The Tonale is noteworthy for several reasons. It is a small front-drive compact SUV that has been available in Europe for less than a year, but it is only now arriving on American shores. It has a lot in common with the new Dodge Hornet and even the Jeep Compass. It will be available in only one version, an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid. This is the first Alfa Romeo with a plug. The car can drive for more than 30 miles using only electric power before the tiny turbocharged gasoline engine kicks in.
According to the company, this product is a little different from other Alfa Romeo products. The Tonale is aimed at women, and the brand’s choices about how it drives reflect that. It’s not a super sports machine like the Giulia sedan or the Stelvio SUV, nor the hairy edge of sports car life like the now-discontinued 4C coupe. This is a more friendly Alfa Romeo, with its Italian styling, stylish interior, and affordable price. A happy coincidence allowed me to spend a weekend in the north of Italy with an Alfa Tonale in European specification.
2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Redesign
Italians are very style-conscious. The Italians are obsessed with style. From clothing to coffeemakers to cars, everything has to look great. This latest Alfa Romeo does not disappoint. The three-element front lights flanking the triangular Alfa Romeo Grille look fantastic on the Tonale. And the smooth, clean lines that extend to the slim rear lights look sculpted and sleek.
The Tonale has a very different appearance than most other Alfas. They tend to be more muscular and masculine. But it still exudes a distinctive style. The Tonale is not like some luxury brands that only offer cars in grayscale shades. You can choose some very wild colors, including the Verde Fangio Metallic color on my test car, which was a real eye-catcher on Tonale territory.
The interior is no exception. It feels luxurious, upscale, and well-done despite obvious parts sharing with other Stellantis products. The interior of the Tonale is distinctive, in a positive way. From the digital analog gauges on the dashboard to the faux leather and suede seats with stylish stitching, it feels more stylish and interesting than anything German or Japanese.
Audis and Lexus feel similar, but they are based on the same Toyotas. The Tonale is a bit different, right down to the way the switches work for the wipers and the actual buttons and switches that control the climate and other functions. The Tonale is upscale, solid, and free of any noises that might suggest a quality issue. This is the best Alfa Romeo that I have ever driven. It feels as good as its competitors, which in itself is a great achievement.
Many luxury brands confuse “technology” and “luxury”. They opt for a glass cabin with touch-sensitive screens that are loaded with useless features, instead of focusing their attention on the materials and tactile feeling. The Tonale is not affected by this problem, even though it has the required dashboard touchscreen. The 10.25-inch screen runs the Uconnect 5 multimedia software, one of the most advanced infotainment programs on the market.
It’s squished into a slightly smaller-than-preferable area with this screen, but I’d rather have that than Lexus’ underwhelming multimedia system on the 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s available for the UX. This means the Tonale touchscreen won’t be the focal point of the interior. Instead, you can focus on the sculpted dashboard, the round vents, and the row with quality buttons.
Tonale’s seats feel different too. They are very firm and very small (everything here is small, since this is a compact SUV), but they are still very comfortable. The engine stop-start switch is on the steering wheel. The Veloce trim (the highest of the three trims, which also includes Sprint and Ti), had paddle shifters that were flappy behind the steering wheel. I can’t see any reason to use them in an SUV.
The visibility outward is good if you look forward or to either side. However, rearward visibility is not great because of the Tonale beltline sweep and the smallish rear windows that are partially obscured by the headrests in the backseat. Backseat passengers will not want to spend much time there, due to the lack of leg- and foot room. Front-seat passengers may need to adjust to accommodate full-sized adults in the second row, which is common for cars in this class. My test car did not have a moonroof, but the headroom was ample. The segment also offers ample cargo space. The Tonale has the right size to compete in the segment — not too big, not too small, just the right size.
Engine & Specs
The U.S. version has a plug-in-hybrid powertrain consisting of a turbocharged four-cylinder 1.3-liter engine, a six-speed transmission, an electrical motor, and a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 15.5-kilowatt hours. The rear-mounted electric motor, in conjunction with the turbo engine, produces 285 horsepower and a torque of 347 pounds feet. Alfa Romeo claims that it can achieve a 0-60-mph speed in less than six seconds. I agree. The powertrain is quick and punchy, and the integration between the gas engine and the electric motor is seamless.
Alfa Romeo claims that the powertrain can also deliver more than 30 miles in an all-electric range before kicking on the gas engine to keep things going. The range test was delayed because my test vehicle did not have a fully charged battery when I received the car, and I had no time to plug it into a power outlet. The e-Save mode, which uses a gas engine to generate electricity, allowed me to do some short all-electric driving. It will remain in EV mode for as long as possible, even at high speeds or steep gradients. But if you press the accelerator pedal, the electric motor is limited. The Tonale uses a gas engine to boost performance. The quiet electric mode is ideal for driving around town at lower speeds.
As soon as the little gas engine starts, you will experience another aspect of Italianness. It has a sound that is reminiscent of an Alfa Romeo with its exhaust note and snarl. It has personality and adds to the Tonale’s uniqueness in a world of similar cars.
When the Tonale is in Natural drive mode, the steering feels unusual. The “DNA” selector allows you to choose between “Dynamic”, “Sport”, “Natural”, “Normal”, or “Advanced Efficiency”, which keeps the Tonale as close as possible to EV mode. The power steering in Natural is much more powerful than one would expect from an Alfa. There’s no center feel and it feels like playing a videogame. In Dynamic, the feeling returns but the powertrain is a bit high-strung. This is a fun option for short trips through mountain canyons, but it’s not something that you would use every day.
It’s not surprising that the Tonale is softer than other Alfa Romeos, given the Tonale’s intended market. It’s a mass-market car that has Alfa’s trademark style and swagger. It’s meant to attract new customers without alienating them with excessive behavior or quirky attributes. It succeeds in that respect and should attract a lot of new buyers. Alfa Romeo is certainly going to try; it has a massive campaign planned to spread the word about the new model over the next few months.
2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Price & Release Date
Alfa Romeo anticipates that many customers will opt to lease, but the cost of purchasing a new 24-Tonale remains attractive. The base Sprint trim starts at $44,590. (All prices include the $1,595 significant destination charge.) The Ti trim costs $46,590 while the Veloce is $49,090. This does not include some features like the moonroof which are extra on even the top trim. The Veloce is still a very competitive car in its class. I don’t think it lacks anything. Even the Sprint trim, which is the lowest trim, is well-equipped (AWD comes standard).
The Tonale is a great shot of espresso, in a world full of decaf coffee. It gives buyers a stylish alternative to the mundane, with personality and verve. There are not as many Alfa Romeo dealerships in the U.S. as there are Lexus and Audi dealers. This gives you a sense of exclusivity. You won’t see yourself on every street in your town. Alfa has a real winner on its hands if it can deliver quality and reliability.