2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Review: High stakes, small package

Ronan Glon

After several false starts, Alfa Romeo’s renaissance began with the launch of the Giulia during the 2017 model year. Gorgeous, luxurious, and rear-wheel-drive, it’s the archetypal Italian sports sedan that Alfisti spent years clamoring for. But neither it nor the Stelvio crossover built on the same platform were the kind of high-volume hit that the brand needed.

Enter the Tonale. Named after a mountain pass in the Italian Alps, the small crossover slots at the bottom of the Alfa Romeo range and lands in a segment dominated by German and Japanese carmakers. It’s the first series-produced plug-in hybrid from Alfa Romeo, and it’s poised to become the company’s best-seller.

Part past, part future

Visually, the Tonale stands out as an evolution of the eponymous concept presented at the 2019 Geneva auto show. Designers put Alfa Romeo’s signature elements front and center: the front end is characterized by a big, shield-shaped grille that bridges the gap between the past and the present. The headlights also come from the heritage well: they’re inspired by the units fitted to the short-lived, Milano-based SZ. The SZ is admittedly not the most emblematic car from Alfa Romeo’s history, and its polarizing design earned it the nickname “il mostro,” which translates to “the monster” in Italian. Still, I’d argue it’s a look that works.

The roofline leans towards the sporty side of the design spectrum without, thankfully, leaning on the “four-door-coupe” strategy. The rear end wears horizontal lights connected by an attractive light bar. For a small crossover, the Tonale is a looker, and the distinct Alfa flavor should help it stand out against the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Lexus UX, and Volvo XC40.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale side
Ronan Glon

From the driver’s seat, the Tonale feels like a proper Alfa Romeo. You face a three-spoke steering wheel, a digital instrument cluster with heritage-inspired gauges, and a driver-oriented center stack. You get the impression that you’re sitting in the car rather than on it. That’s expected in a sport sedan like the Giulia but it’s difficult to nail in a taller crossover, even a small one designed for city-dwellers.

Heritage is not enough to sway the mainstream buyer, and flashy technology is a valuable yardstick in the luxury compact crossover world. Alfa Romeo packed all the driving aids and connectivity features its target audience expects into the Tonale, including adaptive cruise control and a 10.25-inch touchscreen for the Uconnect 5 infotainment system. The software is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s straightforward to use, the menus are where you expect to find them, and it offers sharp graphics. What’s nice is that none of this stuff is intrusive. New cars increasingly push motorists towards a digital overdose with dashboard-wide screens; this is a fresher approach.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale rear seats
Ronan Glon

There’s more passenger space than you might expect considering the Tonale’s size. The vehicle stretches about 178 inches long and 63 inches tall—about six inches shorter and an inch lower than the Stelvio, but it offers plenty of room for the front passengers and enough rear-seat space for two average-sized adults. (I’m 5’11” and I could sit behind myself.)

Trunk space isn’t one of the Tonale’s strong points. Alfa Romeo quotes 22.9 cubic feet with both seats of rows left up and 50.5 cubes with the second-row seats folded flat. In comparison, the new BMW X1 posts figures of 25.7, and 57.2, respectively, and it’s on the outside it’s almost exactly the same size as the Tonale. Audi’s Q3 splits the difference with 23.7 and 48 cubes, respectively.

285 horses in two stables

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale engine angle
Ronan Glon

While the global range includes gasoline- and diesel-powered four-cylinder engines, Alfa Romeo will exclusively sell the Tonale with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain in the United States. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder announced as the entry-level engine when the crossover made its debut won’t be offered here after all.

“It’s not about the fact that it’s electrified. It’s about the fact that this is the highest-performing and most dynamic Tonale that we offer,” Larry Dominique, the senior vice president and head of Alfa Romeo’s North American division, told me during the launch event. “We have to stand out,” he summed up.

Power for our version of the Tonale consequently comes from a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid system that consists of a turbocharged, 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine, a 15.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack integrated into the space normally occupied by the driveshaft, and a rear-mounted electric motor.

The four-cylinder spins the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission while the electric motor zaps the rear wheels into motion for through-the-road all-wheel drive. Alfa Romeo pegs the system’s total output at 285 horsepower and 347 horsepower and the Tonale’s electric-only range at 30 miles.

Specs: 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

  • Price: $42,995
  • Powertrain: 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motor
  • Horsepower: 285
  • Torque: 347
  • Layout: All-wheel drive, five seats
  • Weight: 4133 pounds
  • EPA-rated fuel economy: TBD
  • Electric range: 30 miles
  • 0-60 mph: Under six seconds
  • Top speed: 125 mph

Hot hatch-like power figures only tell part of the Tonale’s story;  the 285 horses in total live in very different stables. Up front, the 1.3-liter sounds underwhelming—hardly an inspiring piece of machinery, especially considering that a Pavarotti-rivaling exhaust note is an important part of an Alfa Romeo’s character. Its personality is closer to “I can capably move you forward” than “Go on, hit the rev limiter.” Out back, the electric motor is too small to spiritedly power the Tonale on its own, which it’s configured to do when the driver selects the “Advanced Efficiency” mode. The electric-only operation is fine in crowded urban centers but way out of its element on a twisty road.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale interior battery level
Ronan Glon

It’s when the two power sources team up that the Tonale is at its best. It’s quick off the line, the electric motor’s instant torque makes up for the engine’s turbo lag, and it handles surprisingly well for the segment it which it competes. The Tonale tips the scale at 4133 pounds, which isn’t light, but it manages to feel balanced. That’s is partially due to the battery, which weighs 276 pounds and is positioned right in the middle of the car. The suspension is on the firm side of comfortable and body roll isn’t excessive. Brembo-sourced calipers on both axles squeeze rotors that effortlessly slow the Tonale down.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale wheel tire
Ronan Glon

Alfa Romeo quotes a zero-to-60-mph time of under six seconds, and it feels at least that quick in practice. Even better, the engine and the electric motor get along well, which is no easy feat in a powertrain this complex. Even the switch from electric to hybrid power isn’t jarring or annoying. Engineers clearly put a great deal of effort into making the system as smooth as possible, and it shows.

If there’s one dynamic weakness in the Tonale, it is the steering. Feedback is direct, but the feel is too light regardless of the driving mode selected. Given the chance to intervene during the development process, I’d dial in more weight to increase the sense of sportiness and driver control.

Alfa Romeo’s Cayenne moment

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale rear three quarter
Ronan Glon

Not merely a new model, the Tonale represents a new start for Alfa Romeo. “We’re trying to find [a] new generation of Alfa students,” Dominique told me. Launching a smaller, cheaper model pelted in a hotly-contested segment of the market isn’t the best way to honor the brand’s heritage, but it’s a great way to increase brand awareness and, crucially, sales. Without either, a 113-year history means next to nothing. It helps that the Tonale offers an attractive design, better-than-average handling, and a nice interior.

In a way, the Tonale ushers in Alfa Romeo’s Porsche Cayenne moment. It’s the volume-focused model the brand needs in order to stand on steady financial footing, which is critical if there is any hope of more hardcore performance cars aimed at enthusiasts. We may not even need to wait long for this plan to play out. I asked Dominique about Alfa’s mysterious, long-rumored supercar.

“We’ve kind of said there’s something special coming, and over the next couple of months we’re going to be rolling out more and more information,” he replied.

Tonale buyers will initially have three trim levels called Sprint, Ti, and Veloce, respectively, to choose from. Alfa Romeo fans will immediately recognize these names from past and present versions of the Giulia and Stelvio. The base Sprint trim comes reasonably well equipped with LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, and a wireless device charger. At the other end of the spectrum, the Veloce gains shift paddles, 19-inch wheels, and an adaptive suspension system.

Pricing for the Sprint starts at $44,590 including a $1595 destination charge. The mid-range Ti costs $47,250, and the top-tier Veloce carries a base price of $51,290. Alfa’s cheapest model isn’t cheap, which is partially a necessity of the hybrid-only powertrain stratefy. BMW’s X1 starts at $39,100 including a $995 destination charge with a 241-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive. Even the base, rear-wheel-drive Stelvio ($48,170) overlaps with the smaller Tonale.

Alfa Romeo will build the Tonale in the Pomigliano d’Arco plant it operates on the outskirts of Naples, Italy. That’s fitting: the brand opened this facility in 1972 to manufacture the flat-four-powered Alfasud, which was its entry-level model until 1984. Deliveries in the United States will start in the coming weeks.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale rear
Ronan Glon

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

Highs: Looks like an Alfa Romeo. Intuitive interior interface. Smooth, well-engineered powertrain.

Lows: Lackluster cargo capacity. Base price is not all that affordable, relatively speaking. Too-light steering.

Takeaway: Alfa needs a volume car, and the handsome Tonale is its best swing yet.




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    it looks like it has a headache and the pricing is going to be a disaster if their hopes are built on an “affordable” entry level car into the brand. Ain’t gonna work Mio amico….

    I highly stressed tiny 4 cylinder from a company not know for reliability. The there is the inevitable Toe Nail pronunciation that will afflict the USA.

    ‘Looks like an Alfa Romeo’? Cover up the grille and the lights and see how many people can tell you it is not a Hyundai

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