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Alfa Romeo Tonale. Good Enough to Tempt Singaporeans?
Is Alfa Romeo’s first hybrid, the Tonale, good enough to attract new Singapore drivers to the brand? Let’s find out in our honest, independent car review, that pulls no punches.
- Sleek styling
- Ride quality
- Low-end power
- Spacious interior
- High-tech connectivity
- Power delivery can be hesitant
- Little steering feel
- Some hard plastic in the interior
What is the Alfa Romeo Tonale Hybrid?
The Alfa Romeo Singapore Tonale is the storied marque’s first vehicle with a hybrid powertrain, and its first foray in the competitive small SUV segment.
In Singapore the default is the Veloce variant, which features more equipment than the base-model available elsewhere, including adjustable dampers, shift paddles for the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, larger wheels, upgraded brakes, along with some sportier exterior details. The Tonale is powered by a mild-hybrid engine, connecting a 160hp 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a 48-volt, 15kW/55Nm, electric motor, all driving the front wheels. The combination means the Tonale can reach 100km/h from a standstill in a claimed 8.8 seconds, and achieve 5.6l/100km fuel economy.
The Alfa Romeo Singapore Tonale straddles the small/mid-size SUV categories, and does it with a degree of style. There are some lovely Alfa touches to the styling, including three-segment headlights, similar styling to the taillights, traditional Alfa ‘telephone-dial’ wheels, and even an Italian flag logo on the exterior mirrors.
All this is topped-off with an embrace of technology. The My Alfa Connect app (Android and iOS) allows owners to remotely lock or unlock the vehicle, start the engine or cancel the start remotely, find the vehicle by flashing the lights or sounding the horn, or locate the vehicle on a map using the Vehicle Finder function. It can even be used to check the fuel level or to pre-send navigation instructions.
Many of these functions can also be achieved using Amazon Alexa at home, and you can use Alexa in the cockpit to add items to your shopping list or control your home automation systems.
The car even comes with a blockchain-based Non-Fungible Token to register vehicle data such as maintenance history, for better resale value for meticulous owners.
How does the Tonale Hybrid drive?
Alfas are renowned for their handling, and the Tonale shouldn’t disappoint. The turn-in is quite sharp, it corners well, and grip is excellent. Even with the dampers set to firm, the ride and grip remains quite good and body control is outstanding. The steering is quite sharp, but there’s little feel, and it is quite light. Switching the DNA dial (for Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency modes) to Dynamic at least gives the steering more weight.
Engine performance is reasonably good, particularly at lower engine speeds. Maximum torque is achieved at only 1,500rpm, so for most driving conditions acceleration feels quite strong. In Advanced Efficiency mode everything does feel quite doughy though. This is probably the mode you’d choose for traffic, and it does increase efficiency – the Tonale can operate in electric-only mode up to about 40km/h.
The system limits torque in tight corners, so it waits until you straighten the wheels before delivering, which can be frustrating.
Alfa fans may be disappointed by the engine’s lack of character, however. There’s a fair amount of turbo whistle around 2,000rpm, but it sounds like it’s working hard to get to the redline, even if it does so reasonably quickly.
What is the Tonale Hybrid’s interior like?
Despite some hard plastic parts in places, the interior is very smart. There are some lovely interior details like the eyeball air vents, a 10.25-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash that’s actually easy to use, and even the DNA control dial makes a lot of sense compared to competitors.
Traditional Alfa Romeo Singapore fans may be surprised by the ergonomics here. The driver gets a large 12.3-inch TFT dash display, with three selectable instrument styles, including ‘heritage’, which is reminiscent of late ‘60s Alfas. It’s a lovely touch. The steering wheel is very nice. It’s great to hold, and well-positioned, with a number of controls – including the stop/start button and audio controls – on the spokes.
There are a pair of large aluminium shift paddles to control the 7-speed transmission manually, for those with a sporty driving bent. The driving position is quite good, but for some drivers their lower leg will rest against hard plastic on the centre-console.
The Alfa Romeo Singapore version comes equipped with vented leather front seats with eight-way electric adjustment and three memory settings on the driver’s side, as well as a premium Harman Kardon audio system.
There are numerous electronic driving aids too, such as a 360-degree camera, blind-spot detection, auto lights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane support, drowsy driver detection, and more.
Rear seat space is very good for a small SUV (though the Tonale is larger than many in the class), with space for three, and plenty of legroom, even for taller passengers. The rear seat position is quite high, so rear passengers – those who are tall enough – will be able to see over front seats.
Alfa claims 500 litres of boot space with the seats in position, and 1,550 litres when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded flat. Access is via an electric tailgate.
Is the Tonale Hybrid good enough?
In international markets the Tonale is seen as something of a make-or-break model for Alfa Romeo, and the signs look good – global volume for Alfa grew by 64 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same quarter last year.
While pundits question the Tonale’s ability to attract so-called ‘alfista’ back to the brand, in the Singapore context that’s somewhat moot – at the end of 2022 there were only 457 Alfa Romeos on Singapore roads, making them rarer than Ferraris.
The aim for the Alfa Romeo Singapore Tonale will be to attract first-time customers. This may be a tough task in the competitive premium small SUV segment, but with its good looks and keen handling the Tonale may well have what it takes to tempt some buyers away from the more mainstream marques.
The video is produced by Chasing Cars, partner of our sister company Budget Direct Australia. Some features or options in the car build may not be applicable to the Singapore market (including the availability of car parts). Remember to check with your local dealer for details.
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