Test Drive: Alfa Romeo Tonale 160HP MHEV: Alfa soul, are you there?

The long-awaited Tonale, was first released as concept back in March 2019 at the Geneva motorshow. After a long developement period, we eventually discovered its face last year,  following the birth of the Stellantis group. Waiting a long time usually ups our expectations…

The Alfa Romeo Tonale exterior was logically toned down (no pun intended !) compared to the spring 2019 styling study. However, both its face and front are pleasing but it’s a different story at the back which we think lacks some character. Fortunately, the well-known Alfa « phone dia »l wheels are  standard from the base model onwards. It’s the Super and retails from €34,600. Our test car was a Veloce version featuring the 1.5 MildHybrid engine developping 160 hp. The automatic dual-clutch gearbox is standard and the nice looking paddles located on the steering wheel allow you to change gears at your will.

I like it

The interior really won us over. To be fair, we know it shares its platform with the Jeep Compass, but once sitting in the car, it’s impossible to tell. The dashboard and the rest of the cabin are typically Alfa and all the better for it. Let’s start with the perfectly designed three-spoke leather steering wheel, then the two dials facing the driver, the carefully designed dashboard cover as well as the perfectly hugging seats with an embroidered Alfa Romeo logo. As a whole, it oozes quality even though some plastics remind us that this car belongs to the most affordable SUV segment or so.

Quite clever

The DNA selector is located on the centre console and offers you the choice between three driving modes, depending on the circumstances. The adaptive suspension has various settings for Dynamic, Normal and Advanced Efficiency driving modes but a Comfort and Sport modes are also available and you can even select your own setting. Being a mild hybrid, city trips are nearly noiseless but rarely made in full electric mode.

I don’t like it

Even though it’s a rather well-designed product, the Tonale lacks that little something that always had us fall in love for Alfa Romeos. The Giulia should have enjoyed a much more successful career and we still think the Stelvio is the best SUV on the market. However, the little Tonal didn’t have us shivering  when we drove it. Obviously,  the small capacity engine does not urges you to use the steering wheel paddles and its portly weight means it’s no sports car.

Why I buy it

Alfa sees the BMW X1 as the Tonale’s main rival. The italian car is cheaper and gets more standard equipment. This is a good for us, just like its rather unique design, its original interior and comfort. True, it could have been even more distinctive and « Alfa-like ». However, we think it was the right decision to get rid of some traditional features in order to make it more conventional and attract a new customer base, outside the Alfa fans circles.

Why I don’t buy it

Even if it is more affordable than some of its competitors, this new SUV made in Italy (at the Pomigliano d’Arco factory to be more precise), has to make do with lowish residual values that prevent it to be included in company car lists. Nevertheless, Stellantis group is investing a lot of money and efforts to improve Alfa Romeo’s image. Let’s hope this policy will be quickly successful, otherwise the future of Alfa Romeo could be in jeopardy. The Tonale is not as dynamic as we would have liked and some details spoil the beautiful interior. However, it claims to be a genuine Alfa Romeo through some amusing details. Finally, fuel economy is not is forte : we averaged 8.1 l/100 km during our 676 km test, without even being able  to use its power. (translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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