2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV

As much as we want to listen to our hearts, Alfa's first shot at a plug-in hybrid leaves us listening to our heads—for once
As much as we want to listen to our hearts, Alfa's first shot at a plug-in hybrid leaves us listening to our heads—for once

by Nick Tragianis | April 25, 2024


As humans, we listen to our hearts more than our heads more often than we care to admit. Whether it’s a round of cheesy garlic bread before the main course, splurging for the expensive laundry detergent when it isn’t on sale, or staying in your warm bed for a few more minutes when the rest of your room is chilly, the heart wants what the heart wants. The same goes for premium crossovers: the head thinks something like a Lexus NX 450h+ is the smart choice, but it’s the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV that tugs at the heartstrings.

There’s a certain allure to owning an Alfa Romeo. They’ve always had a bit of extra passion baked into each nut and bolt, exuding a sense of style and personality few other cars can match. This is apparent even in its milquetoast, non-enthusiast-spec crossovers like the Tonale, though the idea is a bit of a dichotomy. Here we have an upscale cute-ute that looks better and is way more engaging to drive than your typical cute-ute, but is that really what people want from a vehicle that simply needs to work?

The Tonale has been in-the-works for a while. Having debuted as a thinly veiled concept back in 2019, it took Alfa nearly five years to bring it to market—better late than never, right? It’s also not just Alfa’s first plug-in hybrid, but hybrid-hybrid in general, teaming a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine to a rear-mounted electric motor and a 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The whole setup is good for a healthy 285 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque, routed to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. For those who prefer running strictly purified dinosaurs, we Canadians can get a Tonale with just a 2.0L turbo-four, though U.S. models are PHEV-only.

Living up to the Alfa badge, the Tonale feels engaging than most. The steering is sharp and there’s more weight to it than you’d expect, the plug-in hybrid powertrain packs a solid punch off the line and pulls off most pedal-to-the-metal passes on the highway without breaking too much of a sweat, and the Tonale likes to wag its tail and holds a line surprisingly well when you (intentionally) carry a bit too much speed into an on-ramp. Even the adjustable drive modes Alfa baked into the Tonale make a meaningful difference; the sportiest Dynamic setting tightens up the adjustable dampers and gives the exhaust a bit more volume, while aptly named Advanced Efficiency setting prioritizes electric motivation and holds off on having the gas engine kick on for as long as possible.

But those same traits that add to the Alfa-ness detract from the overall package. The ride is firm; it’s not jarring by any means, but it’s noticeably stiffer than other upscale CUVs in this price point. The 20-inch wheels admittedly look pretty, but the thin sidewalls translates to extra road noise, though wind noise is well-controlled. The transition between gas and electric (and vice-versa) is mostly seamless, though you may occasionally feel a nudge at lower speeds, depending on how many beans you’re giving it.

On the electric end, EV range is good but not great. Alfa quotes up to 53 kilometres on a full charge, though the closest we got on a full charge was 45 km albeit in the dead of winter. Those figures would still be plenty for most, but most other plug-in hybrid CUVs offer more range. Overall, the Tonale sipped 7.1 L/100 km by the end of our evaluation, which is commendably frugal no matter how you slice it. Hooked up to a Level 2 charger, expect a full battery in about 2.5 hours.

The Tonale may not win all the refinement or efficiency points, but its tight proportions and clean lines help the Tonale win the beauty pageant. It’s a stylish and distinctive little thing, made even more so in a colour Alfa calls Verde Fangio Metallic — a $2,000 option, but worth every penny — accented by red Brembo brakes peeking through Alfa’s trademark phone-dial-style wheels.

Inside, the Tonale lives up to expectations, as long as you’re sitting in either of the two front seats. Visibility all around is great, the seats are comfortable, and fit-and-finish and material quality is pretty good though not class-leading. Infotainment is handled by a 10.3-inch touchscreen running the ever-intuitive Uconnect 5 software, teamed to a 12-inch all-digital gauge cluster with crisp graphics and a multitude of display settings, including a gauge layout mimicking old-school Alfas. The layout is mostly intuitive, with a good mix of physical switchgear to accompany whatever is controlled through the touchscreen, though we do wish the paddle shifters weren’t so unnecessarily large, often getting in the way of the turn signal and wiper stalks.

Things start to fall apart behind the front seats. There’s good headroom, but the Tonale doesn’t offer a lot of legroom; there’s not much space under the seats to comfortably tuck your feet, and the uptick in the C-pillar window looks pretty from the outside, but makes the rear environment feel claustrophobic. On cargo space, the Tonale PHEV offers 648 L with the seats up and 1,430 when stowed — identical to the gas-powered model, and right in line with most competitors including the Lexus NX PHEV, though if you’re not dead-set on a plug-in hybrid, the BMW X1 will hold more junk in its trunk with its seats up and down.

Ah, yes, the Lexus NX. That’s one of two factors making the Tonale PHEV a bit of a hard sell. With all the option boxes ticked, you’re looking at $70,835 as-tested but before fees, taxes, and any federal and/or provincial incentives for this particular Tonale. That’s a sizable bump over what Lexus asks for a base-yet-incredibly-well-equipped NX 450h+. Granted the Lexus lacks the fizz that makes the Tonale feel a little more special than the rest, but it’s a much more cohesive overall package, offering a more upscale interior, more refined road manners, and more EV range for less money.

The second factor working against the plug-in Tonale is that you can get into a gasser for about $50,000. That’s appreciably less than the hybrid, even after any rebates you may be eligible for, and after you’ve crunched the numbers to figure out how long it’d take to make up the difference in gas savings. In a vacuum, there’s a lot to like about the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV, but on dollars-and-sense, it may be best to listen to your head instead of your heart. For once.


Vehicle Specs
Compact luxury crossover
Engine Size
1.3L turbo-four PHEV + 15.5 kWh battery
Horsepower (at RPM)
285 hp
Torque (lb-ft.)
347 lb-ft of torque
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
648/1,430 L (seats up/down)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
The DoubleClutch.ca Podcast

About Nick Tragianis

Managing Editor

Nick has more than a decade of experience shooting and writing about cars, and as a journalism grad, he's a staunch believer of the Oxford Comma despite what the Canadian Press says. He’s a passionate photographer and loves exploring the open road in anything he gets his hands on.

Current Toys: '90 MX-5 Miata, '00 M5, '16 GTI Autobahn