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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
@ytimesmotoring
1:00 AM 2nd September 2023
cars

It’s Tonale Time – Alfa’s Latest On Test

 
The dominance of the SUV in the UK car market cannot be understated. Gone is our preference for the humble hatchback or family-friendly estate car. Instead, it is all about that raised driving position and the better view out afforded to all on board.

Alfa Romeo has up until recently only been able to offer the Stelvio, a car I have driven extensively over the years. It is one of the best driving vehicles of its type especially in fiery hot Quadrifoglio form. Memories of some lovely, and rather quick drives through the Dales spring to mind.

I attended a UK media drive event earlier this year, but recently had the opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel, one which would give the opportunity to properly get to know the Italian car.

Alfa Romeo is part of the gargantuan Stellantis Group, and the Tonale PHEV ‘s powertrain is an upgraded version of that fitted to the Jeep Compass 4xe.

Therefore, expect to find a turbocharged 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. The rear wheels get their power from an electric motor and with the two power sources combined, there’s a total of 280bhp.

The battery is large enough to endow the Tonale with a 40+ mile EV only range. This magic figure ensures a super low BIK band of just 8%, making the vehicle attractive to the important fleet market. CO2 emissions are just 29g/km too. The option exists to save the battery for the urban leg of a journey, which I did on an evening run through into Leeds city centre.

In theory the Tonale should be able to sprint from 0 to 60mph in around six seconds, but in the real world it rarely feels that quick. It’s a heavy car and to make brisk progress plenty of right foot is required. That way, the electric motor will be called into play to boost the acceleration.

Some time was spent on some of my favourite roads, so plenty of opportunity to assess the car’s ride and handling balance. I found it best to leave the DNA drive selector in D (for Dynamic). In Veloce trim, as tested, this firms up the adaptive dampers for better handling.

It worked well whilst having fun on the twisty stuff, but some might find it overly firm in everyday driving. Performance is perkier too, with the engine running all the time.

Selecting N (for Natural, in case you were wondering), smooths things out quite nicely for a comfortable cruise.

There is still an underlying hint of firmness which I rather like. So, is the Tonale one of the sportier models in the class? The overly light steering with little feedback does little to encourage and the brake pedal is somewhat ‘grabby’ in nature, so perhaps not.

Turn the dial to A, and the car will go into ‘advanced efficiency’ mode, whereby the car will use full-electric mode as much as possible to obtain maximum energy efficiency, or so says the blurb. It seemed to work.

Interior quality has much improved over the years in Alfas and the early signs here are all very positive. Most of the touchy-feely surfaces are decent quality but look a little deeper and you will find some cheap, scratchy plastics. Build quality does seem impressive and time will whether this will be borne out over a longer period.

There’s a decent amount of space for this type of vehicle and the front seats are comfortable and the driving position is fine, visibility is good, and all the main controls are sensibly laid out for ease of use.

Equipment count on the test car was suitably comprehensive, but it should be borne in mind that I was driving a car with a price close to £50,000. Perhaps I am a bit out of touch, but this does seem a tad dear for a mid-size family SUV, albeit one with the latest hybrid technology.

A cheaper Ti model can be bought for £45,995 which seems a bit more competitive with the competition from the likes of Volvo (XC40), Kia (Sportage) and BMW (X1) to name but a few. Put £9,899 down as a deposit and the monthly PCP payments start at £445, APR of 7.9% and a maximum of 8,000 miles per year permitted.

The new Tonale PHEV is likely to be bought with the head rather than the heart. Its green credentials are likely to seal the deal and for the business user, at last there is an Alfa that can be on their list of possible cars.

The path is now laid out for Alfa to be a company that by 2027 will only sell zero-emissions EVs. That in itself is not bad thing, but in the case of the Tonale, I would have hoped for a bit more driving pleasure from a car wearing the Alfa Romeo badge.

Fast Facts

Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce PHEV
Price £48,495
Montreal Green paint
1332cc turbocharged petrol engine
Combined power 280hp
Peak torque 270Nm
6-speed automatic gearbox
0-62mph in 6.2 seconds
Top speed 128mph
Combined economy – 217.3mpg (WLTP)
Emissions 29g/km CO2
EV range circa 40 miles
BIK 8%