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I put my hands up I have been a fan of Alfa Romeo since I tested an Alfasud and that passion for the Italian brand remains with me.  My latest encounter was with the new Tonale. My test opportunity came with the plug-in- hybrid Q4, this was the vehicle that Alfa Romeo entered the world of automotive electrification. However, I must state it did not stir my heart in the manner other models have done from this Italian carmaker. Where it will score for many though, is in efficiency, in full electric mode you can travel for just shy of 80km (50m) and 595km (370m) plus in the full cycle and emissions are low at just 26g/km.

Technology is now a key element of the modern motor car and the Tonale is the most high tech Alfa Romeo to date. The hybrid system consists of an 180bhp 1.3 litre turbo Multiair four cylinder engine mated to a six speed automatic transmission which provides traction to the front axle with an electric motor which can supply 90kW of power and 250Nm of torque to the rear axle. When charging, it takes less than 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery from a 7.4 kW charger. The Q4 all wheel drive System aids in delivering the best in class agility, lightness and handling. Certainly I have no complaint re performance with rest to 100kph (62mph) in 6.2 seconds and in full electric mode, top speed is 135kph (84mph), with 205kph (128mph) in hybrid mode. While I found the handling perfectly acceptable, I did not get the buzz that I have experienced in the past from the Alfa Romeo stable. To be fair, the Tonale performs really well, dare I say a sophisticated SUV rather than sporty. There are three driving modes, Dynamic gives priority to performance, Natural uses hybrid driving and all wheel drive in order to optimise efficiency of the engine and electric motor and Advanced Efficiency obtains the maximum efficiency in the full electric driving mode.

Software and connectivity aid driving pleasure and the integration with Amazon Alexa offers the convenience of interacting with the system without you having to remove your hands from the steering wheel. The high resolution main touchscreen uses an easy to use system and in the lower part of the right dial, the elettro biscione changes colour based on the status of the electric motor; all the information needed re power and charging. Four new functionalities make their debut and further expand upon the Alfa Connect Service; E-Control, Dynamic Range Mapping, Charge station Finder and My eCharge.

Style has always been an important aspect of the Alfa Romeo range and the Veloce tested features distinctive bodywork with matt side and front inserts, gloss black window surround and chunky nineteen inch wheels. Red painted Brembo brake calipers add to the sporty looks. Moving to the extremely well appointed interior, you are greeted by aluminium door sills and column mounted aluminium shift paddles. Seating is comfy and supportive. The drive experience is reasonable with the Tonale, marginally better than what I have come to expect from a SUV, the Alfa Dual Stage Valve suspension set up no doubt plays its part.

Can it compete with similar vehicles, in particular from the German premium brands? It will not be an easy task, to this question and behind the wheel you are in control of a vehicle from a brand which has a rich heritage; after all it has been around since 1910.

Ian Lynas