Skip to main content

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale First Look: A New Direction

  • A Jeep-derived crossover that slots beneath the Stelvio
  • Two powertrain options with standard AWD
  • New tech and a new look from Alfa
  • Kicks off the first Tonale generation

What is the Tonale?

The 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale (pronounced toe-nahl-ay) is the new entry point to the Alfa Romeo lineup in the United States. It's a crossover SUV that slots beneath the brand's compact Stelvio, but it shares little with its bigger sibling. The Tonale isn't just another small SUV. It signals a major sea change at Alfa Romeo, one that the brand hopes will carry it into the electric future.

The Tonale brings to the table a set of new looks, fresh interior tech, and a new electrified powertrain to complement a conventional internal combustion engine. On paper, it looks like the Tonale has the right stuff, but it's jumping right into one of the hottest segments in the automotive landscape. Is Alfa wise to put the Audi Q3, Volvo XC40 and Mercedes-Benz GLB in the middle of its crosshairs? Read on to find out.

What's under the Tonale's hood?

Right out of the gate, there's good news. Every Tonale comes with standard all-wheel drive, a plus for those who live in climates with temperamental weather conditions. The first and more conventional powertrain on offer is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder borrowed from the Stelvio. In the Tonale, it makes 256 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, not far off the Stelvio's 280 hp and 306 lb-ft.

The other powertrain option is a plug-in hybrid setup. A little 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine powers the front wheels via a six-speed automatic, and a 90-kilowatt electric motor that's fed by an 15.5-kWh battery pack takes care of the rears. The system has a peak output of 272 horsepower, and thanks to the rear electric motor, the Tonale can be driven as a pure EV. Alfa says the battery can go from flat to full in 2.5 hours using a Level 2 charger, and that the Tonale has an all-electric range of more than 30 miles, but that hasn't been vetted by the EPA yet.

EV-only mode is what Alfa is calling "Advanced Efficiency," while the standard mode, called Natural, uses the electric motor to get going and kicks on the 1.3-liter engine in second gear. Dual Power mode asks for the most from both the engine and electric motor and is best suited to more spirited driving. The 2.0-liter turbo engine gets Advanced Efficiency and Natural drive modes, too, but naturally there's no EV-only mode and Dual Power mode is replaced with Dynamic mode.

The drive modes also change other parameters within the Tonale's chassis. The dampers are either firmed up (in Dynamic and Dual Power) or slackened off (in Natural and Advanced Efficiency). The steering response gets more aggressive as you make your way from Efficiency to Dynamic/Dual Power. Alfa says it wants the Tonale to be one of the most enjoyable cars to drive in the segment, and we'll be sure to put that to the test when we get our hands on one.

How's the Tonale's interior?

The Tonale's interior space is a mix of old and new. The steering wheel and large shift paddles found in other Alfas are still here, and the seats look familiar but feature a slightly different design. Top-trim Tonales will be coated in swaths of vegan leather and faux suede, but seats in all Tonales get a neat multicolor pattern on the inner part of the cushions.

The outer air vents feature a familiar, circular design, while the inner ones have been slimmed down to accommodate the climate controls and new infotainment display. All of the climate controls rest underneath the infotainment screen and are all physical, a breath of fresh air as most automakers move to on-screen or touch-sensitive controls for managing the cabin temp.

How's the Tonale's tech?

The infotainment screen houses Uconnect 5, software that will be familiar to anyone who's used to a modern Jeep, Ram or Dodge. The system features a customizable home screen to make navigating to your most used apps easier, and the system comes standard with wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Tonale also has Alexa built in, which means you can control the car from your phone and it will understand natural language for voice commands.

The gauge cluster, however, hasn't been cribbed from other Alfas and is now a customizable 12.3-inch display. The graphics on screen can mimic analog gauges, show a full-screen map, or give the driver tips on how to drive the PHEV powertrain most efficiently. The driver display will also show information on the advanced driver assist systems like adaptive cruise control and lane centering, both of which are available on the Tonale.

Edmunds says

The Tonale has the right looks and some fresh tech, but we'll have to wait and see if it also has the right moves to take on the best in class when we eventually get behind the wheel.