I was thrilled to get a chance to test drive the new Alfa Romeo Tonale for a week. The Tonale is Alfa’s first compact SUV and mild-hybrid model, and it aims to compete with the likes of Audi Q3 and BMW X1. But does it live up to the expectations?
I was immediately impressed by the Tonale’s stunning looks. The car has a sleek and muscular shape, with distinctive Alfa Romeo features such as the triangular grille and the LED headlights. The Speciale trim that I drove came with 18-inch wheels and a metallic grey paint called Vesuvio Grey which enhanced its sporty appeal. The interior is equally stylish and well-equipped, with leather seats, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless charging and a host of safety and driver assistance systems.
The Tonale is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine paired with a 48V electric motor that adds 15 kW and 55 Nm of torque. The combined output is 133 kW and 295 Nm, which is decent but not exhilarating for a car that weighs over 1.5 tonnes. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is smooth and responsive. I also liked the three driving modes that the car offers: Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency, which alter the accelerator response, steering weight and hybrid assistance.
However, where the Tonale really stands out is in its handling. The car has a remarkably quick and precise steering that makes it easy to maneuver in tight corners and traffic. The suspension is firm but comfortable, and the body roll is well controlled. The car feels agile and stable on the road, and it can tackle different terrains with ease. The brakes are also strong and progressive, and the regenerative braking helps to save fuel and extend the battery life.
A downside of the Alfa Romeo Tonale is that it misses out on some features that are common in its rivals, such as all-wheel drive or a panoramic sunroof. The Tonale’s main drawback is its lack of character. The car does not have the same flair and passion that you would expect from an Alfa Romeo. The engine sound is disappointingly muted and uninspiring, and the hybrid system does not add much excitement or efficiency, to be honest.
As one reviewer put it: “The Tonale is styled and engineered with more verve than most of its rivals. Not perfect, but no crossovers are”. I agree with this assessment: the Tonale is not perfect, but it’s better than most crossovers. It’s not a pure Alfa Romeo either, but it’s closer than you might think.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale is a good-looking and well-rounded compact SUV that offers a lot of value for money. It is fun to drive, practical and safe, and it has a distinctive style that sets it apart from the crowd. However, it is not a thrilling or innovative car that will make your heart race or your jaw drop. It is a sensible choice for those who want a premium SUV with a touch of Italian flair, but not for those who seek pure emotion and performance from an Alfa Romeo.
Our tested Alfa Romeo Tonale Speciale retails for R799, 900.
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