The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale is a pivotal model for the Italian automaker’s presence in the United States. The Tonale marks Alfa’s first foray into the ultra-competitive compact crossover class, and it also serves as its first plug-in hybrid of the brand’s electrified future. But more important for buyers, does it deliver the kind of driving verve expected of the Alfa Romeo nameplate? In short, yes, the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale’s performance delivers, but not in the traditional sense.
The 2024 Tonale’s tale of the tape
The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale, which began washing up on American shores in June, is motivated by a relatively unique powertrain — at least the model we’ll receive stateside is. A 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powers the front wheels, a 90kW electric motor drives the rear wheels, and each powerplant operates independently. The system pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission with available paddle shifters and an EPA rating of 77 MPGe (29 combined on gas only) with up to 33 miles of all-electric range.
Three trims are available — the Sprint ($42,995), Ti ($44,995), and Veloce ($47,495). The top trim, which is what I piloted, is fitted with an adaptive suspension and paddle shifters for the performance-oriented buyer.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale’s performance has hot hatch flavor . . . if you drive it hard
My admittedly limited time behind the wheel of the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale was undertaken in Johns Creek, Georgia, and its roads aren’t exactly the undulating strips of tarmac around the mountain range from which the Tonale takes its name. However, if you drive the Tonale with gusto — that is to say, like an Italian — it delivers a more hot hatch spirit than a compact crossover.
When pushed, the Tonale feels like a hot hatch in high heels. Given its Italian roots, I’d guess they’d be a stylish pair of leather pumps from Gucci (there may be other more fashionable companies making such shoes, but as a male automotive journalist with the fashion sense of an 80-year-old, I don’t know any).
The Tonale’s steering is quick, reactive, and precise. While accelerating through a long bend, the all-season Michelin rubber squealed, and there was discernable understeer, but with its all-wheel drive setup, it was easily managed. Despite its higher-than-a-hatch ride height, a claimed 50/50 weight distribution and the adaptive suspension equipped on the Veloce tester kept the Tonale taut through twisty tarmac.
There was a momentary pause under throttle tip-in, but power delivery came on in a big lump and remained consistent throughout the rev range under acceleration. Alfa claims a 0-60 mph time of six seconds. That may not be a staggering figure against some PHEVs, but it is pretty rapid for a compact hybrid crossover. That speed is also right on par with true hot hatches.
Effectively then, the Tonale felt quite similar to the hot hatchback I had driven across town to test the Alfa. It seemed to appreciate being thrown around corners and having its throttle stabbed, rewarding its driver with an engaging experience, even if it was just an antipasto to a full test. The feedback from the steering wasn’t stellar, and the brake pedal felt a bit wooden, but we’ll be able to further test those characteristics when we get a lengthier go behind the wheel.
Still, the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale’s performance can be placed in the same “fun” category in which most hot hatches reside. Better still, the Alfa had the advantage of being far more efficient and didn’t deliver any noticeable torque steer.
The Tonale is a more upscale product than a typical hot hatch (with a price to match), but with the market thin for such options, it could serve as a “hot hatch of the future” with its crossover designation and plug-in powertrain. It certainly feels like one from behind the wheel.
I was unable to test the Tonale’s EV driving mode as the battery was left with zero electrons in the proverbial tank, but 33 miles of range is certainly respectable if it can achieve that figure.
The Tonale aims to attract new customers to Alfa as electrifies its lineup
Ahead of my test of the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale, a representative underscored the Tonale’s importance to the brand, specifically its goal to introduce more customers to the company as an upmarket C-SUV. Specifically, the Tonale is aimed at younger buyers, presumably those who put an emphasis on style and performance, considering the small SUV is still distinctly an Alfa throughout.
The automaker will need to attract more customers as U.S. Alfa Romeo sales have lagged consistently, but entering the compact crossover segment is an easy way to bump sales. The Tonale’s popularity could also be boosted by its PHEV status, considering there aren’t many such options in luxury land.
The Tonale is also vital to Alfa as it marks the beginning of the brand’s electrification “metamorphosis.” Alfa is set to introduce a 1,000-hp Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan in 2025, and there are murmurings the Tonale will be joined by a larger electric SUV down the road, perhaps as a replacement for the Stelvio.