Can the Hybrid Tonale SUV Turn Alfa Romeo Around?

Despite its extensive history and heritage, Alfa Romeo still struggles in the US. Which, given FCA and PSA’s merger into Stellantis, leaves Alfa’s future somewhat uncertain. But, while the Italian brand’s lineup is shrinking, there’s one model on the horizon that might change things. It’s the Alfa Romeo Tonale hybrid SUV. However, will it be enough to rescue the brand?

The Tonale SUV would be the first Alfa Romeo hybrid

The front 3/4 view of the red 2019 Alfa Romeo Tonale Concept
2019 Alfa Romeo Tonale Concept front 3/4 | Alfa Romeo

The Alfa Romeo Tonale originally debuted as a concept back at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. At the time, it was intended to slot underneath the Stelvio, which, as of this writing, is Alfa Romeo’s only SUV (well, crossover). But, while the Tonale isn’t the brand’s first SUV, it is Alfa’s first hybrid, Car and Driver reports.

Alfa Romeo plans to have a starting price of “around $35,000” for the Tonale, Car and Driver reports. And not only does the Alfa Romeo Truneo slide beneath the Stelvio in price but in size as well. It rides on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, making it a subcompact crossover/SUV, MotorTrend and Autoweek report. Think Audi Q3, BMW X2, and Mazda CX-30, Autoblog explains.

The red-lit center console and the tan-and-black-leather-upholstered front seats and dashboard of the 2019 Alfa Romeo Tonale Concept
2019 Alfa Romeo Tonale Concept interior | Alfa Romeo

Admittedly, the Alfa Romeo Tonale concept’s interior would be toned down for production, as is often the case, Automobile reports. But in terms of overall design elements, the hybrid SUV shares a lot inside and outside with both modern and classic Alfa Romeo models. That includes the ‘DNA’ drive-mode selector. And while it’s not confirmed for the production model, the concept has a 12.3” digital gauge cluster and a 10.25” center touchscreen, Autoweek reports.

What we still don’t know

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In October 2019, an Italian car forum leaked images of what appeared to be a production-spec Alfa Romeo Tonale, Car and Driver reports. Alfa Romeo has neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.

However, Motor1 claims that it’s likely a semi-finalized version of the production model, meant to be compared internally against its competitors. Regardless, the images don’t show any part of the interior.

An orange-and-black 2021 Jeep Renegade 4xe by a tan-stone-walled building
2021 Jeep Renegade 4xe | Jeep

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The bigger question, though, is what kind of hybrid powertrain the Alfa Romeo Tonale will use. Car and Driver muses that the base model will be front-wheel drive, though AWD should be available. MT reports that the Tonale will likely be a plug-in hybrid, and might borrow the Jeep Renegade 4xe’s powertrain. Fitting, giving the two share a platform. Though, if Alfa Romeo plans to sell a hybrid SUV in the US, using the Wrangler 4xe’s powertrain could also work.

Will Alfa Romeo actually make the Tonale?

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Despite the Stelvio’s somewhat-poor sales, Alfa Romeo appears to be moving forward with the Tonale. The Drive reported in 2019 that the Italian brand was even canceling some of its planned high-performance models to make the hybrid crossover. And Motor1 reports the Tonale could be on sale in November 2021 as a 2022 model. Car and Driver reports the SUV/crossover should debut “later this year.”

The bigger question is, will the Tonale be enough to reverse Alfa Romeo’s situation in the US? Call us optimistic, but it’s not out of the question. SUVs and crossovers as a whole are extremely popular these days, whether they’re hybrid or not. Indeed, in 2019, Toyota’s best-selling hybrid wasn’t the Prius, but the RAV4, GreenCarReports reports.

A blue 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio in the desert by a mountain
2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio | Alfa Romeo

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However, if the Tonale and Alfa Romeo as a whole are to succeed, the brand needs to quell any reliability concerns. Using a pre-existing powertrain should help in that regard. Plus, it’s worth pointing out that, outside of the high-performance Quadrifoglio trim, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is a fairly reliable SUV.

We’ll just have to wait and see, then.

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