When it comes to Italian automaker Alfa Romeo, which like most global brands is in the same throws of transition from gas to electric-powered vehicles (EV), there are big expectations for the first line of hybrid offerings like the 2024 Tonale crossover.
Sometimes it’s good to see the pain in the States is also a shared pain with others who don’t get as much media coverage among the places we throw our news nets. For instance, Italian consumers are similarly balking at going “all in” on alternatively powered vehicles. Call it culture, call it economics, call it common sense – nobody wants to be the first one to dive in unless the waters are proven.
Alfa Romeo has been a brand of luxury and performance. So, you can imagine the pressure for 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale, the brand’s very first plug-in hybrid, to be impressive enough to live up to expectations. While there are a lot of things to like about the Tonale, I find it to be an odd choice as the first vehicle taking the brand to an all-electric future.
On the outside, the Tonale Veloce offers an understated but upscale style consistent with the Italian brand. This is an athletic-looking compact crossover that features a swooping profile with short overhangs and big wheels, optional 20 inches for my tester.
The big, red Brembo brake calipers stand out between the spoked rims and suggest a level of performance that one might get from an Alfa Romeo. On the downside is the narrow wheelbase which does impact the cabin’s initial capacity and storage. It also feels a bit tall, not out of proportion, but close enough to notice.
For those who may want to avoid the gas station completely, the 14.8-kWh battery can go 30 miles with a full charge. Most owners will need a bit more range to commute to work or hit the road for weekend getaways, so the total gas-EV driving range for Tonale Veloce is a robust 320 miles. Fuel economy is 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway.
Unlike its sibling, the Dodge Hornet, the Tonale only comes as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and it tries to rely on the powerful electric motor whenever it can. This is great for some fun acceleration, spirited performance maneuvers, and fuel economy/range numbers.
The Tonale’s 90-kW electric motor combines with the relatively small 1.3-liter turbo-powered engine to deliver 285 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission feels more than up to the task of managing the often-awkward transition between EV and gas engagement.
This hybrid crossover can get you from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, not bad for something that weighs 4,133 pounds. This is a fun experience that involves but a whisper of wind passing across the windshield as your only feeling of speed.
Overall feel was a mix with a noticeably stiff suspension that delivers crisp turns and very little lean for a taller crossover. Steering and braking was above average and I had no complaints on a couple long trips on the highway.
The first thing I noticed when I got into the Tonale Veloce was the slightly narrow feel of the cabin. Visibility is excellent, as well as power seating for superb comfort. My top-end Veloce tester featured wonderfully soft leather seats in the front and rear. Front-row seating is spacious with second-row passengers only slightly a bit tighter. The two-piece moonroof did a great job of opening up the cabin even more, letting additional light in and offering the option to vent fresh air.
The 12.3-inch cluster features digital gauges with retro styling from 1960s and 1970s Alfas, with a 10.3-inch screen mounted in the center. Look for Wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, and wireless charging as standard, while Alexa home-to-car and car-to-home functionality are also built in. Alfa Romeo’s “Alfa Connect” system offers additional functionality from remote start and remote monitoring via the cell phone as a potential add-on.
The Tonale Veloce has a long list of nice safety features as standard, including Traffic Sign Recognition; Adaptive Cruise Control; Intelligent Speed Assist; Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Path detection; Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection; Driver Attention Assist and Rear Seat Reminder; as well as Lane Departure with Lane Keep Assist.
When engaged, these features provide adequate safety for passengers in the car and pedestrians around the vehicle. All have the option of turning off if they become too overwhelming, which can happen in some crowded-lot situations.
While Alfa Romeo’s choice to launch its future in EVs with a small crossover felt odd at first, when you come out of the box with such a strong first offering it makes complete sense. I think they have a winner, though storage and price are points of challenge from the competition.
The Tonale Veloce eAWD starts at $47,495. My test model landed at $57,450 after adding premium interior, tech and exterior accents. If you are not ready to dive in on an all-electric vehicle, a hybrid option is your best bet, and this is a good option.
• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations and vehicles.