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In-depth reviews

Alfa Romeo Tonale review - the mid-size SUV with Italian flair

“The Alfa Romeo Tonale is a stylish SUV that’s good to drive, but rivals have better-quality interiors”

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Price
£36,015 - £52,330

Pros

  • Eye-catching looks
  • Hybrid powertrains
  • Fun handling

Cons

  • Limited interior storage
  • Interior quality
  • No manual gearbox

Verdict - Is the Alfa Romeo Tonale a good car?

The Alfa Romeo Tonale is predicted to be the Italian brand’s biggest seller, but the popularity of the mid-sized SUV class also means it faces stern rivals from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and Volvo. The Tonale counters with seductive looks and sharp handling, but its interior quality isn’t quite on par with some competitors. Private buyers are likely to go for the 1.5-litre mild hybrid petrol, but a plug-in hybrid should suit business drivers thanks to its 42-mile EV range and low CO2 emissions.

Alfa Romeo Tonale models, specs and alternatives

The Alfa Romeo Tonale feels like the small SUV that the Italian brand has needed for a number of years. It has long seemed to be in a perilous financial position; while both are great cars, the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Alfa Romeo Stelvio have struggled to sell in strong numbers against so many rivals, and the former fights in the dwindling saloon class.

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Launched into a fiercely competitive market, the Tonale could have its work cut out trying to prise buyers away from the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Volvo XC40. This is a very popular size of car, though, so Alfa Romeo is likely to be hopeful that the Tonale will sell better than its other cars.

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We can see some buyers flocking to the Tonale for its styling alone, regardless of how good the rest of the package is. It looks tauter than the bigger Stelvio and features classic Alfa styling cues such as the triangular grille and slim headlights. With prices starting from around £36,000, the Tonale is priced to compete with upmarket competitors and it’s around £8,000 cheaper than the Stelvio.

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Thanks to its shared underpinnings with Fiat and Jeep models, the Tonale is looking to the future with a range of hybrid engines. Topping the line-up is Alfa Romeo’s first-ever plug-in hybrid, featuring four-wheel drive, a decent electric range and a healthy 271bhp power output. The Tonale’s underpinnings can even accommodate a full-EV powertrain, although an electric version hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Beneath this, there’s a mild hybrid 1.5-litre petrol engine hooked up to a 48-volt electrical system. This comes with 158bhp (there’s also a 128bhp version that UK buyers won’t get), and all engines come with an automatic gearbox as standard. The mild-hybrid system allows you to complete low-speed manoeuvres on electric power alone, but above walking pace, the petrol engine kicks in.

It’s no great shame that UK customers miss out on the entry-level engine, because our drive revealed that even the more powerful 158bhp engine doesn’t have the sharpest responses. Keep it in the Dynamic drive mode and it’s better, but the unit doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the car's driving dynamics, such as the excellent handling; you’d never guess that its platform is also used to underpin the rougher and more rugged Jeep Compass.

The interior looks almost as stylish as the exterior, but you’ll soon come across some surprisingly cheap-feeling materials. There are big slabs of hard, scratchy plastics in some places, and occasionally you’ll find some elements that feel a little flimsy for a model with this price tag. Practicality is perfectly decent if not class-leading, with four adults well catered for and a 500-litre boot.

Despite the brand’s reputation among some motorists, Alfa Romeo hopes that the Tonale will prove reliable for years to come, while the SUV earned top marks in Euro NCAP safety tests making it one of the safest cars currently on the market.

Both the trim levels available to UK buyers, Ti and Veloce – as well as the limited-run Edizione Speciale – get a slick touchscreen with smartphone mirroring and lots of connectivity. Standard equipment also includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting and dual-zone climate control, while Veloce adds a sportier body kit, red brake calipers and Alcantara suede upholstery.

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.5 MHEV Sprint 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,015

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.3 PHEV Sprint 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £43,495

Fastest

  • Name
    1.3 PHEV Sprint 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £43,495

Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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