2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale is a Pretty, Petite Plug-In Hybrid SUV … With NFTs

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick
2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce European spec

Alfa Romeo’s BMW X1 and X2 competitor will arrive in North America early 2023, with a few class-exclusive features.

After almost four years since the original concept, Alfa Romeo early Tuesday revealed the production version of its Tonale crossover. The second high-rider in the brand’s history will slot in below the existing Stelvio, to take on the quickly growing sub-compact SUV class. It introduces numerous brand-, class-, and industry-firsts, including a plug-in hybrid powertrain and the introduction of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Italian styling

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce European spec

We’ll start with the design, which remains remarkably faithful to the 2019 concept’s look. The iconic Alfa shield grille remains front and center, with larger LED headlights flanking it. Alfa says the headlights are inspired by the squared-off ones of the ’90s SZ Zagato—but we definitely wouldn’t call the Tonale il mostro. The lower bumper features a wide opening and two small air curtains on either side, also echoing the concept design.

Around the sides, the production-friendly door handles and side mirrors are the only major change from the original Tonale design. The window line still sweeps upward aft of the rear doors, giving the Tonale a distinct look from its bigger brother. At the rear is the all-too-common full-width taillight treatment. Like the headlights, the setup is taller here than the concept, but otherwise the whole hatch looks very similar to what we saw in 2019. A set of telephone dial wheels rounds out the package.

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Overall, in typical Alfa fashion, the Tonale is an attractive design. It’s hard to get an idea of the size of the thing in solo press shots, however. The Italian brand says the Tonale measures 178.3 inches (4,529 millimeters) from nose to tail, and is 63.0 inches tall (1,600 mm). Width is 72.4 inches (1,839 mm). That makes it a couple inches longer than the BMW X1, a little less than an inch wider, and a hair taller. The car you see here is the Veloce trim, one of three coming to the US; the others are Sprint and Ti. Canada will skip the latter.

Alfa Romeo Tonale interior

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce European spec front seating

Inside, the Tonale gets a sporty, driver-focused setup, with plenty of brushed aluminum and suede covering most surfaces. A two-level dashboard design keeps all the important (physical) controls at close reach, and ensures the standard 10.25-inch touch screen doesn’t impinge on outward visibility too much. The Stelvio’s cool, aviation-influenced vents return at the far corners of the dashboard, with slimline rectangular units in the center. We spy a large wireless charger ahead of the shifter too, with the revised DNA drive mode selector now angled towards the driver.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: Still the Sporty SUV Summit

The seats are a combination of leather and suede, with the Alfa Romeo crest embroidered in the headrest. We’re happy to report the steering wheel looks largely like the one in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio we drove last year. It’s the right size and thickness, with smart perforated inserts right where you need them. Better still, the large aluminum shift paddles have made the trip to the Tonale. Ahead of the driver, the deep cowl around the digital instrument panel is a welcome nod to the brand’s sporty heritage.

Alfa Romeo Tonale engine lineup

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce European spec badge

While the Italian brand will launch the Tonale in front-wheel-drive form and a brace of tiny, turbocharged engines in Europe, North American Tonales will come with the two most powerful engine options. One is still a tiny (1.3-liter) turbo four-pot, but it will be Alfa Romeo’s first plug-in hybrid powertrain. The PHEV Q4 AWD setup pairs the ICE with a 90-kW electric motor, drawing power from a 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, the package is good for 272 horsepower, while also delivering an all-electric range of over 30 miles (48 kilometers). The 1.3-liter hooks up to a six-speed automatic, delivering its power solely to the front wheels. Meanwhile, the electric motor only powers the rear axle. This is similar to the setup we’ve seen in vehicles like the RAV4 Hybrid.

The other engine option at launch will be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder. This standard motor produces 256 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque—more than the standard 2.0-liters in the X1 and X2, Mercedes-Benz GLA, or Volvo XC40. It hooks up to a nine-speed automatic, and includes standard engine start-stop tech.

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Alfa is promising the Tonale will be the best-driving vehicle in the class. To that end, the automaker has fit a quick 13.6:1-ratio steering rack, and sourced brake calipers from Brembo. A fully independent suspension uses Frequency Selective Damping shock absorbers, while an available active suspension brings in electronically controlled dampers. Drivers will be able to adjust drive settings through the expanded DNA selector.

Alfa Romeo Tonale technology

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale European spec "CANNOCCHIALE"

Alfa is loading the Tonale with everything it can throw at the little cute-ute. Both the 10.25-inch center touchscreen and 12.3-inch “Cannocchiale” digital instrument panel are standard, giving the Tonale what Alfa calls the most standard screen real estate in the class. The former runs the Android-based Uconnect 5 infotainment system, one of AutoGuide‘s favorite user interfaces. It allows for customized user profiles, over-the-air (OTA) updates, and wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa integration.

Driver safety plays a big role in the Tonale, as well. Standard-fit assists include advanced automatic emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, driver attention assist, and rear-seat reminder. Adaptive cruise control is also standard, with an upgraded Traffic Jam Assist available.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce European spec

Easily the most controversial aspect of the Tonale is its industry-first use of NFTs. Details are scarce as of now—Stellantis spokespeople said the tech partnership is still under embargo during a pre-release talk with media. What we do know is that each Tonale will come with an NFT on purchase, and that Alfa plans on updating it over the course of the car’s life cycle. AutoGuide asked about the rate at which the NFT will update, since blockchain mining requires massive amounts of computing energy. A spokesperson told us the company is still determining frequency. Buyers will be able to opt out of the NFT aspect of ownership, however, and will be able to “buy out” if they sell the car. Only first-party teams will be able to make service and driving history changes to the NFT, as well. Alfa Romeo says the use of NFTs is meant to improve residuals, but we’ll have to see how the market responds first.

The Alfa Romeo Tonale will arrive on our shores very early 2023. Before the end of the year, Alfa will open the order books in both Canada and the US. Stay tuned for more details.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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