In-depth reviews

Alfa Romeo Tonale SUV - Engines, drive & performance

Fantastic handling isn’t matched by a slightly lethargic transmission

Carbuyer Rating

3.7 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

Let’s start with the good news. Keen drivers will find a lot to like in the Alfa Romeo Tonale, as it’s obvious plenty of work has been done to deliver engaging and agile handling. There’s no hint that the comparatively agricultural Jeep Compass uses the same underpinnings, nor that the platform isn’t particularly new.

It sounds like a simple thing, but the Tonale’s steering is reactive and responsive. Not all rivals manage this, and it enables the Alfa Romeo to feel agile and confidence-inspiring. The car is well-balanced and stable through a series of corners, plus there’s very little body roll in. In terms of dynamic appeal, the Tonale is up there with close rivals such as the BMW X1 and Jaguar E-Pace.

The two trim levels have different suspension setups, but you might find that the ride on both is quite firm. However, the top-spec Veloce gets adaptive dampers as standard, which does at least offer a ‘Soft’ setting that’s less harsh over bumps - the sportier Dynamic option is arguably too firm for road use. What’s more, you’re able to select the various settings separately, so you can have the suspension in Soft and the engine in its more responsive and pleasant Dynamic mode.

Alfa Romeo Tonale hybrid engine

The range-topping plug-in hybrid actually has the smallest engine - a 1.3-litre petrol borrowed from Fiat and Jeep - but it’s joined by a powerful electric motor on the rear axle. As denoted by its Hybrid Q4 badge, the Tonale is four-wheel drive, and its two power sources combine for a total of 271bhp.

That’s as much as you get in hot hatchbacks such as the Hyundai i30 N and Ford Focus ST, so it’s not surprising that the plug-in hybrid takes just 6.2 seconds to get from 0-62mph.

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Alfa Romeo’s ‘D.N.A’ drive selector has been tweaked for the Hybrid Q4; Natural balances the petrol engine and electric motor to give the best efficiency, while Dynamic is a sportier mode that gives full performance when you’re in the mood for it.

Petrol engines

You can also choose a new 1.5-litre petrol engine with 158bhp. While the plug-in hybrid gets a six-speed automatic gearbox, the petrol gets a seven-speed dual-clutch version. No manual transmissions are available.

Thanks to the addition of a 48-volt electrical system - which means the petrols are mild hybrids - the Tonale can creep forwards and park without using its petrol engine. You’ll notice the system working if you listen carefully, or watch the display on the instrument cluster, but the Tonale doesn’t let you choose to drive in fully electric mode like hybrids with bigger batteries.

The engine posts decent performance figures, with 0-62mph dispatched in 8.8 seconds. But most of the time the Tonale doesn’t feel all that quick, which is partly down to a slight hesitancy from the automatic gearbox. Unlike many older Alfa models the engine sounds bland rather than sporty, so it’s a good thing that most of the time the Alfa Romeo is quiet and refined.

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