It’s almost 2 years since the concept of the Alfa Romeo Tonale, the smaller sibling to the Stelvio executive SUV, debuted at the Geneva Show and, against the backdrop of the approved merger of FCA and PSA comes news that the newcomer is finally coming to market in November.
When Alfa Romeo was under the leadership of the late Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) chairman Sergio Marchionne, the group invested a reported $1 billion in the rear-wheel-drive Giorgio platform, which underpins the current Giulia and Stelvio, to spearhead yet another attempt to re-establish the Milanese brand in North America.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale concept caused a sensation when it debuted at the 2019 Geneva Show.
This move, which ultimately failed, spelt the end for the Mito and Guilietta, the latter of which was finally discontinued last year. However, FCA subsequently conceded that in order to safeguard the future of Alfa Romeo in a market dominated by crossovers, it had to produce at least 1, perhaps 2, SUV-inspired front-wheel-drive family cars, for which, of course, the Giorgio platform isn’t suitable.
So, the Italian marque showed its hand by unveiling the arrestingly styled Tonale concept at the Geneva Show in 2019, replete with sharp, futuristic styling. It was ostensibly based on FCA’s small, wide platform, which also underpins the Jeep Renegade and Compass and, when images of a supposed production version surfaced as early as October 2019, we believed its gestation would be brief.
However, the finalisation of the FCA-PSA merger (the shareholders yesterday voted in favour of the establishment of Stellantis) and, to an extent, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the arrival of the Tonale. In mid-2020, FCA reportedly sent a letter to its suppliers telling them to stop working on research, development, and tooling for future subcompact models, adding to the fuel to the rumour than PSA’s Common Modular Platform would be adapted to underpin those models instead.
Will that development affect the Tonale, though? Perhaps not… According to motor.es, a Tonale Launch Edition will go on sale in Europe in November this year and the rest of the range will apparently be launched, as well as in other markets, in early 2022.
Although the Tonale won’t be quite as outrageously styled as the concept – the “production unit” shown here has conventional side mirrors and headlamp clusters, although the tail-light units at least have an ornate lighting signature – it will certainly look notably more distinctive than the models it will rival, including the Audi Q3/Q3 Sportback, BMW X1/X2, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Volvo XC40 etc.
Engine options remain unconfirmed, but the 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbopetrol that does service in the Renegade and Compass (producing 103 kW/230 Nm in the former and 125 kW/250 Nm in the latter), should be retained, although the naturally aspirated 2.4-litre 4-cylinder is probably a non-starter. However, the newcomer is likely to debut as a plug-in hybrid, powered by a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engine with an 11.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, with combined outputs of either 140 kW or 176 kW and an electric-only range of approximately 42 km in the WLTP cycle.
While the Alfa Romeo will probably be offered with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, it’s not clear whether the Tonale will be offered with an all-wheel drivetrain. Also, most observers believe a Quadrifoglio variant is unlikely to come to fruition.
Is Brennero next?
Meanwhile, Motor1.com's Italian edition recently reported FCA would invest in its plant in Poland to build hybrid and electric models for Fiat, Jeep... and Alfa Romeo!
Starting in the 2nd half of 2022, the plant will produce the turbopetrol-, hybrid and EV versions of successors to the 500X and Renegade and the 3rd model is most likely to be the Alfa Romeo Brennero, which is the brand's forthcoming compact crossover that will slot in below the Tonale and effectively replace the Giulietta.