The Alfa Romeo Tonale Instills Some Excitement in a Rather Dull Class
The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale is of paramount importance to the Italian brand. Not only is Alfa banking the subcompact luxury SUV will help revitalize its lackluster American sales, but the Tonale’s plug-in hybrid powertrain serves as a harbinger for the brand’s fully electric future. As such, it’s crucial this new model is exciting — a product that will enliven the brand. And in that regard, the Tonale gets it right.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale isn’t dull — unlike some rivals
The Alfa Romeo Tonale faces some stiff competition in the subcompact luxury crossover class, including the BMW X1/X2, Mercedes-Benz GLA/GLB, Volvo XC40/C40, and Audi Q3. Additionally, to a lesser extent, the Jaguar E-Pace, Range Rover Evoque, and Lexus UX.
Before getting behind the wheel, the Tonale is already more exciting than many of its competitors.
Despite the small proportions, the Tonale screams “Alfa Romeo,” which is another way of saying it’s quite the looker. That’s especially true in the range-topping Veloce trim with its LED Trilobe matrix-style headlights, red brake calipers, optional Grigio five-hole, 20-inch wheels, and dual chrome exhaust tips complementing Alfa’s iconic trefoil grille.
The Veloce’s cabin is wrapped in Alcantara with paddle shifters so massive they could serve as wings on a radio-controlled airplane. The aggressively styled instrument cluster, crosshair-like vents, and metallic trim give passengers plenty to admire despite the cabin’s small stature.
The Tonale is far from the only attractive model in its class, but in person, it is accurate to call the Alfa “striking,” whereas most of its rivals would be better suited to being described as “handsome.” You respect and appreciate the styling of the XC40, for instance. Meanwhile, the Tonale’s appearance makes you want to get behind the wheel and give it a good thrashing.
Still, there’s some more excitement to be had in that scenario.
Driving impressions of the 2024 Tonale
After a short test of the Alfa Romeo Tonale earlier this year, I described its performance as that of a hot hatchback in high heels. After a week behind the wheel, this rings mostly true.
The Tonale’s 1.3-liter turbo four-cylinder and electric motor crank out 285 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque. That ample twist is immediately apparent during hard acceleration as the Tonale scoots from 0-60 mph in just over 5.5 seconds. Throttle response isn’t immediate, even with a 90kW electric motor driving the rear wheels, but once the power comes on, there is a strong surge of acceleration.
The adaptive suspension in the Veloce model — and all-wheel drive — keeps the Alfa mostly planted in corners, though you can slide it around a bit if you so choose. There’s discernable body roll in the “Natural” driving mode, but the Dynamic setting stiffens things up for more agility through corners.
Unlike my initial drive, the steering felt far less direct and taut after a week behind the wheel. Not completely vague, mind you, but some more connection between the steering wheel and the wheels at the front would be appreciated. It seems that even in the more performance-oriented Veloce, the Tonale aims to strike a balance in delivering respectable performance when pushed while remaining an easy-to-drive commuter crossover.
Of course, the Tonale’s PHEV powertrain means it is unconventional from the rest of its class in that it can achieve about 30 miles of all-electric range. That may not be exciting in terms of performance, but it helps the Alfa stand out in its class.
Is the Alfa Romeo Tonale better overall than its rivals?
Overall, the Alfa Romeo Tonale isn’t quite as engaging to drive as the BMW X1. It’s also not as luxurious as the GLA. It’s not the most practical subcompact crossover nor the cheapest. In fact, the base version costs thousands more than much of its direct competition.
Yet, subcompact crossovers are notoriously dull, even in luxury land. The Tonale may not be the most logical choice or the best all-around for a luxury mini-SUV, but at least it isn’t boring. That’s reason enough to appreciate it.