Alfa Romeo’s latest transformation, this time as a member of Stellantis, will be led by its first small SUV, and first electrified vehicle.

It’s called the Tonale, and has been in the works for some time after premiering as a concept in Geneva during 2019. Development was reportedly extended under the eye of CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato.

The Tonale’s role will be to serve as a new entry point to the range, which also comprises the Giulia and Stelvio. It’s the starting point for Alfa’s latest five-year plan, which will see the company launch a new model every year to 2026.

Built at a refurbished Stellantis plant in Naples, Tonale order books open globally in April. It won’t arrive in Australia until the first half of 2023, with a standard hybridised-petrol engine.

Unfortunately, the flagship plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain will not be available locally for the foreseeable future.

Pretty faithful to the concept, the Tonale was signed off by design head Alessandro Maccolini at the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. It has clean lines and Alfa staples like the upside-down triangle grille and five-hole wheel rims.

The Matrix LED headlight units also include distinctive wave-like daytime running lights, dynamic indicators, and “Welcome and Goodbye” sequencing. The matching tail lights span the width of the tailgate, and the lighting unit houses the Alfa Romeo badge.

“The car’s sensuality and dynamism are also clear in the all-encompassing rear window, a tribute to the 8C Competizione, and in the design of the alloy wheels that reproduce the Alfa Romeo ‘style canon of the telephone dial’,” the company’s design spiel says.

Dimensionally, the Tonale is 4530mm long, 1840mm wide and 1600mm tall. That makes it 157mm shorter, 63mm narrower, and 48mm lower than the Stelvio.

The cabin in the launch models uses lots of Alcantara, leather and aluminium; is decidedly driver-facing; uses a thin-rimmed and sporty wheel; gets big aluminium paddle shifters; and has an instrument cluster (named ‘Cannocchiale’) that uses a digital skin with nods to the 1960s.

This cluster can also be reconfigured from among three layouts: Evolved, Relax and Heritage, the latter inspired by some of the brand’s more iconic models with its retro fonts.

The touchscreen (with rotary dial) is 10.25 inches across and runs an Android operating system with over-the-air software updates. It’s said to be highly configurable via drag and drop motions: the screens for media, phone, sat-nav, aircon, connected services, driving modes, and active safety menus can be arranged how you want.

Other features listed in the press release include ventilated and heated seats, LED ambient lighting, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, automatic parking, an electric tailgate, and a wireless charger. It will come in Super and Ti spec grades, with Sprint and Veloce packages as options.

It’ll also come with all the expected driver-assist features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-centring, traffic sign recognition with intelligent speed-limiter, adaptive cruise control, drowzy driver detection, blind-spot monitor, cross-traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera display.

Australian examples will be powered by a new turbocharged 1.5-litre Miller Cycle petrol engine backed by a 48V belt-driven starter/generator and motor capable of contributing 15kW and 55Nm. It’s front-wheel drive only, and is mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Total power is quoted as 120kW.

Alfa Romeo says it’ll be able to drive electrically at low speeds and when cruising, while the motor can add boost when rolling, which should make it ideal for stop/start traffic.

Unfortunately, for launch at least, two higher-performing engine options won’t make it to Australia. A circa 190kW petrol is left-hand drive only, and the plug-in hybrid isn’t available in our region for the time being – disappointingly.

The ‘Q4’ AWD PHEV packages a 1.3-litre turbo driving the front wheels, an electric motor driving the rear wheels — for a rear-wheel drive feel, apparently — and a 15.5kWh battery pack.

System output is a claimed 205kW and electric range is a claimed 60km on the combined cycle. The 0-100km/h claim is 6.2 seconds.

There’s also no Quadrifoglio model at launch.

Rather than using a Stellantis EMP group platform, the Tonale rides on a still-active Fiat Chrysler C-SUV platform – believed to be shared with the Jeep Compass, but with suspension and steering better suited to sporty driving than soft-roading, and a completely new electrical architecture.

Alfa Romeo claims the Tonale has the most direct steering ratio in the class, comes with Brembo braking, available multi-stage dampers, targeted automatic wheel braking in corners, and MacPherson strut suspension front and rear.

MORE: 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale spied days before official reveal
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MORE: Alfa Romeo launching new model every year to 2026
MORE: Alfa Romeo going electric-only in 2027

Mike Costello
Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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