Alfa Romeo Tonale

If the Tonale was intended as the car to save Alfa Romeo – and, let’s face it, there have been a few – you wouldn’t really know as much from a pair of electrified powertrains whose outright performance and drivability each leaves a fair bit to be desired.

Alfa’s engineers will tell you that the small electric motor and drive battery of the mildhybrid model are ‘right-sized’ for the car – but in practice they feel undersized to provide a truly convincing hybrid driving experience. The engine cuts in very quickly and it gets quite buzzy when it’s pushed. It feels slightly stronger and perhaps a shade more refined than some hybrid options, but a conventional petrol 2.0-litre BMW X1 is faster and more refined still.

Largely the same is true of the mild hybrid’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox: it’s okay, but if you’re coming from a BMW eight-speed auto, you won’t be impressed with the smoothness, speed or shift points it chooses.

In the case of the more powerful PHEV, outright performance certainly feels more responsive and assured; but here, the Tonale’s pace and drivability depends quite a lot on the condition of its drive battery. 

When fully charged, our performance tests confirmed that the car will indeed hit 60mph from rest in 6.3sec, and go on to crack a standing quarter mile in a shade under 15sec; both creditably athletic markers. But when we tried the same tests again with the battery fully depleted, the car needed a second longer to hit 60mph, and more than 2.5sec longer to hit 90mph from standing. 

The subjective performance of the Tonale PHEV feels even more adversely affected by a flat battery. Part-throttle responsiveness is dulled quite noticeably when the combustion engine’s crankshaft is being ‘dragged’ in order to top the battery back up, so it feels a little as if you’re driving through treacle – that is, at least, until you get to the lower reaches of the accelerator pedal’s travel, when the car’s powertrain calibration switches. Rivals certainly do a better job of delivering a consistent driving experience regardless of battery condition.

Refinement in the PHEV ranges from decent to mediocre. The combustion engine runs in quite reedy-sounding, tappetty fashion, and Alfa’s cabin insulation measures aren’t very effective. We recorded 71dbA of cabin noise at a 70mph motorway cruise, where some premium-brand options in the class get to 67dbA or below.

Brake pedal progression, via Alfa’s electromechanical brake booster system, is a little soft, but doesn’t feel overly artificial, and allows you to manage energy regeneration and friction braking well enough.

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