New Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV 2023 review
The new plug-in Alfa Romeo Tonale premium SUV aims to mix driving fun and low tax costs
The evolution of plug-in hybrid battery technology means Alfa Romeo’s newcomer looks like an excellent proposition on paper – and on the road it delivers in plenty of key areas. But it still lacks the fun factor we expect from the one of the Italian brand’s models. As a result, company car users might end up looking at the Tonale PHEV with their heads rather than their hearts.
Alfa Romeo claims that the Tonale SUV will be its most popular model in the coming years, and that this plug-in hybrid version will account for at least half of sales, so there’s a lot riding on this new car.
The UK also has one of the biggest take-up rates of plug-in hybrid vehicles in Europe. We’ve driven the Tonale PHEV before on the continent, but now it’s time to see how it stacks up on our roads.
The Tonale has plenty of solid PHEV rivals in the shape of the latest BMW X1, plus the Mercedes GLA, Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40. However, only the X1 sits in the same eight-per cent company-car tax band as the Tonale, and Alfa is placing plenty of importance on fleet sales for the PHEV.
Car group tests
Its low Benefit-in-Kind tax rate comes courtesy of relatively low CO2 emissions of 26g/km, and there’s 43 miles of electric range from its 15.5kWh battery, too. However, it’s worth noting the X1 beats the Tonale on both of these fronts.
Alfa Romeo expects the £48,495 Veloce to be the most popular trim, and while that undercuts the more powerful BMW X1 xDrive30e M Sport by £470, it still features an extensive list of standard equipment.
The PHEV’s cabin is no different to the mild-hybrid model’s, so it feels relatively well put together (bar for the odd piece of flimsy plastic) and elements such as the Giulia-derived steering wheel and aluminium paddles are nice touches.
The infotainment is also simple to use, although there’s nowhere to rest your hand while operating it. There are also physical switches beneath it for the climate controls. Cabin space is also decent, but the boot is a only average at 385 litres; that’s down on the plug-in X1.
While the Tonale PHEV has a focus on efficiency, being an Alfa it mixes this with sharp driving dynamics. The powertrain comprises a 1.3-litre turbo petrol plus two electric motors, so it’s four-wheel drive.
There’s plenty of punch, with a total output of 271bhp delivering a 0-62mph time of 6.2 seconds. It’s strangely vocal as well, because there’s a little bit of turbo flutter at times and a whirr from the electric motor. It adds personality, at least.
Our main gripe with the powertrain is the six-speed automatic transmission. It can be a little hesitant to shift, leaving you with a rather grumbly tone from the petrol engine. Thankfully, you can take control using the excellent column-mounted paddles.
The Tonale’s 1,800kg-plus kerbweight dulls performance, but is relatively well hidden in corners. Sharp steering is certainly the car’s best attribute, but the ride can be fairly disappointing in comparison.
The Veloce trim features adaptive suspension, a set-up we’ve already tried on the Tonale MHEV on UK roads. Using the DNA switch on the dash (for Dynamic, Natural and Added Efficiency modes, the latter prioritising electric running) it’s clear that Alfa Romeo has worked to give the Tonale a different feel depending on each mode – which is commendable. However, with the dampers in their firmest setting, it’s pretty harsh, so it’s best left in Comfort anyway.
Regenerative braking is good, especially in ‘High’, forcing more energy back into the battery. On the motorway, it’s possible to run the Tonale PHEV in pure-electric mode, but this highlights a bit of tyre roar usually hidden by the engine note. Our car came on 19-inch alloys, but we’d suggest paying an extra £750 for the 20-inch wheels; the ride isn’t noticeably worse and the larger rims do a better job of filling the Tonale’s arches.
|Model:||Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4 Veloce|
|Powertrain:||1.3-litre 4cyl petrol PHEV+ 2x e-motors|
|Transmission:||Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
|EV range:||43 miles|