Alfa Romeo's new hope for sales success, the Tonale small SUV, has been spotted testing in its final, production-spec bodywork ahead of a launch in 2022.
As in a series of leaked images a few months ago, the latest shots show the Tonale bears a resemblance to the original Geneva motor show concept, but with a number of changes. At the front, the split between the bonnet and front bumper has grown, accomodating more conventional headlights.
The rear window has grown in size, too, while the tail-lights are thicker. The overall proportions remain the same, however.
The SUV, which will sit below the Stelvio in the Alfa Romeo range, and which takes its name from another famous Italian mountain pass (this one lower and in the Rhaetian Alps), will be the brand's first car to offer plug-in hybrid technology.
The Tonale concept was a surprise unveiling at the Geneva motor show in 2019 and underlines Alfa Romeo's determination to finally hit the 400,000 per annum sales target - up from around 150,000 in 2018 - that it has long coveted, according to European brand boss Roberta Zerbi. The car's launch is widely reported to have been pushed back by three months to early 2022, as Alfa CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato was not satisfied with the performance of the PHEV powertrain option, which is lifted from the Tonale's platform-sharing Jeep Renegade 4XE relation.
Speaking at the 2019 concept's unveiling, Alfa Romeo Europe boss Roberta Zerbi said: “We expect the Tonale to become our best-selling car. Combined with our other new products, we expect to have a car to suit the needs of around 80% of all European car buyers by 2024, and that puts Alfa in a much stronger position than today.”
Zerbi also claimed back then that the car would reach production with very few changes beyond details such as adding windscreen wipers and switching it from a four to five-seater. “This concept gives a good indication of the production model,” she said. “It is accurate in not just the proportions, but the details, including the telephone dial wheels, the triple headlamps and the dashboard lines.”
Instead of a 'Dynamic' drive mode as in previous Alfas, the Tonale features a 'Dual Power' option that makes maximum use of both motors Zerbi did confirm that convention petrol - and likely diesel - engines would be offered in the line-up as well.
Alfa offered few technical details of the car’s set-up, although reports suggest the Tonale will make use of the Jeep Renegade's platform, meaning front-wheel drive is likely. Zerbi refused to be drawn, saying only: “ “We’re looking at architectures that we have in-house.”
However, then global Alfa Romeo boss Tim Kuniskis promised that the Tonale ”will embrace our core brand principals: advanced engine technology, electrification, distance proportions and stunning Italian design." He claimed: "We will not launch just another CUV. We will launch a CUV as only Alfa can."
Kuniskis also vowed that the hybrid powertrain would be used to enhance the driving experience, rather than just helping the firm meet CO2 emissions targets. "We've put the driver at the centre, with incredible steering feel," he said. "The Tonale will have a distinct personality and timeless design that evokes the passion of its designers."
The Tonale features styling closely aligned to the larger Stelvio, and the firm says it contains touches referencing previous Alfa models. The concept's 21-inch wheels (which have been obviously downsized for the production car) featured a design inspired by the 33 Stradale, and the firm says the narrow front LED lights reflect the SZ and Brera.
Inside, the Tonale concept made extensive use of leather and Alcantara, with a number of backlit panels. The dashboard features a 12.3-inch digital display screen, with a 10.25-inch central touchscreen. Alfa says that the concept features a new version of its infotainment system, including a new multitasking interface.