An Italian Renaissance for Alfa Romeo

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale.

It’s been six long years since we last saw a new Alfa Romeo debut in North America. When the Italian brand came back with first the Giulia executive sedan and then the Stelvio midsize SUV, its many ardent fans were hopeful that this represented a long-awaited renaissance.

The two models were a more than solid effort, particularly the high-performance Quadrifoglio variants. But the pipeline ran dry for a spell due to the pandemic and the global microchip shortage, so the cognoscenti have had to wait an overly long time for the premiere of the third model to join the lineup, the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale.

Luckily, this compact utility vehicle is worth the wait.

In Canada, there are two versions of the Tonale available at launch, a gas-powered model and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The latter is targeted at buyers in the provinces with the highest electrified vehicle sales: B.C., Ontario, and Quebec.



The Tonale PHEV is the more interesting version for a few reasons but mainly because it’s the first electrified vehicle in Alfa Romeo history. Those in charge of the brand have committed to going all-electric across the entire model range by 2027. (The non-PHEV model is not offered at all in America, a clear sign of intent.)

So the Tonale PHEV represents an important first step. Did the company engineer an electrified vehicle that’s efficient yet also exciting enough to honour the legacy of Alfa Romeo? Yes, it did.

The powertrain links a 1.3-litre four-cylinder gas engine to a 90-kilowatt electric motor. The engine drives the front wheels, while the motor handles responsibilities for the rear wheels. The result is an electrified full-time all-wheel-drive system.

Combined output for the powertrain lands at 285 horsepower and close to 347 lb-ft of torque. The numbers enable the Tonale PHEV to hit 100 kilometres per hour in under six seconds and drive solely on electric power for roughly 50 kilometres. That would be a compelling one-two punch at twice the price.

There are four drive modes to choose from, triggered by the DNA selector dial, which carries over from the Giulia and Stelvio. These modes vary in performance metrics from maximum efficiency through all-electric motoring to maximum attack, which combines the full force of the gas engine and the motor. But straight-line performance and all-electric range don’t tell the full story of the Tonale PHEV.



The AWD system is aided by a torque vectoring system and an electronic limited slip rear differential. This set-up, combined with the near optimal weight distribution for the Alfa (52 per cent of the weight is at the front, 48 per cent at the back) make this utility vehicle exceptionally nimble and responsive.

The optional Veloce package creates an even more dynamic performance. This package includes an adaptive air suspension system that makes the small-in-size Tonale feel like a much larger vehicle when tackling less than perfect pavement. Also included with the Veloce package: Brembo four-piston fixed brake calipers, which create an incredibly robust brake feel and performance.

From a design perspective, the Tonale manages to carve its own path without looking gaudy or deliberately controversial—a tough balance to strike. There are familiar brand design elements, such as the LED headlights and tail lights, and the front grille with classic Alfa Romeo shield. It works.

Inside, the high-performance theme continues. The base Tonale features a flat-bottomed steering wheel, the start/stop button placed on the wheel, and a configurable 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. The aforementioned Veloce package adds paddle shifters, aluminum pedals and door sills, and Alcantara-trimmed seats, dashboard, and armrest.

While the compact utility vehicle segment doesn’t often produce something that could be considered a real driver’s car, the Tonale is an exception. And fans of the Italian approach to enthusiast cars, in particular, will find much to love here.