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In-depth reviews

Alfa Romeo Tonale review: a pretty but imperfect SUV

Stunning looks, slick tech and decent practicality make the Alfa Romeo Tonale an appealing, if flawed, compact premium SUV

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

Price
£36,015 to £52,330
  • Svelte styling
  • Handles well
  • Wealth of tech on-board
  • Interior quality
  • Laggy mild-hybrid
  • PHEV boot space
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The Alfa Romeo Tonale has its flaws, but it can hold its own against fellow compact premium SUVs from the likes of BMW, Audi and Volvo. It’s a fabulous looking family car for one thing, yet still practical, handles well and features some slick in-car technology. However, the quality of the cabin itself falls short of where it should be considering the price and its competition.

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The plug-in hybrid Tonale Q4 is our pick of the range because it’s not only more efficient and offers a competitive 42-mile electric driving range, it’s also better to drive than the mild-hybrid version and packs more punch. For those looking to stand out in the company car park, Alfa’s first plug-in hybrid deserves your attention.

About the Alfa Romeo Tonale

While the Alfa Romeo Guilia saloon and closely related Stelvio SUV breathed some new life into the Italian carmaker, neither quite managed to propel it to new heights. So Alfa Romeo hopes to revitalise itself once again, this time with the Tonale, which heralds “the beginning of a new Alfa Romeo era” – or at least that’s what the Tonale’s website proclaims.

The Tonale is a compact premium SUV, which means it's going up against some heavy hitters like the Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA, Volvo XC40 and the new BMW X1. Some less flashy but equally capable alternatives include the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, while the new MINI Countryman will almost certainly be looking to steal some sales from the baby Alfa, too.

The rear-wheel drive Giorgio platform used by the Guilia and Stelvio is absent here. Instead, under the Tonale’s svelte bodywork are the same underpinnings as the Jeep Compass uses, itself an evolution of the Fiat Small Platform that underpinned the Grande Punto from 2005, and the Alfa Romeo MiTo. Thankfully, the running gear isn’t sourced from the start of the century.

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The plug-in hybrid Tonale Q4 is the most powerful variant in the range, producing 271bhp all-in and offering all-wheel drive. The 1.3-litre petrol engine under the bonnet sends its power to the front wheels, while the single electric motor fed by a 15.5kWh battery drives the rears. 

According to Alfa Romeo, the Tonale Q4 can cover up to 42 miles on electric power alone, or 50 miles if you’re just driving around town. The plug-in Tonale can also return up to 217mpg while emitting 29-32g/km of CO2, which is how it attracts the same eight per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax rate as the latest BMW X1 PHEV, and well below the 14 per cent BiK rate for the equivalent XC40. 

Alternatively, you can go for the front-wheel drive, mild-hybrid version of the Tonale. It uses a new four-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and 20bhp electric motor. This combination produces 158bhp in total and allows the car to run on electric power when you start it up, at low speeds and when parking. 

Both versions are available in the same three trim levels – Ti, Veloce and Edizione Speciale launch edition – with the upgrade to the plug-in hybrid model adding £6,000 to the Tonale’s price tag. The standard kit list is lengthy, as it should be at this price point, with every model receiving LED headlights, a reversing camera, powered boot lid, keyless entry, 18- to 20-inch alloy wheels, 12.3-inch digital driver’s display and 10.25-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.

Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce 1.3 280 PHEV long term test

Our pictures editor, Dawn Grant, has spent six months living with the Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV as part of our long-term test fleet. Along with its stylish appearance, Dawn has been impressed with the Alfa’s highly effective LED lighting. Elsewhere, most of the on-board features have proved useful and easy to operate, but the powered tailgate has been less than convenient when Dawn has needed to transport her daughter’s dog.

Another area where the Alfa falls short is the automatic gearbox. Dawn says the Tonale was sometimes reluctant to change up at the necessary time, causing the engine to rev excessively. The lane-keeping assist system also failed to detect a set of temporary roadwork markings, nearly causing the car to pull into a set of traffic cones. You can read the full long term test here...

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