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First drive: 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale. Image by Alfa Romeo.

First drive: 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale
This is supposed to be the car that puts Alfa Romeo back in the big leagues, but can it really compete?


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2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4

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The Alfa Romeo brand is popular with purists, but punters have been staying away for years. Even the talented Giulia and Stelvio models haven't been able to elevate the Italian brand beyond the level of a niche player, so it's time for something slightly different. It's called the Tonale, and it's a family SUV that sits below the Stelvio in Alfa's range. Offered with various forms of hybrid power, can it be the car that brings Alfa back into the big leagues?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce PHEV Q4
Price: £42,495 as tested
Engine: 1.3-litre, four-cylinder petrol with 90kW electric motor
Transmission: six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Battery: 15.5kWh lithium-ion
Power: 280hp
Torque: 270Nm (petrol engine only)
Emissions: 26-33g/km
Economy: 201.8-256.8mpg
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Top speed: 128mph
Boot space: 385-1,430 litres



At first glance, the Tonale's cabin looks great, with a motorsport-inspired steering wheel and a large central touchscreen, as well as round air vents and a digital instrument display. It's modern and sporty, and Alfa Romeo is adamant that it has the quality to compete with the likes of BMW and Audi. But when you get up close and personal, you realise that isn't the case at all. Some of the plastics feel quite cheap, and the touchscreen doesn't have the style or the rapid response times of the systems found in German premium models. It has all the same features, though, including a navigation system and reversing camera, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity systems.


The practicality of the Tonale rather depends on which version you choose. Opt for the mild-hybrid version and you get 500 litres of boot space, whereas the rear-mounted electric motor of the plug-in hybrid Tonale cuts boot space to 385 litres. Both figures are reasonable, but the Hybrid is certainly more spacious than its plug-in sibling – at least in the boot. In the cabin, the two are much more similar, with both offering adequate rear space, even if leg- and headroom back there are hardly impressive.


The Tonale offers customers a choice of two powertrains, both with varying levels of electrical assistance. The standard option, simply dubbed the ‘Hybrid’ combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to produce 160hp, while the plug-in hybrid option – the PHEV Q4 – combines a 1.3-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to offer 280hp and all-wheel drive. The two powertrains couldn’t be more different, with the 1.5-litre Hybrid proving clunky and lumpy, while the PHEV Q4 is more powerful and more refined, as well as being more efficient. The 15.5kWh battery allows it to cover just over 40 miles on electricity alone, and that means it’ll do more than 200mpg on the official economy test. It might not be easy to achieve that in the real world, but if your lifestyle suits the system, it will likely prove much more efficient than the Hybrid, which returns 44.8mpg.

Ride & Handling

While the Tonale’s powertrains are remarkably different, the way the car drives doesn’t change all that much – at least not in terms of ride and handling. The car has very light steering, which doesn’t inspire much confidence, but it feels nimble and agile as a result, while the body doesn’t lean too much in corners. The trade off for that is a slightly firm ride, and there’s clearly an undercurrent of bubbliness in the ride, which makes the car feel quite unsettled even on the smoothest of road surfaces. Naturally, if you go for the basic car, there’s no real off-road capability, but the plug-in hybrid option provides a modicum of all-terrain ability, even though it’s much more road-focussed.


At present, Tonale prices start from £38,595, which pays for the Edizione Speciale trim. That special edition gets sporty exterior trim, but it isn't part of the main range. That kicks off with the Ti, which comes in at just under £40,000, and offers 18-inch alloy wheels, the touchscreen navigation system and digital instrument display, as well as front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. Upgrading to the Veloce adds larger alloy wheels and a powered tailgate, as well as the adaptive suspension system. Prices for that model start at £42,495, which makes it look decidedly expensive next to the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The plug-in hybrid, meanwhile, comes in at £45,995 for the Ti, and rises to £48,495 for the Veloce.


The Tonale looks great and drives quite well, but it falls short of the class leaders in so many other areas. Unless you're desperate to have an Alfa Romeo, you'll find the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3 are all more premium, better built and more practical, without costing any more money. Were it our hard-earned on the line, we'd spend it with the Germans. If you absolutely must have the Alfa, though, make it the plug-in hybrid.

James Fossdyke - 14 Feb 2023    - Alfa Romeo road tests
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2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV Q4. Image by Alfa Romeo.


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