Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce Hybrid (2022) review
Alfa's long-awaited baby SUV, the Tonale, is here to mix it with the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40.
James Fossdyke
James Fossdyke

Published on May 5, 2022

Alfa Romeo finds itself in a slightly odd position. Despite being adored by car enthusiasts, the brand is all but invisible to the general public. Just 26 Alfas were registered in Ireland last year, with niche 4x4 brand SsangYong selling almost three times as many cars.

But fear not, because the new Tonale is finally here to put all that right. Heralded as a rival to the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Volvo XC40, it's a five-door SUV designed to make Alfas more accessible and more affordable, as well as more attractive. It has been a long time coming - the Tonale was essentially first revealed in 2019 - so it needs to be good. Our first test drive is in a hybrid-powered model.

In the metal

None of Alfa Romeos currently on sale in Ireland can be described as 'ugly', but the Tonale is probably the most attractive of the three. Sure, the Giulia has the more naturally sexy profile, but as family SUVs go, the Tonale takes some beating. It certainly looks less over-inflated than the Stelvio, with a tauter, more drawn skin that gives it a really spectacular look. And somehow makes it appear larger than it really is - particularly in pictures. These images appear to show a rival to the BMW X3 and Lexus NX, but the Tonale is actually a size smaller, mixing it with the Volvo XC40 and BMW X1, as well as the Volkswagen Tiguan and SEAT Ateca.

And as attractive as the XC40 is, the Tonale must be the best-looking car in this class. The compact Alfa grille, the narrow headlights and the sculpted tailgate give it a real sense of purpose and style that's missing from most of its rivals. Even the smooth, modern Mercedes-Benz GLA doesn't have the wow factor of the Tonale.

Inside, it's equally stylish, with a cleanly designed dashboard dominated by the 10.2-inch touchscreen navigation system, round air vents and the now-trademark Alfa steering wheel. It looks great, but closer inspection reveals a few issues with material and build quality. The plastics around the transmission tunnel, for example, are hard and unforgiving, while those on the centre console feel cheap and overly smooth.

The dashboard is little better, with some lightweight plastic trim and cheap, hard plastics below about knee-level. It's the sort of trim you expect from a small budget hatchback, not in a family-sized SUV with premium pretensions. In its defence, it is at least well-equipped and although our test car had one or two squeaks and rattles, the switchgear all felt relatively sturdy.

The Tonale comes with plenty of technology, too, including a new-look touchscreen infotainment system. It isn't perfect, but it's a massive improvement on the systems used in the Giulia and Stelvio. Yes, the displays can get a bit fussy, and sometimes there's a bit of lag between tapping the screen and the software responding, but it's a strong step forward for Alfa Romeo in this department.

Despite the stylish, swooping design, the Alfa also performs acceptably in the cabin space department, with plenty of room for those in the front, even if the seats feel a bit flat and firm. Rear space is adequate, with just about enough headroom for taller passengers and sufficient legroom for most. Our test car came with black roof lining and tinted glass, which made the rear seats feel more cramped than they really were. A panoramic glass roof would probably have helped dramatically, but lighter roof lining and clear side glass would also have made a difference.

And that isn't the only trick of the eye. On opening the tailgate, the boot seems quite small - a couple of suitcases is pretty much all you'll fit in there - but looks can be deceptive. The boot floor is adjustable, freeing up a sizeable tub below the boot lip, which is useful for outright volume, but less helpful when loading heavy items. The 500-litre luggage capacity doesn't sound too shabby alongside the GLA's 495-litre boot or the BMW X1's 505-litre load space, but using all that space is not as easy as you might hope.

Driving it

Emotionally speaking, test-driving the Tonale is something of a rollercoaster. The minute you find something you like, you find another thing that annoys. A shining example of this is the hybrid powertrain, which combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with a 48-volt electric motor positioned between it and the seven-speed automatic gearbox. Between them, the two motors send a total of 160hp to the front wheels, and offer the ability to travel on electric power alone, albeit only for short distances and at very low speeds.

The system is pretty refined, with the four-cylinder engine only producing an irritating roar if it stays at high speeds for extended periods. The rest of the time you barely notice it, and even brief bursts of acceleration are much more tolerable than they might be in some less refined hybrids. Not that performance is especially plentiful. The sprint from 0-100km/h takes an unremarkable 8.8 seconds, which is more than adequate for an entry-level car, but hardly ground-breaking.

We suspect the Tonale might be faster if the engine were not so badly let down by the gearbox, which is far from ideal. In 'Advance Efficiency' mode (don't ask), it's sluggish and slow to react, and it doesn't get much better in 'Natural' mode, which drivers are more likely to use on a daily basis. At least then the throttle response is sharper, which helps a little. Only in performance-orientated 'Dynamic' mode does it really wake up, but then it holds onto the ratios for too long and causes the engine to get a bit noisy.

In fairness, the gearbox only causes issues now and then, but it will leave you cursing its laziness once or twice on every journey, and no amount of smooth shifting in town or on the motorway will make up for that. Hopefully, Alfa Romeo will make some tweaks before the car is finally unleashed on the market.

When it does arrive later this year, the Tonale Hybrid will be joined by a top-of-the-range plug-in hybrid version with all-wheel drive and 275hp. That should offer improved performance, as well as greater fuel economy and a much longer electric range.

At first, though, the 160hp Hybrid will stand alone, and although it comes with all that electrical assistance, it isn't quite as efficient as you might hope. According to the official figures, it can burn through around 6.3 litres of petrol every 100km, which makes it only slightly more efficient than the similarly powerful Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 - a car that does without hybrid power. At 144g/km, its CO2 emissions aren't much lower either.

The GLA will be slightly more comfortable on the road, too. Our high-end Veloce test car came with adaptive dampers, but it still slammed into potholes and fidgeted slightly over broken surfaces. Those in the back will feel the bumps even more keenly than those in the front, but even there it feels a little stiff, rather than overly firm. Unless, of course, you set the car to Dynamic mode, which makes everything that little bit harder. Then the ride becomes borderline intolerable, especially for those in the rear seats, unless you press the button in the drive selector mode that slackens off the dampers.

Fortunately, this slight stiffness makes the Tonale handle quite smartly. The steering is perhaps a little too light, but it still provides a little bit of feel and the response from the front wheels is sharp. The suspension keeps body roll in check, too, so there isn't too much lean in corners and what there is feels progressive and controlled. The result is a car that feels nimbler than most SUVs, despite the front-wheel-drive layout and the hybrid powertrain, which doesn't seem to weigh as much as you might expect. At just over 1.5 tonnes, the Tonale is a relatively dainty car, and although it doesn't feel as stable or as planted as some of its rivals, it has an edge over most when you want to have fun.

And it doesn't lose much of that edge in the city, where the light steering allows the Tonale to be manoeuvred quite easily and the compact dimensions mean it'll fit through most gaps. Unfortunately, rear visibility isn't great thanks to the shallow rear window, so you depend largely on the cameras and sensors to squeeze into tight spaces.

What you get for your money

Alfa Romeo Ireland has yet to confirm prices for the new Tonale, but the SUV is expected to cost about the same as the Mercedes-Benz GLA. That money (around €45,000) is expected to pay for the basic Ti model, which should come with plenty of standard equipment. Gloss black exterior trim, 18-inch alloy wheels and a power-operated tailgate are all expected to feature, alongside keyless entry, wireless phone charging and part-leather upholstery.

And that comes in addition to the standard touchscreen navigation system, digital instrument display and rear-view camera. Moving up to the Veloce trim will add some smarter upholstery and some sportier touches, including larger alloy wheels, privacy glass and some red-painted Brembo brake callipers.


Alfa Romeo clearly has premium aspirations for the Tonale, and it's possible that the Alfa badge carries more weight than that of a Kia or Hyundai. But the Tonale doesn't have the quality to compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, either in terms of technology, comfort or solidity. On that basis alone, the Tonale is a difficult car to justify, especially as it's held back by a handful of unforgivable foibles and flaws. Yet that doesn't mean the new Alfa Romeo is merit-free; the much-improved tech, stunning looks and impressive roadholding will undoubtedly appeal to many buyers.


Tech Specs

Model testedAlfa Romeo Tonale Veloce 1.5 Hybrid VGT 160
Engine1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol with 48-volt hybrid system
Transmissionseven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions144g/km
Irish motor tax€270 per year
Fuel consumption6.3 litres/100km (44.8mpg)
Top speed210km/h
0-100km/h8.8 seconds
Max power160hp
Max torque240Nm
Boot space500-1,550 litres
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