New Alfa Romeo Tonale vs Range Rover Evoque

On paper, Alfa Romeo's new hybrid family SUV ticks all the right boxes. But now we've pitted it against one of the best of the breed to see how it stacks up in reality...

Alfa Romeo Tonale and Range Rover Evoque fronts

The contenders

NEW Alfa Romeo Tonale 1.3 PHEV Veloce

List price £48,495
Target Price £48,495

The Tonale comes from a marque that’s steeped in driver appeal, but does it deliver on the promise of its rakish looks, while ticking all the other family SUV boxes?

Range Rover Evoque P300e R-Dynamic S

List price £48,715
Target Price £47,499

Evoques are a deservedly common sight on the road, and this plug-in hybrid version has the bene t of fast charging. Can it hold up well enough to shrug its new rival off?

A sales rep interviewed for the insightful 1993 BBC documentary From A to B: Tales of Modern Motoring reckoned that the ‘i’ badge on his fuel-injected Vauxhall Cavalier’s bootlid denoted that he was important. Today, he would find the ‘I’ in ‘BIK’ of much greater consequence, because benefit-in-kind tax holds the key to determining exactly what kind of machine a company car driver can afford to put on their drive.

Still, that group has never had it so good, and it’s largely thanks to plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology. Unlike regular hybrids, PHEVs can make entire trips on electric power alone, reducing emissions and, with it, BIK tax. The new Alfa Romeo Tonale and latest Range Rover Evoque both embrace this tech, bringing premium swagger without the high tax liability.

Alfa Romeo Tonale side

Here, the upstart Tonale gets off to a flying start over its older rival; it has a longer official electric range and sits in a lower tax band, plus it can be had in high-spec Veloce form for the price of an entry-level R-Dynamic S PHEV Evoque.

The Evoque, however, is a former What Car? Family SUV of the Year, with quiet cruising manners, a luxurious interior and a plush ride among its fortes. So, can it see off the newcomer?


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

It’s important to know how far a PHEV will go on a full charge; you might not bother plugging it in at all if the battery range is disappointingly short.

Range Rover Evoque side

On a chilly spring morning with the temperature hovering around 10-12deg C, the Tonale’s slightly larger battery allowed it to cover 28.2 miles on battery power alone, versus 25.3 miles from the Evoque. That was on a test route that included a mixture of simulated urban, rural road and motorway driving, so you can expect a longer range if you’re mainly trundling around town, or less if you spend a lot of time on the motorway.

Neither car has any particular trouble getting up to 70mph in EV mode, but the electric motor of the Evoque feels a touch stronger, and that makes joining a fast-flowing motorway without calling on the petrol engine a breezier affair.

You might expect the 305bhp Evoque to be quicker off the line than the 276bhp Tonale, but with the engine and electric motor working together, the lighter Tonale actually pips the Evoque in the 0-60mph sprint by a few tenths of a second, taking 5.9sec.

Alfa Romeo Tonale rear

That said, you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference in real-world driving. From behind the wheel in typical motoring situations – such as accelerating from 50-70mph on the motorway – both cars are evenly matched.

The two can be split through corners, though – and not in the way Alfa Romeo, which has long traded on its sporting heritage, might hope for. It has sought to make the Tonale’s steering as quick and alert as that of the Alfa Romeo Giulia executive saloon, but in this case it’s much too light; as a result, you’re continually making little corrections on fast country roads.

That’s not the case in the Evoque. It may not have as much grip as the Tonale, due to its all-season tyres (these contributed towards the Evoque taking more than one and a half car lengths farther to stop from 70mph), but its steering is much more predictable and requires less concentration when driving swiftly. And while neither car leans as much in corners as some SUVs, the Evoque does so progressively; the Tonale lurches with every steering input.

Range Rover Evoque rear

The Evoque’s suspension is plush enough to soak up rough surface abrasions, yet taut enough to keep things settled over crests and compressions. Unlike the Evoque, the Tonale has adaptive suspension, and its sportiest Dynamic driving mode deals with vertical movements just as well as the Evoque’s conventional set-up. However, while you can soften the Tonale’s suspension at the press of a button, it can’t quite round off potholes or raised ironwork as adroitly as the Evoque’s.

Nor is the Tonale as quiet to travel in; overall interior noise levels were higher when measured at both 30mph and 70mph. This isn’t helped by the Tonale’s very gruff-sounding engine, which kicks up an interior resonance reminiscent of a diesel car when it’s running. The Evoque’s three-cylinder petrol engine is much quieter, and its eight-speed automatic gearbox changes gear seamlessly compared with the Tonale’s clunky six-speed auto.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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