Alfa last introduced a new series in 2017 with the Stelvio. The compact Tonale now complements the SUV range of the Italians: we’ll clarify what’s on the box with the 160 hp top model Veloce.
Since Alfa Romeo discontinued the mid-engine sports car 4C and the Golf competitor Giulietta in 2020, the range has been limited to the two mid-range models Giulia and Stelvio, with the SUV being the latest model and now more than five years old. So it’s high time for a new series, which Alfa is now delivering with the compact SUV Tonale.
It is a close relative of the Jeep Compass, which also uses the 130 hp petrol engine with a displacement of 1.5 liters and a 48-volt motor in the housing of the seven-speed DCT as the basic unit. The group’s equally powerful 1.6-liter turbo diesel, on the other hand, will only be available from Alfa, since Jeep recently removed it from the program. A plug-in version of the Tonale will follow in autumn, which can make its mark with 275 system hp and a 15.5 kWh battery (Jeep: 245 hp, 11.4 kWh). Our first test drive takes place with the 160 hp petrol engine, which is based on the entry-level engine and also uses the Miller cycle, but is equipped with a VTG turbocharger (variable turbine geometry).
The Tonale is said to be able to reach 210 km/h and accelerate to 100 km/h in 8.8 seconds, which are typical values for such a motorized 1.5-ton truck. Despite the support of the 15 kW electric motor, the Alfa doesn’t start up lively from a standing start, but there are no abnormalities in everyday use. But it doesn’t matter whether you accelerate gently or strongly: the drive generally responds extremely sluggishly. It gets worst when the petrol engine switches off when rolling in the city: it jumps back on smoothly with the accelerator command, but then the four-cylinder raises its voice slightly, you count “twenty-one, twenty-two”, and then it pulls. On top of that, there are occasionally two short jerks when the transmission downshifts under light loads.
The drive not only reduces driving comfort, it also stands in the way of having fun. Because even if there are a good 4,000 tours in overrun, it still feels like at least one and a half seconds pass at full throttle before things move forward. To put it another way: If you accelerate at the apex, the acceleration often only comes when the corner is almost over. In addition, you have to take into account a delayed engine brake before the bends: when you lift the gas pedal, the car accelerates two or three tenths of a second at the same level. However, according to the Alfa engineers, this behavior is intentional: in case the driver decides to continue accelerating.
Clean brake tuning
The metering of the brake-by-wire brake, on the other hand, works well, and it doesn’t even take practice to stop smoothly. And at the front of the top model Veloce, behind the 20-inch rims, there are even four-piston fixed calipers from Brembo, with which the Alfa decelerates powerfully.
In terms of transverse dynamics, the Tonale has a very sporty effect with little body roll and rapid reactions to steering commands, also because of the direct steering ratio. Only the exaggerated ease of movement does not fit in with this, because even in Sport mode the power assistance remains far too high. At the steering wheel there is no feeling at all for the cornering forces that are present, only damage to the road is communicated appropriately with jolts that are not too strong.
This is how paddle shifters work!
Despite the large wheels, the adaptively damped Tonale still feels quite comfortable, if not gently. On roads that are in dire need of rehabilitation, however, there are sometimes slight rumbling noises. Whereby the quality impression is basically decent and there is also a real highlight with the shift paddles known from other Alfa and Maserati: huge aluminum components mounted on the steering column, which are so much fun with a long stroke and well-defined click feeling that you even use the shift paddles more often in town engage manual mode, although the automatic selects the gears sensibly. This also works particularly well because the shift paddles do not turn away when turning. Also great: the ergonomic recessed grips behind the spokes of the leather steering wheel, which is slightly flattened at the bottom.
The Alfa voice control can be called up with the button for voice control, or the assistant of the paired smartphone (Siri, Google Assistant) with a long press. Otherwise, Amazon’s Alexa also assists, which is activated via a small graphic button on the touchscreen or via “Hey Alexa”. The infotainment works at an average speed, supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wirelessly and displays easy-to-understand route guidance via TomTom software. The system is operated exclusively by touch, with the exception of the rotating volume roller and the steering wheel multimedia buttons. This also applies to the steering wheel and seat heating as well as the seat ventilation, while for the two-zone climate there is a row of buttons with all the important functions under the monitor.
It starts at 44,500 euros
The rear is air-conditioned via central air vents on the center console, which also houses two USB ports (as in the front: one USB A and one USB C socket each). In the second row there is only enough space above the head, but the legroom and footroom are very decent. 500 liters of luggage go into the rearmost compartment; Unfortunately, the parcel shelf does not fit under the adjustable loading floor. Functionality is demonstrated by the through-loading hatch that can be operated from both sides, the 12-volt connection in the trunk and the exterior cameras, which project sharp images and a 360-degree view onto the screen. In addition, the Tonale offers modern assistance as a further comfort and safety extra, which includes lane keepers (with a control button on the turn signal lever), active lane guidance, traffic sign recognition and a cruise control system with automatic distance control.
At a price of 44,500 euros for the Veloce, that is also to be expected. The Tonale TI with the 160 hp engine costs 2,500 euros less, while the cheapest model (Super, 130 hp) starts at 35,500 euros. Incidentally, Alfa is not currently planning a Quadrifoglio sports version as a competitor to the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, the Audi RS Q3 or the Cupra Formentor VZ5. The platform does not offer a fully electric version. So it remains to be seen how the Italians will then tune the plug-in drive.
The pronounced lack of reaction of the mild hybrid drive affects not only the fun but also the comfort. Otherwise, the rather spacious and modernly equipped Tonale is sporty but not uncomfortable.