Alfa Romeo is one of three Italy-based brands available in North America under the Stellantis umbrella. The others are Fiat and Maserati.
The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle, expected here by midyear, will join the larger Stelvio utility vehicle and the Giulia sedan.
The 110-year-old marque, principally known for its racing history, recently announced its return to Formula One for the 2023 season, following a lengthy absence. That should help create greater brand awareness for Alfa Romeo, but in terms of sports car, a replacement for the mid-engine 4C (absent since 2020) is unlikely.
Instead, the new Tonale gives the brand its first hybrid family vehicle, specifically of the plug-in variety. In fact, it’s the vehicle’s only power system.
It’s not unusual these days for sport-minded Italian brands to produce utility vehicles. Lamborghini has the Urus and Ferrari now has the Purosangue and they’re incredibly popular.
Of course the Alfa is much more modest. The basic structure is shared with the Jeep Compass and the coming Dodge Hornet. The three are built in a production facility near Naples, Italy. Compared with the Stelvio, the Tonale is about 18 centimetres shorter. Stowage capacity with the rear seat in place is actually more than 20 per cent greater than the Stelvio’s, but with the rear seats folded, the Stelvio comes out on top.
Being an Alfa Romeo, the brand’s triangular-shaped logo/grille — referred to as a Scudetto Shield — is prominent. There’s also a uniquely shaped taillight bar extending across the rear deck, but otherwise the Tonale could pass for any number of similar-sized utility models.
The Tonale’s interior comes with a traditional gauge cluster, control switches and shift lever, and a 12.3-inch configurable digital display and 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The latter comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity plus Alexa voice activation.
The turbocharged 2.0-litre base engine makes 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
The optional plug-in hybrid (PHEV) consists of a turbocharged 1.3-litre gasoline four-cylinder supported by a 121-horsepower electric motor for the rear wheels. The system delivers a net 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet.
A nine-speed automatic transmission links to the turbo 2.0 while a six-speed automatic transmission with available paddle shifters completes the PHEV powertrain.
The hybrid’s lithium-ion battery contributes 125 kilograms to the PHEV’s 1,875-kilogram total.
A fully charged battery provides a maximum electric range of 48 kilometres. Charging time with a Level 2 station — such as you would install at home — takes about 2.5 hours.
According to Alfa Romeo, the Tonale PHEV can hit 60 mph (96 km/h from rest in less than six seconds. There are three drive modes: Dynamic (sport); Natural (standard), for everyday driving that combines the gasoline engine and electric-motor output; and the Advanced setting for electric-only propulsion.
According to Alfa Romeo’s Canadian website, the base Sprint trim starts at $47,200, including destination charges. It arrives reasonably well equipped and includes 18-inch “diamond-cut” alloy wheels.
The Sprint can be optioned with ambient interior lighting, power liftgate and black wheels. The top-end Veloce trim adds those items plus perforated leather and microsuede seats with red stitching, adaptive (continuously variable) suspension, Brembo-brand brakes and 20-inch wheels.
The range of standard active-safety tech includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection, driver-attention assist with rear-seat reminder and traffic-sign recognition.
Standard with all Tonales is a non-fungible token (NFT), a digital certificate that, providing the owner agrees, keeps track of dealer maintenance activities/repairs, accumulated mileage and other significant data. The recorded info could come in handy when the owner sells or trades the vehicle.
It might not be a sleek and raucous sports car, but the fuel-frugal and reasonably rapid Tonale will appeal to buyers looking to add some Italian flair to their family transporter.
What you should know: 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale
Type: All-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle
Engines (h.p.): 2.0-litre I-4, turbocharged (268); 1.3-litre I-4, turbocharged plus electric motor (285)
Transmissions: Nine-speed automatic (2.0); six-speed automatic (PHEV)
Market position: The Tonale provides Alfa Romeo with an important mid-priced addition — plus an available hybrid, too — that will allow the brand to compete with other premium-class models.
Points: Conservative design, but instantly recognizable with the triangular grille opening • Interior has a conservative approach but includes the latest infotainment and digital displays • Available plug-in hybrid system delivers both fuel efficiency and performance • Standard NFT digital certificate is rare if not a first.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (std.); lane-keeping assist (std.); pedestrian warning (std.); traffic-sign recognition (std.)
l/100 km (city/hwy combined): n.a.
Base price (incl. destination): $47,200
Base price: $42,250
Compact utility offers available battery-electric propulsion. AWD is standard.
Base price: $52,000
Choices include a plug-in hybrid with 304 h.p. and AWD.
Base price: $51,400
AWD plug-in hybrid option uses a 2.5-litre I-4 and electric motor for 266 h.p.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media