Alfa bravo | 

The Italian car giant are making a comeback and first up is this plug-in hybrid Tonale

Italian giant turns on the style with its relaunch model and move towards electrification

The new Tonale looks great inside and outside

The new Tonale looks great inside and outside

Daragh Keany

​Imagine having the confidence to relaunch a brand on the back of a car that will go up against behemoths like the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Alfa Romeo were a sleeping dog for a while but they have pinned their ‘electrification’ chapter on this brand new model called the Tonale, which comes in either hybrid or plug-in hybrid versions. There’s no full-electric version for now, but the company’s first BEV will be on sale next year.

So, for now we just have this stunning car to ogle and test and weigh up.

The Tonale is smaller than the Stelvio and uses the same platform as its new stablemate, the Jeep Compass. It starts from €49,995 but my test vehicle for the week was the PHEV version, which starts from €55,495. And in the Veloce trim line it costs another €3,750 on top of that again.

So, you don’t get much change from €60k — meaning you are going to want to get a lot of bang for your buck.

Standard equipment includes dynamic 18-inch ‘teledial’ style wheels, matrix LED adaptive headlights, LED taillights, heated and electrically folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors and a rear camera, keyless entry and starting, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, part-synthetic leather seat upholstery and the Italian company’s lovely little ‘DNA’ drive-mode selector.

The new Tonale looks great inside and outside

There is a 12.3-inch driver’s display as well as a 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and wireless smartphone charging. And there are two USB and two USB-C ports.

There’s a whole host of safety equipment as standard too, like adaptive cruise control with intelligent speed assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, six airbags, forward collision warning, lane assist, driver tiredness detection and traffic sign recognition.

My Veloce trim test car came with dual-stage valve suspension, impressive 19-inch alloys and a body kit (which doesn’t change it dramatically, to be honest).

There were gigantic paddle shifters in my car too which I found myself drawn to (not sure if it was the size that attracted me) and there is a premium Alcantara trim added to the upholstery.

The PHEV has a smaller engine than the MHEV, with a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit but is flanked by a 90kW electric motor for a combined 280hp.

The motor drives the rear wheels, giving the PHEV four-wheel drive, and can do an impressive 0-100kph time of 6.2 seconds.

There’s no denying this is a good-looking car and has stunning lights and I am big fan of the twin exhaust look at the rear.

Inside is definitely focussed on the driver but is not hugely spacious. Everything is a premium finish and the embossed Alfa logos in the headrests is a nice touch.

The rear seats look great and are comfortable, but the lack of space means you would struggle to get a third person in if adults are travelling in the back. Luckily for me it was only three kids in the back I had to worry about — and with no child seats to consider, they were happy out.

The boot in the PHEV is a big disappointment because it only has 385 litres (around 115 litres less than the MHEV version).

Driving-wise, it is all controlled through a chunky and ergonomic steering wheel which is good looking and silky smooth. The steering is more responsive than I am used to but once I got onboard with it I really enjoyed it and found it perfectly fitting with the overall ‘sporty’ feel. And the faster you go, the more agile it feels.

Alfa has gone too far with the gear shift paddles though. They are humungous and (almost) in the way. And a heads up… it will take you a few days to figure out how to use the wipers. I got there on day five of seven!

There is little or no road or wind noise, but I did find the motor a bit loud as I was trying to accelerate in hybrid mode.

The PHEV’s fully-charged battery offers around 60km of range, which is fairly accurate, but buyers should know that there is a very small fuel tank. But it is not that thirsty and if you are good with your charging of the battery you will find you don’t need many trips to the petrol station.

The verdict: This is a really good return for Alfa, who are heading into electrification with Italian gusto in 2024.

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