The Alfa Romeo Tonale is finally here, so let’s talk about what it brings to the table in the subcompact luxury crossover segment. For starters, don’t expect this to be the posher version of the Dodge Hornet. This is still more of a sporty vehicle with black or black/red interior choices, no brown or white leather or anything more ornate than that. Starting at a smooth 14 grand more than its platform-mate, that is one area we wish Alfa had focused more on. Sure, this brand is about Italian sportsmanship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have amazing driving dynamics with a fancy interior. The amount of hard plastics in the Tonale didn’t go unnoticed.
Luckily, the exterior design and powertrain make up for this in a big way. Because this vehicle started like as an Alfa, its front and rear designs actually properly match the overall body shape, and it is a distinct look that definitely turned heads on the first drive in Michigan. Even with the smallest 18″ wheels, the long overhangs front and rear work because ground clearance is not much higher than a traditional sedan. This model is longer than a lot of its competitors but has a shorter wheelbase than most of them.
It was a smart move to only offer the PHEV in North America. It gives this the smooth and quiet experience a luxury vehicle needs (for 30 miles if you charge it regularly), while also increasing performance when you want the power of both the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and the single electric motor in the rear. As with other Alfas, there are three drive modes, but they work a little different for this hybrid system. ‘D’ mode forces the car to use both the engine and electric motor at all times to provide all-wheel drive and maximum performance. ‘N’ mode is essentially automatic, meaning the vehicle will decide what mix it needs for you. ‘A’ forces the engine to stay off until you get down to below 5% battery power or if you push past the kick-down point in the accelerator pedal. You’ll miss the grunt of the Giulia and Stelvio’s larger turbo 4, but that electric supplement gives it the roid rage it needs to keep up with those vehicles. Expect a 5.6-second 0-60 time. Performance brakes are available to help it stop on a dime, but even models without them do well in that regard. The only complaint was the somewhat mushy feel when undergoing hard brake stints.
If you have a level 1 charging plug, the onboard 7.4-kW AC charger will fill the 15.5-kWh battery in 8.5 hours. Have a level 2 plug? It will take only 2.5 hours. When driving around in the ‘A’ drive mode, the Tonale becomes a rear-wheel drive vehicle since there is no mechanical connection between the rear electric motor and the front axle. When driving it in this mode and pushing it through corners, it certainly had that dynamic you get from a true RWD vehicle, but not as intense. Find yourself running out of electrons? Like the Jeep 4xe models, there is an e-save mode that runs the engine as a generator exclusively. It is something of a balancing act, though, since you’re giving up fuel to add back kWhs. Nevertheless, it is nice to have that kind of control over the system.
Competition for the Tonale is interesting, since there are no PHEVs in this segment, only full battery-electrics. Those include the Audi Q4 e-tron, the Volvo XC40 Recharge and the C40 Recharge. By the time you could potentially see more options, Alfa Romeo will have begun moving away from the technology, as the brand is full-steam ahead on its transition to full-electricity. In the next five years they will be revealing five new electric vehicles. How many of those are coming to the U.S.? They won’t say, but it’s fair to assume that the next-generation Giulia and Stelvio will not have gas engines here in the U.S.
Pricing ranges from $44,590 to $58,840 including the $1,595 destination fee. If you plan on buying one, those numbers might seem high (though not as high as you can go with a Mercedes-Benz GLA or GLB). As most people in the luxury segment do, leasing the Tonale enables the Federal EV Tax Credit of $7,500. Alfa even seamlessly incorporates that directly into your lease deal at the point of sale. No need to wait until Tax Day to get it back. That makes this a very enticing, fun-to-drive and attractive $37,090–$51,340 vehicle.