First Drive: Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-in hybrid UK 2023 Review

Living up to its targets..?
26th April 2023
Ben Miles



The Tonale is everything to Alfa Romeo right now. An assault on possibly the volume-selling segment of the moment and the first step in a wildly aggressive switch to an all-EV lineup. 

On the latter, 2027 still remains the hard target to only sell EVs for Alfa Romeo – which is bold for a company expecting to sell its first pure EV in 2025. But the determination is strong so you can only assume they stand a chance. Plug-in hybrid tech in the Tonale is step two toward that goal, following the standard car’s mild electrification. 

When we drove that car we were impressed with its chassis but found drawbacks elsewhere – including that clever but inconsistent powertrain – you can read our review here. So can more power and more electrification help?

We like

  • Best looks in class
  • Lovely chassis
  • Decent EV-only range

We don't like

  • Vague steering
  • Intrusive engine noise
  • Weedy petrol



I will point you to the original Tonale review for an in-depth look at the visual qualities of the Tonale. But for a quick recap, it looks just as good here in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales National Park as it did by Lake Como (yes, hard life I know).

The triple headlight configuration is an evocation of the Alfa SZ – a car we’re particularly fond of at GRR – and is now being rolled out across the rest of the fleet. The nose is a more sharpened play on the style seen on the Stelvio – a car which remains pleasing to the eye but looks a little dumpy next to its smaller sibling.

The full light bar at the rear, played out like it’s been drawn by hand, is one of the best around and if you have it in the right spec two simple exhausts finish it off nicely.

Performance and Handling


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.



I like the inside of the Tonale, as I did the innards of the Stelvio and Giulia. The integration of the infotainment system is nice – not too massive and sitting slightly proud of the design elements in the dash. You can read more about the design of the interior in our previous review.

Interior quality is, for the most part, good, and far less susceptible to wobbling than its older sisters. The dash is all-digital and can be set up as trad dials or a fully-fledged nav system and rear room, while not incredible, is decent. What isn’t decent is the strange lack of footwell space for the driver. I found my right foot regularly coming into contact with the side of the footwell while using the throttle and the left struggling for space, even in a two-pedal car.

Technology and Features


The 10.25-inch touchscreen is very easy to use. It might not be the fastest or most slick to the finger as some, but the menu layout is far less labyrinthine than many have elected to make it. 

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay can be found as standard and both USB and USB-C points will set this up – there’s also wireless charging – but using the onboard system isn’t going to be a hassle in comparison. 

The dash is 12.3 inches and configured from both the menus and a button on the screen. It was from time to time a little difficult on the go to switch one of the two options – with a single button selecting on which screen you want the data to change. Aside from a couple of small glitches, it worked well and the layout is simple to read.

As standard the Tonale comes with keyless entry and go, parking sensors, auto headlights and windscreen wipers, traffic sign recognition, lane keep, powered bootlid and driver alertness sensors. 

For charging the Tonale uses a 7.4kW AC charger, with a sensible storage space for cables in the boot floor. With the right cable, you’ll be able to charge at the max rate and fill the batteries in under 2.5 hours.



There are things to like about the Alfa Romeo Tonale. The excellent chassis with some clearly Alfa Romeo characteristics and the looks – clearly the best in its category. Then there's the electric range which helps put it in the lowest BiK rate and delivers some real-world distance. But the drawbacks leave us thinking a little about what might have been and a little about what’s next. 

In the grand scheme of electrification, Alfa won’t have to think about petrol/electric integration for long – just four years until petrol isn’t in Alfisti vocabulary – and when it’s cruising in electric mode the Tonale feels like a good prospect. But when you do actually have to deal with the switch, it can be frustrating. Also, the steering, so obviously set up for nipping in and around town, is perfect for that job but is connected to a chassis that could do so much more.

If a Quadrifoglio eventually follows, it’ll arrive with some real tools to work with. Those pin-sharp driving dynamics don’t totally matter to the average small SUV buyer, but there are rivals that manage to do it all in one go, and that is the Tonale’s real problem.


Engine 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol, plug-in hybrid
Power 280PS (206kW) @ 5,750rpm
Torque 270Nm (199lb ft) @1,850rpm
Transmission Six-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
Kerb weight 1,835kg
0-62mph 6.2 seconds
Top speed 128mph
Battery range 43 miles
Fuel economy 213mpg (WLTP)
CO2 emissions 26-33g/km
Price From £44,595