You know that a market segment is on figurative fire when even little niche brands climb aboard eventually… say hello to the new compact crossover from Alfa Romeo.
You should know: I first clapped eyes on the new “toonnale” while the press launch swept through my home town; without me. So my first impressions were purely visual, with highlights being its stunning silhouette, stylish multi-bar light clusters and extremely low profile tyres on gigantic trademark cloverleaf alloys.
More info: Once I’d driven this “Speciale” press vehicle for a while, I climbed onto the internet and discovered – much to my surprise – that I was actually piloting a hybrid. The lacklustre performance also suddenly made sense because I initially thought that this was a low-compression 2-litre, when in fact it’s a 1.5L turbo-petrol hybrid.
Interestingly, this engine develops peak power at 5,750rpm but is red-lined at 5.5k. During our performance tests we noted perfect shifts in first gear but a tendency to reach 6,000rpm in subsequent shifts. Our best 0-100km/h sprint time was 8.61 seconds while Alfa claims 8.8. A single brake test from 100km/h was over in just 2.69 seconds and 38.96 metres.
What else? Fuel consumption is quite impressive, hybrid and/or gear transitions can be jerky at times plus there’s a short-duration EV mode. The “dna” drive modes are well defined, and so are the digital instruments with many Alfa quirks: the fuel and oil temp needles are tiny, with a very full (red) marking for the former.
I was overjoyed to see an oil temperature (instead of coolant) gauge, and on top of that it actually moves around, unlike the pre-programmed stuff of its rivals. The fuel meter has a bizarre ticker-type range indicator which is cool, but seems out of place. You also get three distinct cluster views to choose from, plus a super-cool intro and outro animation.
Why you shouldn’t: The ride is probably meant to be sporty but too firm for most passengers, while I found the steering extremely direct; almost nervous at most speeds. The infotainment system can be slow or laggy, despite the findings of my peers, and this compact SUV’s boot is on the snug size as it only swallows one big suitcase. Ground clearance is just 152mm.
Why you should: Besides the clichéd notions of owning an Alfa, you’d do well to get this car if you want something stylish and different from the hordes of mainstream products. The new Tonale 1.5T Hybrid Speciale currently retails for around R840,000 and comes with a 5-year/100,000km warranty and maintenance plan.
FULL SPEC LIST
|Engine:||1,469cc i-4 turbo-petrol hybrid|
|Transmission:||7-speed Auto, FWD|
|Max. Power:||118kW @ 5,750rpm|
|Max. Torque:||240Nm @ 1,500rpm|
|Avg. cons.:||(claimed 5.7L/100km)|
|0-100km/h:||8.61 seconds (claimed 8.8)|
|Top Speed:||210km/h (claimed)|
|List Price:||From R839,900|