with the extra weight from the 15 kWh battery and EV system, the body is kept nicely in-check through the turns. For most of my drive, I kept it in dynamic mode (which joins advanced efficiency and natural drive modes, likely named as such because of the catchy “DNA” acronym), which allows drivers to choose from between two damper settings and even with 20” wheels and the firm dampers, I didn’t feel myself pogoing across the tarmac. Alfa vehicles need to be able to handle as well as – if not better than – the competition to set them apart, and from my limited time in the Tonale, it answers the bell.

It had better; it’s got a couple of fronts on which to do battle in that Alfa buyers buy for style and driving experience, but compact luxury CUV drivers often buy for comfort and features. The Tonale has the style and it has the drive, and when similarly equipped, it’s actually better priced than the likes of the X1 or Audi Q3.

In short, there could very well be some future Alfisti ready to jump aboard.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

BODY STYLE: Five-door subcompact luxury crossover

DRIVE METHOD: front-engine/rear EV motor OR 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, all-wheel drive
ENGINE (PHEV): 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo, 90kW EV motor, 285 hp, 347 lb-ft of torque

ENGINE (2.0L): 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, 268 hp, 295 lb-ft of torque

TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic

CARGO CAPACITY: 648-1,430 litres

Base MSRP (2.0L): $44,995

Base MSRP (PHEV): $54,995

WEBSITE: Alfa Romeo Tonale





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