Alfa Romeo Tonale Review & Prices
The Alfa Romeo Tonale looks smart and is good fun on twisty roads, but it’s not the most comfortable small SUV out there
Find out more about the Alfa Romeo Tonale
Available with hybrids of both the self-charging and plug-in variety, the Tonale combines petrol engines with electric motors to boost efficiency and performance. It’s priced to compete head-on with the likes of the BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace, Audi Q3 Sportback and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
Inside, the jump in quality over previous Alfa Romeos is instantly obvious, with a new 10.25-inch touchscreen and widespread use of soft-touch materials giving the car a more expensive feel. The new touchscreen system could be quicker to respond, but at least looks good, while it’s nice to see the main climate controls kept separate from the touchscreen in a long row of accessible buttons.
One thing to note with the interior is that stowage space is no better than average, something that carries through from the front to the rear seat area. Headroom is good in the back, and legroom is on par with the class.
The boot is a good size in the regular hybrid – bigger than other premium sporty SUVs – and it has a handy split-level arrangement with notches to keep the raised floor at a 45-degree angle while you’re getting at the bits stored below. The plug-in version loses about a quarter of the boot’s capacity to make space for the extra batteries, so it’s less practical.
Inside, the jump in quality over previous Alfa Romeos is instantly obvious and it's a characterful option for families
It takes no more than several seconds behind the wheel to detect that the Tonale isn’t built to be a comfortable and cosseting experience, with bumps, ripples and drain covers making themselves obvious as the car thumps over them. But the pay-off comes when the road gets twister, with the Alfa proving to be composed and avoiding the kind of quease-inducing lean that most small SUVs suffer from. But if comfort over poor-quality roads is more important than how good your small SUV is to drive, then others such as the Audi Q3 Sportback could be a better bet.
While this sporty feel might be tempting, if you go for the regular hybrid, it’s a shame that the power isn’t delivered in a way to encourage that sportier drive. There’s a surprisingly lengthy gap between pressing the accelerator and the petrol engine delivering the requested performance, which is annoying whether you’re pootling around town or trying to enjoy a country road. It’s a frustrating characteristic and, combined with a hybrid system that only rarely runs on battery alone, accounts for the biggest room for improvement. Efficiency figures are good, though.
The plug-in hybrid engine is much more responsive and enjoyable to drive. The electric boost at lower speeds irons out the annoying hesitations so you’ve always got power to call on, and the extra performance is notable when you put your foot down, making it feel instantly sportier.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale is one of the more fun small SUVs from the driver’s seat, and the interior quality along with the good looks and efficiency bring a welcome dose of Italian flair to the basket of premium small SUV alternatives.
Like what you hear? Check out our Alfa Romeo Tonale deals or browse the latest used Tonales from our network of trusted dealers. You can also see what other used Alfa Romeos are on offer, and when it’s time to sell your car, carwow can help with that, too.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale has a RRP range of £40,995 to £48,495. However, with carwow you can save on average £2,193. Prices start at £38,995 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £398. The price of a used Alfa Romeo Tonale on carwow starts at £31,490.
Our most popular versions of the Alfa Romeo Tonale are:
|Model version||carwow price from|
|1.5 MHEV Veloce 5dr Auto||£38,995||Compare offers|
The Alfa Romeo Tonale is a premium small SUV that is hoping to tempt you out of some decent alternatives from all the usual upmarket brands, i.e. BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Audi. It will have to rely on its good looks more than being low cost because it’s priced on par with the competition.
The Italian costs from just under £40,000 and rises to about £50,000 for top-specification plug-in hybrid versions. As with most cars, you will have to pay a premium for the plug-in – about £6,000 over the regular hybrid in this case – so you will have to decide if the fuel savings (and company car tax savings, if applicable) make it worthwhile.
The BMW X2, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 Sportback follow similar pricing to the Tonale, while the Jaguar E-Pace is a bit more expensive.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale is great fun on a twisty road, but the hybrid’s poor throttle response grates quickly
Urban roads are not the Tonale’s best friend, with potholes, drain covers and other imperfections keenly felt rather than gently absorbed by the suspension.
Rearward visibility is a bit of an issue due to the combination of a fairly narrow rear window, big rear pillars and a couple of hefty rear headrests, but the light steering at least makes manoeuvring simple.
When it comes to engine choice, it’s difficult to recommend the regular hybrid over the plug-in if you’ll spend a lot of time in the city. The hybrid’s hesitant response when the throttle is prodded is unhelpful when nipping in and out of busy traffic, something the plug-in hybrid has no issue with.
It can also spend more time on electric power, providing you keep it charged, so running costs will be lower in the plug-in, too. Driving without engaging the petrol engine also helps improve the relaxing nature of the drive; it can be quite frustrating having to deal with the hybrid’s laggy engine as you jostle and jiggle over bumpy roads.
On the motorway
The Tonale’s dislike of less-than-smooth roads seems less acute as the speed rises, making it a better long-distance cruiser. There is a surprising amount of road noise, although our car was fitted with optional 20-inch alloy wheels rather than the standard 18- or 19-inch alloys on the respective trim levels, which won’t have helped noise or comfort.
Refinement is otherwise impressive, and the Tonale settles down nicely into a peaceful high-speed run with minimal wind noise penetrating the cabin. The difference between the engines is less obvious here, too, though the extra power available from the plug-in hybrid does make it easier to get up to speed.
On a twisty road
The Alfa’s forte is the way it tackles bends. Though the steering could be a bit weightier – it’s great for urban driving but a bit light when you go looking for more entertaining roads – the Tonale is very adept at minimising the kind of lean you’d expect from a taller SUV and hides its height well.
But the limitations of the regular hybrid’s powertrain are most obvious when greater acceleration is called for, and the delay between prodding the accelerator and the forward motion arriving is frustrating. Once it’s over the little hesitation, it picks up speed nicely, if anything feeling quicker than the quoted 8.6-second 0-62mph acceleration time.
The plug-in hybrid, on the other hand, is more responsive to accelerator inputs and the extra power makes it more fun. The gearbox can still be slow to respond when you want more oomph, but it’s definitely the more sprightly of your two options.
The regular hybrid Tonale has a bigger boot than most alternatives, but you lose a lot of space in the plug-in version
The cloth/vegan leather front seats are comfortable, and offer a good range of adjustments to help find the best driving position. The front footwell is a touch cramped though so you might find you can’t relax your left leg as much as you want to.
Front and rear areas both have USB and USB-C sockets, as well as a handy large wireless charging spot up-front that’s standard on every car as part of a good equipment list that also sees all models get a powered boot, keyless entry and a rear parking camera.
The front door bins will take a decent-sized bottle, but not much else, and it’s the same story for the rear doors, which each house a bottle holder. There are two cupholders in the front, and a small space beneath the sliding front armrest to stash things away from prying eyes.
Space in the back seats
Rear passengers will be as comfy in the back as they would in any compact SUV, with the biggest problem being the low roofline that adults will need to duck under to avoid knocking their head. Once in, there’s plenty of space for two fully grown people, and three will be cosy width-wise and for foot-room, but at least the central cushion is flat.
There are easily accessible ISOFIX points on both the outer rear seats, and bulky child seats should easily fit in behind the front passenger without inhibiting their legroom too much.
There’s also a fold-down armrest in the rear which includes a couple more cup holders, although the hard plastic is right where elbows could reside.
Much like with the driving experience, boot space depends entirely on which engine you go for. In the regular hybrid, it is bigger than most other premium small SUVs, with 500 litres on offer.
The Audi Q3 Sportback is the most practical of the Tonale’s competition with up to 530 litres of space, but some models have a slidable rear seat that can increase space to a whopping 675 litres. The BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA offer less, though, at 470 litres and 435 litres respectively.
One thing each has in common is the fact that the plug-in hybrid versions are much less bootylicious. In the case of the Tonale, it drops to just 385 litres, which is the same as the plug-in Mercedes and five litres more than the Audi. The X2 wins here with 410 litres.
Aside from the raw numbers, the Tonale offers a split-level floor that can either hide smaller objects safely out of the way, or drop the floor to the lower level to increase space for larger loads. It will sit at a 45-degree angle on a pair of notches when you’re trying to get to those bits stashed underneath, which saves either having to hold it up with one hand or your head while you rummage. The boot also has a 12V socket and a pair of bag hooks.
The Tonale gets a pleasant cabin with plenty of soft-touch materials and comfy seats, though there could be more stowage
The Tonale marks an improvement in cabin quality for Alfa Romeo, with a range of soft-touch materials across much of a neatly designed cabin.
The start button is mounted on the steering wheel, with a racing car-style prod of the thumb firing the engine as a nice nod to Alfa’s sporting pedigree, and there’s a little Italian flag behind the gear lever to remind you what you’re driving.
But it is still an Alfa Romeo, so there are little foibles, such as the indicator stalks – which are cheaper plastic than most of the cabin – being set further away from the wheel than most cars, to make space for the amusingly huge gearshift paddles. You’ll constantly catch your fingers on these as you go to indicate or use the wipers. Anyway, the stalks are still within reach, but it’s more of a stretch than on pretty much any other car – and that’s also the case for the Ti-spec model that has the same stretch without getting the paddles at all.
The 10.3-inch touchscreen system brings Alfa Romeo up to date in terms of design and functionality, although it could be a bit quicker to respond when you give it a good prod. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted as standard, while connectivity takes a big step up with the ability to link to a home Alexa system, which will enable the driver to check fuel levels, the car’s location and lock or unlock the doors via voice activation from inside their house.
The touchscreen combines with a 12.3-inch digital dashboard layout that again is bigger, clearer and more functional than Alfa Romeo has historically offered, and comes with a variety of detailed displays. Although the main climate controls are on a handy row of buttons, the heated seats and steering wheel – where added as optional extras – are on the touchscreen, which is less handy than physical buttons when on the move.
The Tonale range is pretty simple, with two engine options and three trim levels.
Starting the range is the hybrid, which is a 160hp combination of a 1.5-litre petrol engine and a small battery and electric motor that can power the car in very short bursts on its own. However, it’s no Toyota Prius, and those short bursts are at nothing above a crawl. It recharges itself using energy recaptured when the car brakes, and does have an efficiency benefit, with the Tonale starting at 130g/km for emissions, and an official figure of 44.8mpg. That’s good compared with other similar models, and we hovered around 40mpg in our time with the car, which is a decent return.
But if optimum efficiency is the goal, then the significantly more expensive and more powerful (280hp versus 160hp) plug-in hybrid model offers emissions of up to 33g/km. Official fuel economy figures put it around 200mpg but you’ll only manage that if you can keep the batteries charged and typically stick to shorter journeys where you don’t need to call on the petrol engine too often.
Aside from fewer trips to the pumps, the other advantage of the plug-in version is that it has low Benefit-in-Kind company car tax, while its low emissions mean it also sits in one of the cheapest road tax bands too. Unfortunately, all plug-in models and top-spec versions of the regular hybrid cost more than £40,000, so face an extra road tax premium in years two to six.
Safety is no concern with the Alfa Romeo Tonale as it has scored top marks in Euro NCAP safety testing. Its five-out-of-five mark included adult and child occupant ratings of more than 80%, while its driver assistance score of 85% is hugely impressive.
As standard you get some decent driver assistance technology, including autonomous emergency braking to help avoid crashes in town, lane-keep assist to stop you drifting on the motorway, and adaptive cruise control, which maintains your speed to the car in front.
As it’s quite a new model, it’s not possible to get a clear idea of whether it’s common for things to go wrong with the Tonale. However, despite having a poor reputation for reliability, Alfa Romeo has actually scored fairly well in UK owner surveys in recent years.
To give further peace of mind, though, the Tonale comes with a five-year/75,000-mile warranty, with an extra three years of cover for the hybrid batteries.
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