When automakers with a history of producing sports cars and sports sedans decide to produce an SUV, it’s past the point of concern. However, this does not mean that infusing these cars with corporate identity is simple; in fact, the added complexity of electrification makes things considerably trickier. However, for a first model, Alfa Romeo’s high-strung Stelvio performed admirably. Now comes the Tonale—smaller, cheaper, and constructed on a shared base using a largely electric motor. It’s understandable that the Tonale’s identity pales in comparison to those of its more exciting showroom cousins.
The Tonale’s design elements, such as its triple LED headlights, triangle center grille, and phone-dial wheel design, identify it as an Alfa Romeo, despite its practical compact-crossover body. Both the wheelbase (103.8 inches) and overall length (178.3 inches) of the Italian-made Tonale are identical to those of the American-made Dodge Hornet. The base model, the Sprint, costs $44,590, the Ti is an upgrade of $2500, and the Veloce is the most expensive at $49,590. With a full load of extras, our Veloce tester rung in at $57,950.
Engine with a plug-in hybrid system
The Tonale is only available as a plug-in hybrid in the United States, and this is true across all trim levels. The front wheels are powered by a 180-horsepower turbocharged 1.3-liter inline-four through a six-speed automatic transmission, and the back wheels are powered by a 121-horsepower electric motor. A healthy 285 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque are produced overall. The Hornet R/T also employs similar powerplant, albeit its maximum claimed output of 288 hp and 383 lb-ft is only available for 15 seconds at a time via the PowerShot feature. Alfa oddly glosses over that part.
Irrelevant, if you ask me. In our testing, the Alfa got to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, same as the Dodge. The same 14.2 second, 96-mph quarter-mile time was recorded for it. The Tonale also took 0.4 seconds less to pass the Hornet when going from 30 to 50 and 50 to 70 miles per hour. You might start to wonder if PowerShot is just a marketing ploy.
In theory, the Alfa should be able to outaccelerate the BMW X1 to 60 mph given that it has 44 more horsepower and 52 more pound-feet of torque. The Tonale’s 42912 weight is to blame. Since the X1 doesn’t need to transport an electric motor, it’s over 500 pounds lighter. However, the instantaneous torque from the e-motor does well conceal any lag from the Alfa’s little turbo four, as evidenced by the Italian’s 0.5-second lead over the German in the 0-to-60-mph sprint. When compared to the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 and the gas-powered Volvo XC40, the Alfa’s acceleration is superior.
Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency (Electric Vehicle) are the three available drive modes in an Alfa. The brake regeneration, adaptive dampers (only on Veloce), and steering are all affected by the settings. With the powertrain set to N, the electric motor is strong enough to keep the vehicle in EV mode even when traveling at highway speeds or under light acceleration. Dynamic keeps the engine running, but it still doesn’t have much vocal presence (and its voice is gravelly anyway); you’re more likely to notice the whining of the e-motor or the regenerative brakes.
Drive time and regenerative braking in electric vehicles
The column stalk-blocking, supersized paddles don’t affect regen; they’re used for manual shifting solely. Only in the Dynamic mode does the brake regen function at a higher level than the standard. In any case, adjusting the brakes is a simple process. The Veloce gets rotors by Brembo, and they dragged the Tonale down from 70 mph in 165 feet, within a foot of the Hornet with the same equipment.
The steering is dull, the music is dull, and the seats are hard.
We achieved 32 miles in our 75-mph highway range test, which is not far off the EPA’s anticipated 33 miles of electric range provided by the Tonale’s large 12.0-kWh battery. After depleting the battery during our 75 mph highway test, we were able to achieve the combined, city, and highway gasoline fuel efficiency estimated by the EPA: 29 mpg. By pressing the e-Save button on the control panel, you may choose to either keep the battery charged at all times or have the engine replenish it to a certain level.
Driving with a toned-out feel
Our Veloce’s 0.86 g skidpad score, achieved with adaptive dampers and Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4 tires, was only 0.01 g less than the similarly equipped Hornet’s and was identical to the X1. Both a Comfort and a Sport mode are available for the dampers. The body’s movements in sport are quick and frequent, but not so extreme as to be painful. The default mode is more laid-back. Both modes feature adequate, if uninspiring, handling. The controls are the primary target for placing blame. The helm heavies up some in the faster setting but lacks crispness and offers no sense of straight-ahead. Want Alfa to make a version of the Porsche Macan that costs less? Keep dreaming.