Alfa Romeo’s great red hope is its new Tonale luxury subcompact crossover. The Stelvio’s little brother isn’t just the Stellantis-owned Italian brand’s first toe into smaller SUV waters, it’s also the company’s first ever electrified car thanks to not one, but three hybrid engine options.
But how does it fare against premium rivals like the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA among others in the premium small crossover segment in an on-paper showdown? Take a look at the contenders and see which would get your vote.
ALFA ROMEO TONALE
› From $36,000 (est),
› On sale summer in Europe, 2023 in U.S.
› 1.3 PHEV with 272 hp and 256 hp 2.0-liter, both AWD, for U.S.
› Other markets get 1.5-liter FWD hybrids, plus diesel option
› Based on modified Jeep Compass chassis, same 104-in wheelbase
Visually, Alfa’s 2022 production Tonale stays mostly true to the 2019 concept of the same name. It looks a little doughier around the overhangs and the lights aren’t quite as slim, but it’s got nothing to fear in a beauty contest with its rivals.
And judging from the cabin pics it goes into the interior round of this bout looking every bit as confident. Alfa’s recent interiors haven’t quite matched their premium rivals in terms of materials and finish, but the Tonale looks much stronger here, promises a more sophisticated touchscreen infotainment system, and pairs that with a fully-configurable TFT gauge pack housed in a 1960s-style hooded binnacle.
There’s no word on the likelihood of hot Quadrifoglio or GTA variants, but Alfa says the platform, which is an update on the Jeep Compass’s, could be modified to create a full EV Tonale in future. You won’t have to wait to drive Alfa’s new SUV on battery power, though. It launches with three hybrids: two front-drivers featuring 128 hp (130 PS) and 158 hp (160 PS) 1.5-liter ICE engines augmented by a 15 kW (20 hp/20 PS) shot of volts in each case, and a 272 hp (275 PS) Q4 PHEV.
The Q4’s rear-mounted 90 kW (121 hp/122 PS) electric motor gives it all-wheel drive, and helps it reach 62 mph in 6.2 seconds, while EV range is claimed to be up to 37 miles combined. The U.S. will take the PHEV and a 256 hp (260 PS) 2.0-liter turbo with all-wheel drive, but not the smaller hybrids or the diesel offered in some European markets that can’t kick the filthy habit. Sadly, none of these powertrains can be had with a manual transmission, but on the plus side, the huge aluminum shift paddles look (and should feel) epic.
AUDI Q3 & Q3 Sportback
› From $36,400
› Quattro all-wheel drive standard (U.S.)
› 184-228 hp, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl (U.S.)
› European PHEV and RS not available in North America
› Choice of Q3 or Q3 Sportback
Audi’s version of the same VW Group component set that gave us the VW Tiguan and Skoda Kodiaq gets one over on the Tonale by offering both regular SUV and Sportback coupe-SUV body styles.
Quattro all-wheel drive and a conventional 2.0-liter turbo motor (either with 184 hp/187 PS or 228 hp/231 PS) are compulsory in the U.S. for Q3 buyers, but the European menu its expanded to include 1.4-liter front-wheel drive versions, diesels, and a 1.5-liter Q3 TFSIe PHEV rated at 31 miles of electric driving. Oh yeah, and the snarly 400-horse five-cylinder RS Q3 spoilsport Audi refuses to bring to America.
BMW X1 & X2
› From $36,600
› FWD sDrive and AWD xDrive available
› 228-301 hp, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl (U.S.)
› European PHEV not available in North America
› X1 uses same platform, is roomier
Instead of offering two different rear window lines on the same car, like the Audi Q3 and its Sportback brother, BMW gives buyers the choice of two distinct small SUVs built from the same component set. The X1 does the sensible upright-body, big-trunk thing for customers prioritizing practicality, while the X2 styles itself as a sporty coupe.
Skip the 301 hp (306 PS) M35i and your U.S. X2 comes as a 228 hp (231 PS) 28i in either sDrive front- and xDrive all-wheel drive. But European buyers get the choice of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains ranging from a basic 134 hp (136 PS) three-cylinder to an electrified version of the same with 217 hp (220 PS) and up to 32-mile EV range.
› From $34,225
› FWD or AWD
› 169-181 hp, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl
› European 300e EV not available in North America
› Hybrid is not PHEV
Definitely more high-rise hatchback than SUV, the UX is the cheapest way into a new Lexus. But getting into that Lexus, or at least the back of it, isn’t so easy: these things are seriously short on rear seat and trunk space, though acceptable front room and the impressive interior quality means you might not notice from the driver’s chair.
North American Lexus dealer will sell you a 169 hp (171 PS) front-wheel drive UX 200 or a 181 hp (184 PS) UX 250h hybrid with all-wheel drive. You can’t plug it in though, so its EV capability is limited compared with the Q3 and X2. The solution should be to go for the fully-electric UX300e with its 190-mile electric range, though you can’t do that in the U.S, because it’s not offered.
› From $36,400
› FWD or 4Matic AWD
› 221-302 hp, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl
› PHEV, AMG GLA45 and electric EQA not available in U.S
› Roomier GLB uses same platform, but longer wheelbase
Mercedes-Benz’s second-gen GLA does a much better job of disguising its A-Class origins than the first incarnation ever did. It still prioritizes car-like styling over outright practicality though, so if you prefer something a little more functional, try its GLB brother, which rides on a slightly longer wheelbase and features a more upright rear window.
America skips the puny GLA180 and 200 sold in Europe, and is still waiting to receive the all-electric EQA electric spinoff, so the range currently consists of front- and all-wheel drive GLA250s or the AMG-tweaked GLA35 with its 302 hp (306 PS) and 5.2-second 0-60 mph capability. The 416 hp (421 PS) AMG GLA45 slices almost a second off that figure but like the Audi RS Q3, it’s not available Stateside.
RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
› From $45,000
› AWD-only for U.S.
› 246-296 hp, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl (U.S.)
› European 305 hp P300e PHEV not available in U.S.
The Evoque’s North American starting price is substantially higher than the base stickers on any of the other cars we’ve got here, but you might consider that a price worth paying to own what’s arguably the best looking small SUV on the block. And that’s “best looking” both inside and out. On the other hand, you might be turned off by the kind of J.D Power-rated reliability record that would make an alcoholic kleptomaniac look trustworthy.
Over in its home country, the Evoque is available with everything from a 163 hp (165 PS) front-drive petrol to a 309 hp (313 PS) all-wheel drive PHEV powertrain, with a diesel thrown in for good measure. But for U.S. buyers the choice comes down to the P250 powered by a 246 hp (249 PS) 2.0-liter gas motor, or the P300 mild hybrid with 296 hp (300 PS), both with all-wheel drive.
› From $35,100
› FWD and AWD
› 187-402 hp, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl or dual-motor EV (U.S.)
› European PHEV not available in North America
› Recharge EV runs zero-62mph in 4.9 seconds
While Alfa trades heavily on its “sporty” heritage, Volvo pushes a cool Scandi style and sustainability angle. Its clean, upright design (seen in updated 2023 form on the red car, above) packs plenty of space in a small footprint and the interior quality is great, though even with Google Assistant helping, the infotainment isn’t the most user-friendly.
The XC40 isn’t the kind of car you’ll take down a back road for fun, but the fully electric 402 hp (408 PS) Recharge version will definitely make you crack a smile when you test out its 4.9-second 0-62 mph chops for the first time. The conventional 2.0-liter gas versions (187 hp/190PS FWD and 248 hp/251 PS AWD), and the PHEVs available in Europe, aren’t so rapid, but they start at $34k, versus $55k for the EV.
Which of these junior premium SUVs would get your money? Vote in the poll below and tell us in the comments.