The Plug-in Hybrid Alfa Romeo Tonale gets the smallest engine in the range – the 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo that isn’t sold as a standalone in the UK. Here that provides 180PS (132kW) directly to the front wheels. In addition, there is a 122PS (90kW) electric motor on the rear axle which adds in 250Nm (184 lb-ft). When combined the PHEV Tonale offers 280PS (206kW) and 270Nm (200 lb-ft) and a 0-62mph time of 6.2 seconds.
Let us start with some good things. In everyday use, the hybrid system switches comfortably between all-electric mode and combined combustion power. The 1.3-litre petrol is quiet through most of its life, although it gets a little intrusive when at the higher end of the rev range.
As we found with the mild-hybrid version the Tonale’s chassis appears to be excellent. The nose is good and grips very nicely when you’re willing to let it work, the damping at speed is nice and while the roll is perhaps slightly more than I would like – tuned for day-to-day cruising rather than rapid Yorkshire road flights – the road holding feels comfortable and safe. It excels on a more open flowing road, whereas in tighter areas it does at times feel like it’s straying toward wallowing.
Now, the downside. While that nose is undoubtedly excellent, the Tonale has no intention of telling you that. We’ll wait to see how it feels on a longer test, but in our few hours with the Alfa, the bit that connects you and what’s going on felt distant. It’s fast but completely lacking in feel. You can trust the front end will grip at good speeds, but if something goes wrong mid-corner you’re only going to know about it a quarter of a second later when everything is really going mad. If you upgrade to the Veloce spec there is torque vectoring and adaptive dampers, but our car was on passive dampers in launch Speciale trim. We’ll be driving the Veloce later in the year.
There’s also the power delivery which, much like the mild-hybrid, is sometimes unpredictable. In this case, the gearbox integration doesn’t feel like such a big issue, but the boost mix from the engine and electronics can feel like it’s all there at one point and nowhere the next. This is not a problem on a cruise, but try to exit a junction quickly and you might find yourself with a lot less momentum than expected.
To complete this good-bad-good sandwich, range and consumption were a happier story. The Tonale has a stated EV range of around 47 miles, and while we all know that is unrealistic, something around 30 was achievable. Even when pushing on through the barren countryside of Northern England consumption never dipped below 40mpg. Nowhere near the 200+ combined WLTP claims, but enough for us to assume at least double when someone less ledden-footed is at the wheel.