(Detroit) With the Tonale, Alfa Romeo is counting on Quebec to double its sales in the country.

It’s not the last chance model, but we’re getting close. Alfa Romeo, along with the other 13 brands of the Stellantis group, is now just under 10 years old to demonstrate that it is a sustainable company. A status that it has not yet achieved here, as elsewhere in the world. Will the Tonale, its latest addition, be a game changer?

The management of the four-leafed clover brand remains optimistic about recruiting new customers. Although it is well aware that some of its historic attributes – engines that sing loud and clear and transmissions that crack like whips – will bear the brunt of the energy transition. There remains the style, but also the dynamic qualities that have been the hallmark of the Milanese firm for almost 113 years.

The Tonale (pronounced Tonalé) gives a taste of the Alfa Romeo of tomorrow: elegant, stylish, a bit pugnacious and resolutely more ecological. “More mundane too,” sigh fans of the Italian brand, recalling that although the Tonale was born in Italy (see our boxes in the “Specifications” tab), it is based on an architecture originally designed by Jeep. A crime of lèse-majesté for the Alfisti of the first hour. The latter can console themselves by examining the competition, which also does not always use components from the “nobility on wheels”.

For once, the Canadian approach differs from that adopted by the Americans. The latter only include the hybrid motorization with rechargeable socket in the Tonale catalog. In Canada, this one also raises its hood to a 100% gasoline engine. A development strategy that allows the Tonale to be positioned directly against its competitors in terms of price. And also, says Mike Szymkiewicz, planning manager at Stellantis Canada, “to score points on the Prairies, where wire-to-wheel vehicles aren’t very popular yet.” But in Quebec, yes. Especially if said vehicle qualifies for government rebates, as the Tonale does.

Doubling seems like a lot, but you have to remember that year after year, the Italian brand sells some 1,000 copies in the country. Of these, Ontario (45%) and Quebec (35%) represent its main markets.

Revealed at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show in concept form, the Tonale is something of an Italian counterpart to the Dodge Hornet. Both vehicles share the same assembly line.

Apart from the symbolic “scudetto” (name given to the triangular grille) adorned in its center with what some consider to be the most beautiful automotive logo in the world, the Tonale has tone. Elegant and refined, the bodywork of the Tonale exhibits neither the aggressiveness nor the flashiness of the Hornet.

To stand out, always from the Hornet, Alfa Romeo injects a dose of Latinity on board the Tonale. This can be seen in the upholstery, the arrangement of colors and a few nostalgic nods that only brand aficionados will recognize. This is the case of this instrumentation block – entirely digital, but the “legacy” mode projects the counters of the past – which is discovered under the bustier of the dashboard. The finish, far from being flawless, is not in tune with the exterior line. If they are skilled when it comes to clothing or household appliances, why are Italian designers so misguided when designing a car interior?

That said, the Tonale has the merit, compared to the brand’s other creations, of having progressed in the field of ergonomics. With the exception of the cumbersome paddles for manually selecting the gearbox ratios and the firing button placed around the steering wheel, nothing to complain about. The centrally placed digital screen is easy to read and navigation is quick and enjoyable.

In terms of habitability, the Italian utility is aligned with its main rivals. However, we will not dwell on the accessibility of the rear seats – the narrowness of the notches is in question here – and visibility. This is hampered by prominent pillars (A and C).

As mentioned above, the Tonale is based on the architecture of the Jeep Compass. Alfa has however been able to optimize it by retouching in particular the geometry of the suspensions and the gear ratio of the steering.

The weight of electrical hardware is felt. The fundamentalist Alfists will shed a tear when they no longer hear the divine music of the exhausts, but the neighborhood, not so much.

The important thing to remember is rather its ability to travel some 50 km without said exhausts emitting the slightest sound. A performance possible as long as we apply ourselves a little. In this regard, the Tonale could do better by offering, for example, to set the intensity of regenerative braking yourself. This variation seeks to demonstrate that you can appreciate an Alfa Romeo without rushing it. Moreover, the suspensions are not deliberately firm, regardless of the size of the tires.

At the wheel, the Tonale 100% petrol (2.0L engine) is closer to the image that we have of an Alfa. Lighter, barely less swift, this livery turns out to be more twirling to drive. Less oversteering. More lively. The faster steering and the very small torque effect felt during a frank acceleration contribute to this liveliness. However, we would have liked a dual-clutch gearbox, which would have been less sluggish than the one currently offered.

Due to its more fuel-efficient nature, the Tonale’s hybrid configuration is the sensible choice. Especially since it is eligible for government rebates (federal and provincial). In doing so, this Alfa loses a bit of its soul, but could still win new customers.

From $44,995 to $57,495

Yes, plug-in hybrid version


Spirit, are you there?

The Alfa Romeo Tonale was born, just like the Dodge Hornet by the way, at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant. This one, located very close to Naples, assembled for a long time (from 1972 to 1984) the Alfasud model, the first Alfa Romeo with front-wheel drive. This factory played an important social role for the Italian state. The latter, then owner of Alfa Romeo, wanted to promote employment in the southern regions of Italy and thus put an end to the immigration of younger generations to the north of the country.

Anxious to increase its international reputation, Alfa Romeo has been the main partner of the Sauber team for several years now. The latter, recently acquired by Audi, pushes Alfa Romeo towards the exit. The commercial agreement between the two parties ends this year. But if we believe the rumor circulating, the Italian brand wants to duplicate this business partnership with the Haas team next season.

La Presse will soon publish the test of the following vehicles: Ford Mustang, Porsche Cayenne, Subaru Impreza and Toyota Crown. If you own one of these vehicles or are considering one, we would love to hear from you.