Alfa Romeo Tonale: That’s a pass

Riley Riley

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti 2

What is it?

Right now this is your cheapest ticket into the glamorous, alluring world of the Italian marque Alfa Romeo.

The Tonale is a small SUV that is available at the moment only as a fuel-saving hybrid, which could be a real bonus depending on your perspective.

Some drivers may hunger for something a bit spicier, say the larger more powerful 2.0-litre turbo from Stelvio.

Named after a mountain pass in Northern Italy, Tonale sits on the same platform as the Jeep Compass and is a little brother to the mid-sized Stelvio, but still seats five like Stelvio.

It’s also available as a more expensive plug-in hybrid, while a re-badged, re-styled version is sold as the Dodge Hornet in the United States.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti 3

What’s it cost?

Tonale is available in three grades: Ti, Veloce and Plug-In Hybrid Q4.

Prices start from $49,900 for Ti, $56,400 for Veloce and $77,500 for Plug-In Hybrid Q4 — all prices before on-road costs.

Metallic paint is $1600 and our test vehicle, the entry Ti, was fitted with the $4500 Lusso options pack includes perforated leather trim, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, power adjust driver and passenger front seats with driver memory and 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio.

Standard kit includes 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and go, anodised brake calipers, auto high beam, electric park brake, auto dimming mirror, auto lights and wipers and front and rear park sensors.

You also get a body-coloured rear spoiler and door handles, gloss black painted body kit with satin chrome inserts, black painted power-fold heated exterior mirrors with Italian flag, and automatic full LED matrix headlights with adaptive driving beam and dynamic turn indicator. 

Inside there’s dual zone climate air with rear air vents, carbon cloth and leatherette seats with ‘Electro’ welded Alfa logo and Biscotto stitching, manual adjust front seats with power lumbar for driver, leather steering wheel with start button, soft-touch dashboard finisher with beige stitching and 3D insert, 60:40 split rear seats with ski-pass, black headliner, front and rear floor mats and aluminium pedals.

An all-new infotainment system, with a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation system, with AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and six-speaker audio.

There’s also wireless phone charging and front and rear USB A/C ports and 12 volt outlets in the front and cargo area.

With the My Alfa Connect app users can remotely access their vehicle using their mobile phone using services such as vehicle finder and remote operations.

Five star safety includes six airbags, a rear-view camera and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with vulnerable road users.

There’s also adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward collision warning, lane support system (lane departure warning + lane keep assist), driver drowsy detection, traffic sign recognition with intelligent speed assist and tyre pressure monitoring.

Colours available in Alfa White, Alfa Red, Alfa Black, Vesuvio Grey Metallic, Misano Blue Metallic and Montreal Green Tri-Coat (Veloce only).

Tonale is covered by a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with 5-year roadside assistance. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti 4

What’s it go like?

Tonale sits 4528mm long and weighs 1491kg, with a braked towing capacity of 1500kg.

A 1.5-litre four -cylinder, petrol engine coupled with a 15kW electric motor produces 118kW of power at 5750 rpm and 240Nm of torque at 1500 rpm.

Power is transmitted to the front wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.

The dash from 0-100km/h takes 8.8 seconds and it has a top speed of 212km/h.

With a 55-litre tank, it takes premium 95 unleaded with fuel consumption a claimed 5.6L/100km.

Energy is recovered during periods of decelerating and braking, which is stored in the 0.8kWh battery for later use.

It can operate on electric power alone at speeds of up to 15km/h, which means silent starts and happy neighbours.

The fully independent suspension features McPherson struts and ‘unique’ sway bars at either end, while the 18-inch wheels are shod with chunky Continental 235/50 series rubber.

Koni supplies frequency selective dampers that adjust the level of hydraulic damping based on the road surface, improving handling but retaining a comfortable ride.

A space saver spare is provided.

Matrix LED headlights are able to shut down individual LEDs, keeping high beam active but preventing on-coming traffic from being dazzled, in a kind of halo effect.

Unique brake-by-wire technology delivers strong, aggressive braking.

The 48 volt mild hybrid delivers respectable performance and fuel economy, but we expected a little more excitement.

It is after all an Alfa and that’s why people buy them the last time we checked.

The hybrid is happy to comply, with a rasp when you punch the throttle, but ultimately lacks torque when it comes to firing out of corners.

And then there’s an all too familiar ‘jerky’ twin clutch tranny and surprising lack of gear change paddles, which is not exactly encouraging.

It smacks of cost cutting and together with the price, suggests the premium brand is looking to pick up a bit of mainstream action.

The more expensive Veloce gets paddles, while the plug-in scores a conventional six-speed auto.

Switching to dynamic mode is transformative and the engine tries hard with a little help from its electric friend, but it really needs some more get up and go.

On a more positive note, ride and handling are excellent, especially the ride quality which sets a new benchmark for the brand.

The car corners flat with plenty of grip from the Continentals, on well-formed bitumen at least. 

Dirt is another story.

The brake-by-wire stoppers are similarly impressive, biting hard and fast.

But the steering is odd. It’s sharp and responsive and provides good feedback, but is very light and doesn’t seem to weight-up even in Dynamic mode.

Of note our test vehicle had a rattle from the instrument cluster which is sure to drive someone crazy trying to figure out where it is coming from.

Sometime later the dash began flashing a warning. 

Lane Assist was not available — clean windscreen! Is that all it takes? 

The instrument cluster itself is fully digitised, but offers just the one theme that is designed around analogue-style gauges, with a central information area that can be scrolled, but working out how to do this is a challenge.

Physical buttons are provided for the aircon and a roller-style volume control for audio in the centre console.

While Android Auto is conveniently wireless, actually connecting to it with our phone was also problematic. 

The phone told us to follow prompts from the car touchscreen, but there were none and it took a couple of minutes to find Android Auto buried in the menu system.

When it did finally hook up, it worked fine.

We were getting 6.8L/100km after 360km of mixed driving.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti 7

What we like?

  • It’s an Alfa
  • Attractive pricing
  • No mistaking it for anything else
  • Great brakes
  • Respectable fuel consumption

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti 8

What we don’t like?

  • Dash rattle
  • A bit tight inside
  • One skin for instruments
  • Disappointing performance
  • Transmission could be smoother

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti 5

The bottom line?

The Alfa Tonale Ti is a likeable car offered at an attractive price.

While there’s no mistaking it for an Alfa, close your eyes and it doesn’t feel like an Alfa.

The drive experience is not engaging and we wonder how many corners Alfa cut to get the car down to the price.

More power, paddle shifts and the Lusso pack should all be part of the deal – or you could spend $6500 more for the Veloce.

Effectively, however, adding the Lusso pack is the only way to get power-adjust seats with either grade.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti 6


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CHECKOUT: Alfa adds plug-in Tonale hybrid


Alfa Romeo Tonale Ti, priced from $49,900
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 7.5/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10

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