Despite producing some gorgeous, fun-to-drive cars, Alfa Romeo has struggled to gain a distinct identity in the U.S. market. The Italian marque’s dealers often have more cars available for sale than any other brand except sibling Fiat, even in a time when many car dealers struggle to keep supply up.
Alfa dealers have only two models to offer – the sharp Giulia sport sedan and handsome Stelvio 5-passenger SUV. Perhaps more Americans would notice them if Alfa had a contender in the smaller SUV space.
Enter the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale.
Alfa hasn’t revealed pricing details yet. The Tonale will go on sale in the last quarter of 2022. Buyers can choose from three trim levels — Sprint, Ti, and Veloce.
Also see: What it’s like to drive the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia
Handsome inside and out
About 6 inches shorter in length and 3 inches shorter in height than the Stelvio, the Tonale shares obvious DNA with its larger brother. The Alfa shield grille makes the hood look long and lean, even if its dimensions are fairly similar to the rest of its class. Sharply-raked rear glass threatens to give it Porsche Macan-like, small-greenhouse proportions, but a thick rear pillar mutes the effect, giving the Tonale a look all its own.
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Inside, heavily bolstered seats with grippy Alcantara faux-suede give it a sporty look. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen in the middle keep pace with the rest of the segment technologically.
As a division of Stellantis
Alfa uses the same Uconnect 5 system as Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler to control climate and entertainment functions. Amazon
Alexa can handle them through spoken commands. Apple
CarPlay and Android Auto, both wireless, are standard. So is wireless phone charging.
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Plug-in hybrid option
But you buy an Alfa for the driving experience.
The Tonale will come with a choice of two powertrains. One uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 256 horsepower and a 9-speed automatic transmission. The other uses a 180-horsepower, 1.3-liter turbo-4 mated to a 90-kW electric motor to lay down a total of 272 total horsepower. It’s a plug-in hybrid system, and Alfa calls it “the most efficient in the segment,” claiming a range of up to 30 miles on electric power alone. It uses a 6-speed automatic transmission. Both powertrains are offered only in all-wheel-drive.
Alfa’s “DNA selector” lets the driver select three performance modes, cutely named Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency.
Non-fungible tire rotation?
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Tonale is not found in the car itself.
Each Tonale comes with a non-fungible token (NFT). We’ll let Alfa Romeo explain it because we’re not sure we entirely understand:
“This distinctive off-board feature – immediately usable and sustainable – epitomizes the innovative nature of Alfa Romeo. With the customer’s consent, the NFT will record vehicle data, generating a certificate that owners can use to assure the car has been properly maintained, with a positive impact on its residual value. On the pre-owned car market, NFT certification represents an additional source of credibility for owners or dealers to count on.”
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That seems to suggest that the “certificate” stores maintenance records in a blockchain system as a sort of advanced Carfax. Your guess is as good as ours as to how much that will matter on the resale market.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.