The transalpine SUV adopts a rechargeable hybrid power chain which is the first step on the (fast) road to electrification.
Five years for a 180° turn. In 2027, Alfa Romeo will only offer 100% electric cars in its catalog… whereas the brand did not market any electrified models just a few months ago.
The first (serious) step on this roadmap is the appearance in the catalog of the Tonale SUV with a plug-in hybrid power chain. This rival of the Peugeot 3008, Volvo XC40 and other Volkswagen Tiguan uses the mechanics from a cousin of the Stellantis group, the Jeep Compass.
Alfa Romeo is often a look. If it is less balanced than the concept car presented at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, the Tonale stands out among the SUV crowd with its curvaceous profile.
The sad spirits will argue that the machine lacks a bit of shoulders. Others will retort that this less muscular design than the average compact SUV is refreshing. Choose your side.
What makes (almost) unanimity is beauty IRL “Montréal green” paint offered on the configurator. Depending on the light and the angle, the hue oscillates between emerald, bottle green or navy blue.
With its aquiline face and its three rows of lights, the front takes up the grammar of the SZ “Zagato” coupés and convertibles coming out of the chains at the time of Acid House. The so-called “telephone” rims complete the camouflage of the perfect historical Alfist canal.
life on board
The references don’t stop there. The driver faces digital instrumentation wearing the usual double hat. We would have appreciated a larger battery gauge under there. The presentation is conservative, but of good quality. The finish is uneven, with a host of materials more or less engaging to the touch.
Here, we are far from any screen. The air conditioning or the sound volume of the radio are controlled using buttons and keys. And the gear control (P, R, N, D) is done via a very “traditional” lever. The imposing central console – if you come from the electric world, it’s almost shocking – houses a slot for inductive charging of a telephone, two USB ports (USB and USB-C) and a very practical 12V socket . The over 10-inch-wide touchscreen is responsive and average in terms of ergonomics. It offers the current necessary. We will probably prefer to navigate via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to find the extension of our smartphone.
Small regret: while the Alfa Romeo Stelvio offers a lowered driving position worthy of a sedan – and very pleasant – the Tonale seats you… like in an SUV. Note, however, that the hoop can be adjusted both in height and in depth. The seats are enveloping, but firm.
Passengers and rear passengers discover a cabin a tad dark due to the high height of the beltline and the absence of panoramic roof. Knee room is average for the category, nothing more. We will be satisfied above all with the low height of the floor, which prevents the kneecaps from ending up at chest level (a recurring fault with electrics). The fifth member of the crew will be able to rejoice at not being elevated above their peers.
The bad news concerns the hold. With hybridization, the volume of the trunk drops from 500 to 385 liters, which is little in view of the length of the vehicle (4.53 m). The most fragile backs will lament the height of the loading sill. The charging cable luckily meanders through a slot under the floor.
Performance and driving
For the crossing of the city of Biella (Italy), we set ourselves on the “all efficient” mode thanks to the rotary selector located to the right of the steering wheel. The Tonale evolves in silence and with an extra-flexible direction worthy of the “city” mode of the Fiats.
Thanks to the 15.5 kWh battery located in the trunk, Alfa Romeo promises up to 90 km of autonomy in 100% electric according to the WLTP cycle. This figure seems excessively optimistic to us. A good fifty terminals in all conditions seems to us much more achievable, which is quite honorable.
The forced recharge mode – which is activated via a button on the console – only fills the battery at very low road speeds.
And what about the sporting heart typical of Alfa Romeos? In the laces, we quickly find the limits of the 1332 cm3 block shared with the Compass. The 6-speed automatic gearbox is forced to “pull” on the gears – without always choosing the right one – on vigorous climbs. If the 0 to 100 km / h runs in 6.2 seconds on the circuit, we remain a little unsatisfied in terms of sensations. Notably because of a very unremarkable sound environment. Surprisingly, the ear is more attractively solicited when it is outside the Tonale, no doubt thanks to a well-designed exhaust.
The management is also responsible for this lack of character. Light and uninformative, it remains almost silent on the activity of the front axle. Oh how far away the Stelvio and Giulia seem… Note however that it remains quite direct and a little more consistent in “performance” mode. The difference between the two depreciation rules is very significant. In natural, the Tonale is good-natured, pumping lightly after a big bump, but not crashing into the outside wheels when cornering. A rather successful comfort setting, in short.
In sports mode, we get into the hard and the lying gendarmes immediately become less sympathetic. We are therefore delighted to be able to switch the suspension setting back to normal while benefiting from the firmer steering wheel return of the perf mode thanks to a specific command. Despite a large mass (1,835 kg empty), the Tonale brakes straight and well. Above all, the Stellantis engineers have found the right balance between electric regeneration and hydraulic braking. Unlike the Peugeot 508 Hybrid – for example – the Tonale stops with a natural-feeling pedal.
Consumption and autonomy
Yes Sporting heart remains discreet, remains to know its efficiency. On a mixed course of 105 kilometers carried out with a full battery at the start, we noted an average consumption not very representative, but not uninteresting. It amounts to 5.5 litres/100 km. The Tonale does not really show its advantage on the motorway part. The wind blows in the uprights, but this auditory discomfort is quite bearable. On the other hand, the computer indicated a figure close to 10 litres/100 km at the maximum legal speed. Hard. The fuel tank retains a capacity of 42 litres, making it possible to envisage mixed journeys of 450 to 600 kilometers without going back to the pump or the terminal.
Moreover, the battery can be recharged in 2h30 on a Wallbox delivering 7.4 kW or five hours on a domestic socket. Note for work in your garage: the location of the socket is at the rear of the vehicle.
Our Veloce test version, very well equipped with Alcantara inserts and the soft or sporty suspension with two settings, is billed at 56,000 euros. An Edizione Speziale finish is offered from 51,000 euros while waiting for the Ti, which will arrive in the coming months.
The Tonale is expensive, but rather well placed against German competition at an equivalent price, but offering lower power. After the flamboyant Stelvio/Giulia era, Alfa Romeo is finding its way back to sanity. This is undoubtedly how the Snake can survive.
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