2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce

Alfa Romeo's new-and-fresh Tonale is a spunky and stylish little thing, but its quirks and teething issues are too abundant to ignore
Alfa Romeo's new-and-fresh Tonale is a spunky and stylish little thing, but its quirks and teething issues are too abundant to ignore

by Nathan Leipsig | February 22, 2024

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While discussing the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce on our podcast, one of my colleagues remarked something to the effect of: “Regardless of how good it is, no one will buy one. It’s an Alfa Romeo. People are afraid of them because of their reputation, because they’re the quirky alternative option, and they don’t risk money on the quirky alternative. This goes especially so for people shopping for a compact crossover.”

This is a tricky review to write, because I really like the Tonale and I want it to succeed, but I’m not sure it’s able to meaningfully stand out in this viciously competitive segment. Worse yet, the Tonale’s quirks are less of the “oh that’s neat” variety, and more of the “oh that’s broken” variety. I started thinking this sweet little tiramisu needs to go back in the oven for a bit, but now that I’ve learned this debuted as a concept all the way back in 2019, I’m wondering if its main issue is that it’s been in the oven for too long.

Alfa Romeo has a really lovely recipe here. They’ve nailed the core tenets thoroughly, and they’ve executed its preparation with all the flair you’d expect from the storied Italian institution. The Tonale looks great, blending elegance and dynamism together with verve and attention to detail, and our test vehicle’s Misano Blue paint looks spectacular against the deluge of anonymous white and/or gray crossovers that will probably outsell it 10-to-one.

The cabin borrows a lot of design cues from Alfas of old, employing a simple dashboard layout broken up only by a backlit patterned panel, and the driver’s side comes complete with the signature angled binocular gauge cluster housing, popularized by the legendary GTV. Under that distinct binnacle is a 12-inch digital gauge cluster that looks fantastic and cleverly integrates a plethora of information in a stylish, customizable way.

A 10.3-inch touchscreen is subtly floated over the stitched lower dash pad and is powered by Stellantis’ UConnect 5 infotainment, which looks good and works very well. I personally very much like how Alfa has opted for a “less is more” approach with regards to digital real estate, prioritizing clean and thoughtful design over just throwing more pixels at the cabin. Less thoughtful is the volume control, which I honest-to-God missed for three whole days, as it’s perfectly eclipsed from your view by the shifter.

I thought this was just a cute Italian quirk, bit the quirks kept coming and kind of stopped being cute. There’s no paddles for manual shifting; you’re stuck using that shifter if you’re feeling playful. It happened on a couple of occasions that seat heating would turn off on its own, and then refused to turn back on. The auto-dimming function gets confused by dawn & dusk, and gets over-excited by overpasses, instantly turning the cluster nearly off and then cranking itself back up to searing bright, then refusing to be turned back down via the dimmer. Lastly, the adaptive cruise and lane centering system didn’t work. At all. Womp womp.

Those are pretty much all software quirks that’ll be dialed out, but the hardware underneath is genuinely quite good, and goes a long way to redeeming the Tonale’s shortcomings. The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder puts out a healthy 268 horsepower and a 295 pound-feet of torque, routed through a nine-speed automatic transmission with standard all wheel drive and even a torque-vectoring rear differential.

Our top-skew Veloce tester adds 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, and dual-mode dampers that stiffen up at the behest of the DNA drive mode selector. While the powertrain delivers a surprising amount of forward punch, these trick shocks working in tandem with the clever rear differential make the Tonale a remarkably lively driving experience that sets it apart from its contemporaries. If you pitch it into a corner and punch the throttle, you can actually feel the Tonale’s rear end wake up and start working, inducing a modicum of yaw and generally feeling lively — something I was not expecting in a commuter crossover. The steering has a modest heft to it and feels pretty well-connected to the road, and the brake pedal is firm and linear, serving as willing partners in getting the most out of the Tonale’s impressively entertaining and communicative chassis.

This is not to say the Tonale isn’t nice to drive when you’re not playing with it. The engine is quiet and smooth, giving a deep growl under load and otherwise being docile. The transmission is pretty seamless once underway, but occasionally awkward at a stop. The ride is comfortable and well-controlled, and wind noise is impressively well-isolated, though its Michelin all-season rubber generate a moderate amount of tire roar. This is easily tuned out by the 14-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, which holds its own against much more costly vehicles.

Unfortunately, the Tonale struggles to hold its own against its own competitors in its price bracket. It’s charming, likable, pretty well-equipped, and drives great, but when you start measuring it against what else you can have for its $47,395 as-tested price, cracks start showing in its stylish facade. A decked-out Mazda CX-30 Turbo drives very nearly as well and also looks great, but has more power, a nicer cabin, and undercuts the Tonale by a few grand. For similar money as the Tonale, you’re into a much larger, still-loaded, and just-as-fun-to-drive CX-50.

Among the Tonale’s actual competitors, you’re in about the same territory as a base BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLB. Granted they don’t offer anywhere near the level of equipment at this price and don’t offer anywhere close to the Alfa’s engagement, but you do have badge power, which is a real thing to real people. In its defence, the Alfa Romeo badge has its own mystique and the Tonale is built in Italy, alonside most other desirable designer appendages. It’s not nothing, but maybe not enough.

The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce is a charming, fun little thing that I like and want to love, but I’m a little worried that it’s dead-on-arrival. Ever since it was announced in 2019, the competition has grown to be so good in that long gestation period; the Tonale gets the essentials right, but misses some of the details such as an over-abundance of low-rent materials and too many teething issues to ignore. I hope Stellantis figures out, because it’s a really sweet little thing that deserves to do well.

 

 

Vehicle Specs
Segment
Compact luxury crossover
Engine Size
2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower (at RPM)
268 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft.)
295 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
11.2/8.2/9.9
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
10.1
Cargo Capacity (in L)
648/1430 (seats up/down)
Base Price (CAD)
$46,495
As-Tested Price (CAD)
$47,395
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About Nathan Leipsig

Deputy Editor Nathan is a passionate enthusiast with a penchant for finding 80s and 90s European vehicles. He can typically be found messing about on his E28 5-series or on Kijiji looking for the next project. Current Toys: '78 928, '23 MX-5 GS-P, '95 XJR, '86 535i, '99 New Beetle GLS 5MT
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