2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-in is the Dodge Hornet’s Alla Moda Italian Sibling

If the Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce compact crossover looks a little familiar to you, it’s because it shares most of its body, interior, and architecture with the Dodge Hornet.  Don’t get me wrong, both harbor accomplished bits straight from Italy.  Our little Alfa goes further with a proper plug-in hybrid powertrain that optimizes efficiency while providing quick weekend reflexes.  The question, though, “Is the Hornet a bargain Alfa Romeo or is the Tonale a fancy Dodge?”

Smooth Italian Style

Styling is all Italian with a smooth curvaceous body cribbed from the larger Alfa Stelvio crossover.  The front pays homage to the Alfa Romeo Zagato concept with the brand’s trademark grille, triple-sided headlamps, and angry mesh lower air intake.  Proper Grigio 20” five-hole alloy wheels and red brake calipers convey purpose.  It leaves its last impression with a thin light strip containing six more segments and a lower diffuser.  It’s all mostly for show, but connects to a storied heritage.

Alfas are about driving, and in this one, everything falls readily at-hand.  The thick leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel is canted forward in the Italian tradition, seats wrap tightly, and large analog gauges add sporting touches.  Of course, in a modern Alfa, gauges are flatscreen, a large touchscreen controls infotainment, and devices connect wirelessly via Apple CarPlay plus Android Auto.  Charge wirelessly too.  Heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and thumping Harman Kardon audio system add delights to the drive.

Despite some very upscale features, the interior does not feel as rich as one might expect in an Alfa Romeo.  There’s a lot of hard plastic, even on the rear door tops –cost-cutting more appropriate in a Fiat than an Alfa Romeo.  The expanse of light plastic across the dash looks cheapish in daylight, but has a very nice ambient glow at night.  The steering wheel and seats are some of my favorite parts of the cabin.

Safety definitely was not done on the cheap.  Adaptive cruise takes stress off the drive while automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot warning, and rear cross path detection provide peace of mind.  A rear seat reminder and driver attention monitor actively watch over occupants.

Enjoying Open Roads

Out on the road, the powertrain combines a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and batteries/motors for combined 285 horsepower, 347 lb.-ft. of torque, and 77-MPGe.  After plugging in, the Tonale can travel about 30 miles before the gas engine fires up.  You can drive to the office and back on electricity, or coast-to-coast on gas, without looking for an outlet.  Those looking for an EV without hassle will appreciate this set-up.

But, driving it is a mixed bag.  On smooth Autostrada, the Tonale’s tight adaptive suspension and quick steering are an absolute joy, but not so much as it jitters over rough city streets.  Drive modes adjust from maximum power to advanced efficiency, and it scoots from 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds, but you’ll wish for a nice Japanese crossover on rougher roads.  My daughter and I made a two-hour Interstate run to have lunch with mother.  It was a delightful drive.

I could have written nearly all of this about the Dodge Hornet.  They’re both legit Italian crossovers, fun to drive and beautiful to view, but it’s a little easier to excuse some harshness and hard interior materials on a Dodge.  A base price of $43,845 rose to $57,450 for our well-equipped Veloce plug-in.  Competitors include the Lincoln Corsair PHEV and Lexus NX plug-in hybrid.

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at [email protected]; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.