Alfa Romeo is about to kick-start its range recovery with the new Tonale – and the firm will build on this with a baby SUV due in 2024, with the company’s boss promising that even this smallest of models will still “drive like an Alfa”.
The Italian brand is gearing up to push its Tonale family SUV into showrooms in the second half of 2022, but the management is already turning its focus towards a smaller model that will arrive around 18 months later. Plans for this new car were confirmed in Polish media late last year, when it emerged that the Stellantis plant in the country’s Tychy region has been chosen to make new models for Fiat, Jeep and Alfa.
All three of these vehicles are widely tipped to be smaller cars using the CMP and (all-electric) e-CMP architectures, which will allow the Tychy plant to operate closer to its maximum efficiency.
Speaking to Automotive Daily, Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato has now all but confirmed that the car due in 2024 is a downsized sibling of the Tonale, designed to give his firm a presence in Europe’s booming small SUV class.
“With Tonale, we are coming back to the C-SUV segment, which is one of the best segments in Europe,” he told us. “Next we have to complete the offer with something else that is in the best-selling segment in Europe. That will be the case in 2024.”
Company executives, including design director Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos, are expected to sign off the final look of the baby SUV this week. Our exclusive images show how the recently previewed stance of the CMP-based small Jeep could be used to support a sister model from Alfa. With a more premium positioning, this car will in effect be Stellantis’s rival for the Audi Q2 and MINI Countryman.
Imparato said he is confident that the CMP architecture – which also underpins everything from the Peugeot 208 to the DS 3 Crossback – can be adapted enough to deliver the spirited driving dynamics expected by Alfa customers. “You will see that it will be an Alfa Romeo,” he said. “We are spending time on designing that car with the same spirit. And the driveability of the car, the performance of that car, will be driven by the tuning that we do on the Tonale. We can have the driveability of an Alfa with this type of product; I have no doubt of that.”
The baby Alfa SUV will be the first car in the company’s history to be offered in pure-electric form – although Imparato suggested that it will be available as a hybrid as well as an EV. This is not a powertrain line-up currently offered on any of the Stellantis CMP models, but it’s likely to reflect the imminent adoption of a new 48-volt, electrified mild-hybrid automatic transmission. A joint venture between Stellantis and Punch Powertrains, it’s due to go into production soon at a plant in Metz, France, and will be paired with the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine that will probably be the sole ICE offering. It’s unlikely to deliver long periods of electric-only running, but it could boost the car’s efficiency around town.
The three-cylinder unit can produce up to 114kW – and this seems the likely maximum for the new Alfa, unless engineers can squeeze in Stellantis’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, which can stretch to more than 165kW.
In any case, it is conceivable that certain markets may choose to make the small SUV the flag-bearer for Alfa’s rapid push towards full electrification by 2027, opting not to offer the car with in combustion-engined form at all. The EV model should have 100kW as standard, but Alfa could look to replicate any tricks that Jeep pulls with a second rear-mounted motor to give the car more power and four-wheel drive. Expect a battery capacity of around 55kWh.
Imparato also confirmed that Alfa will be the first Stellantis brand to use the group’s bespoke all-electric STLA platform tech, with a standalone electric model due in 2025 – and that a further EV will follow in 2026.
These are likely to be successors to the Giulia and Stelvio SUV, bringing both nameplates and, Alfa hopes, existing customers into the BEV era. He said, “We love Giulia and Stelvio and we have to work on those two cars. We will do it.” This supports an earlier interview with Automotive Daily where Imparato said, “The shape of the Giulia is fantastic, I don’t want to lose this. The car is absolutely gorgeous, so there is a future for this type of car.”
He reiterated that the firm could even revisit some of its most iconic nameplates and bodystyles in zero-emissions form, once the line-up, sales and balance sheet have been stabilised after years of under-investment. This would not be until well into the second half of this decade, he suggested.
“We will never give up dreaming,” he said, “so yes, we have projects for Spiders. But it will not be something I will be able to sell to my president [Carlos Tavares] or convince him to validate before having secured the profitability of Alfa Romeo that is positive today. We have already gone from red numbers to black, but we don’t want to go back, ever. We will never lose money any more; there is no option.
“I have to feed the customers, the Alfa Romeo network with offers in the short-term period that are at the core of the European market and at the core of the switch to carbon neutral. For me, it’s an existential question; it is not a choice-driven one.”