Italian, But How Much Italian Blood It Have?

Alfa Romeo is a premium Italian brand that produces sports cars. A brand that has never been able to achieve its goals, Alfa Romeo has been showcasing itself in the mid-segment with Giulia and Stelvio. Failing to capture the desired market share with these two models, the brand aims to increase sales with a compact segment SUV. While everyone agrees that Giulia and Stelvio truly embody the spirit of Alfa Romeo, Tonale, on the other hand, is not considered a model from Milan, the city that is the heart of Alfa Romeo like its siblings. Tonale is seen as an Italian, but from another city, Turin, which is the headquarters of Fiat. So why is Tonale not considered a true Alfa?

First, let’s consider Tonale from a design perspective, named after its elder sibling Stelvio, derived from a mountain pass. Tonale features a stylish front with a “trefoil” or cloverleaf-shaped grille. The three-part LED matrix headlights are a detail seen for the first time since the Alfa Romeo 159. While some argue that it should resemble its current elder siblings more, others say it resembles the front used in models like 156 and 159. With both arguments being valid, Tonale finds itself in a dilemma. Now that Giulia and Stelvio have also returned to this headlight design, Tonale, as the new face of the brand, sets the tone for other models. With this move, Alfa Romeo shows its commitment to Tonale, slowly winning over Alfisti who were initially reserved about it.

The muscular hood lines emphasize the car’s power, and the rounded Y-spoke wheels are an Alfa Romeo classic. However, the thin pieces on the wheel spokes have also been a point of criticism. The choice of glossy black for fender flares and body protectors adds a different touch to Tonale. The overall soft lines on the vehicle are another indication of the Italian design language. At the rear, Alfa Romeo incorporates a stoplight design similar to the front headlights, extending them up to the logo and distinguishing the inner graphics of the rear lights with sharper lines than the front headlights. Placing the license plate just under the small trunk lid, Alfa Romeo also colors this section in glossy black.

Italians prioritize vehicle design greatly, and Tonale is a beautiful example of this. Italian designers have elegantly concealed the radar for the adaptive cruise control under the triangular grille. Details such as the active ventilation channels on the edges of the front bumper, the mention of the vehicle’s equipment on the front fenders, and the black exterior mirrors highlight Alfa Romeo’s sportiness. I believe Alfa, being so design-focused, should have hidden the rear wiper under the spoiler.

Opting for the Sprint, the base model, brings some details that might impact the brand perception negatively. These include the unpainted glossy black protections, changes in the front headlight design, and the exclusive availability of exhaust exits only in the hybrid version. Alfa had another saying: Tonale would be a uniquely Alfa model. The fact that it will be sold as the Dodge Hornet in the Americas caused Alfisti to rally against Tonale. However, what angered Alfisti the most was Tonale’s steering system being described as numb and artificial. This is particularly frustrating as its siblings, Giulia and Stelvio, were praised for having the most responsive steering systems in the market. It seems that Alfa Romeo either couldn’t integrate this steering system into the chassis borrowed from the Fiat group, or it proved to be too costly.

Tonale, three out of the four engine options, available in our country, are sourced from the Fiat Group. It can be equipped with the 1.6-liter 130 horsepower diesel unit used in Egea and Doblo, and the 1.5-liter 130 horsepower hybrid unit used in Egea (with a 160 horsepower version). The top engine option for Tonale is the 1.3-liter hybrid unit sourced from Jeep, providing 280 horsepower with four-wheel drive. Could Alfa Romeo have used engines from sources outside the Stellantis group? The answer is no because PSA-based engines are not compatible with FCA-based chassis. Although Tonale does not face issues with its power units, it shouldn’t be criticized for following a common industry practice of sharing engines to cut costs. However, providing different transmission units for each trim level is a peculiar choice, resulting in Tonale lacking a clear focus on either comfort or sportiness in its driving style.

Design, design, design. It successfully continues to be the most emphasized aspect in the interior as well. The steering wheel taken from the top models, the engine start button located on the steering wheel and has become Alfa’s symbol, the column-mounted aluminum paddle shifters, and the aluminum pedal set are all beautifully designed. But here the criticisms begin. The ventilation nozzles look like they were taken from cheap cars, the multimedia screen is Uconnect 5-based and, instead of being embedded in the design like its siblings, it has a vertical placement. The controls on the door handles are borrowed from Egea, and although the overall build quality is good, there are occasional very low-quality plastic usage, workmanship flaws, and, in a way that does not suit an Alfa Romeo, it does not offer a colored seat option. Due to these factors, Tonale is virtually lynched by Alfisti. Tonale, dubbed as “You’re not from Milan, you’re from Turin,” thus falls short in the interior.

The Tonale, with a luggage capacity of 500 liters in the diesel version, has a relatively small luggage space of 385 liters in the all-wheel-drive Q4 version. Details such as ventilation channels and armrests in the rear living area enhance comfort, while knee and headroom in the living area are at average levels. However, the plastic quality used in the rear living area could have been better.

Alfa Romeo Tonale, offering features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping system, blind-spot warning system, 360-degree camera system, Harman Kardon sound system, and ventilated seats, falls behind its competitors in terms of standard equipment. It is unacceptable for an automatic dimming rearview mirror to be offered as an option in a premium car in 2023. Moreover, if you choose the Sprint trim, adaptive LED matrix headlights and glossy black bumpers are not included. Enhancing the standard equipment level, updating the steering system, and providing options for colored interior trim could attract more Alfa enthusiasts to the Tonale. How do you find the Alfa Romeo Tonale?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *