Visually, the Alfa Romeo Tonale is just another good-looking SUV – except when you look at the front and rear
Car Reviewed: Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Edizione Speciale
The Alfa Romeo shield grille between the three-in-a-row headlamp arrangement and its matching rear-light cluster distinguishes the Tonale. And for many thousands of Alfa fans, they hark back to those two totally diverse designs of the SZ and the Brera. And the test car was resplendent in its Alfa Red.
Alfa Romeo gained its loyal following as much through past sporting success, often reflected in production models, as for any other reason.
So, on that premise, does the Tonale plug-in hybrid deliver? If you select the D from the DNA drive mode settings: yes. The Tonale shoots to 62 mph in just 6.2 seconds, this from the 4-cylinder petrol engine of a mere 1332cc that develops a handsome 180 bhp at 5,750 rpm plus the electric motor adding up to 280 bhp. There’s also the figure of 270Nm of torque.
I found the handling to be excellent, with no trace of roll when cornering briskly.
Some Alfa Romeos of the past have been the kings of steering, super precise. The Tonale does steer very well, but the characteristic is its lightness — I would have welcomed more feel, which would have enhanced the sporting sense (assuming the design team wanted this).
That little engine is not only powerful, but it is very quiet. When the PHEV starts the car off from a standstill, after the initial electric-mode acceleration, the petrol engine cuts in with a mini-growl, but that’s it, no more real noise. Perhaps here, the engineers might have designed in some more aural sensation.
When the engine is really stretched at more than 5000rpm, then you get a little bit. So, about the only sound when at speed was general road noise, very little of that, in fact, too, and hardly noticeable wind noise. The car’s 20-inch alloys we’re shod with Bridgestone tyres. Hopefully, no punctures will occur because there is no spare wheel, only the usual temporary repair kit.
The brakes were well up to the job.
The Tonale can easily potter along at 30 mph in high gear in ordinary day-to-day driving. The gearbox is a smooth six-speed automatic.
I notice that other writers about the Tonale PHEV reckon that the overall fuel consumption could be down at around 40 mpg…well, maybe they’d been driving only in Dynamic mode (because, it’s suggested, that’s what Alfas are all about) because, assuming the trip computer to be accurate, my overall figure was a very satisfactory 48.6 mpg. This was over a distance of 270 miles that, included my usual mix of town, country and motorway driving.
As to the emissions, it was noticeable that the Tonale’s automatic system used electric power as much as possible; on journeys of around ten miles, the car recorded that, for about 60% of that trip, no petrol was being consumed.
The interior is another example of nicely-designed features and tactile controls: over the years, it seems that this important aspect of ownership has, across the industry, been thought about a lot. The result is a pleasing variety of shapes, ideas and materials. The Tonale is typical in this and has its own ‘Alfa Romeo’ style.
The Alfa provided comfortable seating for four and the usual gentle squeeze if three were in the back. The usual, easy 60/40 split helps to increase space in the boot, and I was able to transport some long and bulky objects easily.
The ride was supple; the car felt well-planted and it was able to handle the inevitable rough surfaces very well.
The driver gets 4-way electric lumbar adjustment, and visibility out of the car is good, with only the usual neck-craning required for those occasional awkwardly-angled road junctions. Parking is assisted by front and rear sensors.
The array of safety features led by the ‘Intelligent adaptive cruise control’ and including Lane Support System and Isa (Intelligent Speed Assist) is helpful and not at all intrusive; some drivers don’t like or just don’t want these features, but they are certainly worth having and appreciating.
The Tonale is well-equipped with connectivity, voice control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a phone charging pad, etc. The main console includes graphics specific to the PHEV: for example, if you want, observe how the electrics are being used. Personally, it all seems a trifle unnecessary and perhaps a consequence of the industry generally heading towards total EV production. It’s not just Alfa Romeo, of course — it’s industry-wide.
What is the test car’s price? £44,945. Compared to mild hybrids, PHEVs are on the expensive side. However, given a wall charger at home, re-charging will, at current rates, prove to be about two-thirds the cost of petrol over a given distance, this being a maximum electric-only range of around 49 miles. Borrowing my kindly neighbour’s charger for two hours, the Tonale’s range went from zero to 25 miles at a cost of £2.40. Public chargers can be a lot more expensive.
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.