Alfa Romeo is on life support and it’s going to need more than glowing reviews for the limited edition Giulia GTAm to stop it flatlining. Combined sales across Alfa’s meager model lines dropped to a pathetic 35,718 in 2020, which really is as bad as it sounds – Porsche sold 34,328 911s alone in the same period.
And that can’t all be blamed on Covid: sales were already sliding long before anyone in China got sick. Stellantis has given the brand 10 years to turn things around. And a new baby SUV is one of the key ways it hopes to do it.
One of the reasons Alfa is tanking is that it desperately needs fresh product. The Punto-based Mito died back in early 2019 and the Giulietta hatch shuffled off in 2020, leaving only the handsome, but slow-selling, Giulia sedan and the Stelvio SUV. The decision to axe the planned GTV coupe was a blow but it’s not like it could save the brand. Alfa dealers are crying out for two things: smaller SUVs and electric power. And fortunately – finally – both are on the way.
First to arrive is the Tonale, which Alfa hopes will pinch sales from the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Looking much like the 2019 concept, and so a heap better than the BMW X1, it will come with a choice of conventional ICE engines, or as a PHEV, making it Alfa’s first electrified car when it lands in showrooms in early 2022.
Alfa Romeo’s First EV
The Tonale will come with plug-in power, but not as an EV. That honor goes to a baby SUV due later in 2022. The Stelvio and Tonale are named after large and medium sized Alpine peaks, so we’re calling this one Palade after one of the smaller ones, though Alfa is keeping tight-lipped about both the actual badge and concrete technical details for the Audi Q2 rival.
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No sweat; we already know plenty about it. We know, for instance that it will ride on the Peugeot-Citroën eCMP platform Alfa Romeo gained access to when PSA merged with FCA to form Stellantis. This is the same platform already used on a stack of small front-wheel drive hatchbacks and SUVs including the Peugeot 208 and 2008, DS 3 Crossback and Opel Corsa and Mokka, and would give the Alfa a wheelbase of around 2600 mm (102.3 inches).
But unlike those cars, the Alfa should offer the choice of front- and all-wheel drive, with power to the rear axle coming from an electric motor. Jeep’s new sub-Renegade baby SUV, and a small Fiat similar to the 2019 Centoventi concept, will also share that configuration and be built at the same Tychy plant in Poland.
Electric, Gasoline, And Possibly Diesel, Too
The existing CMP cars offer both conventional ICE and EV power options, and it’s very likely Alfa will do the same. That means we can expect to see the PSA turbocharged 1.2-liter triple doing its thing in various states of tune. Given Alfa’s sporty image, and the fact that Audi’s Q2 range kicks off at 109 hp, it might skip the 98 hp PSA motor and only offer the 128 hp and 153 hp derivatives. They’re likely to come with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed auto on the milder tune, and a mandatory auto ‘box on the quicker version.
And since diesel still has fans in Europe, it’s possible, but not certain, that the Palade might also be offered with the PSA 118 hp 1.5 diesel available in the Peugeot 2008. What’s not clear is if we’ll see a really hot baby Alfa. Audi’s Q2 is available with all-wheel drive and 296 hp as an SQ2, so a petrol-electric mini Quadrifloglio would make an appealing halo model, although Alfa has already ruled out a high performance Tonale.
But all eyes will be on the EV version, Alfa Romeo’s first electric car. If its spec matches the e2008’s, the EV will be powered by a 134 hp electric motor mounted up front and sending its power, along with 192 lb ft of torque, exclusively to the front wheels. A 50 kWh battery should be enough for around 200 miles (320 km) of driving range, and the Palade should be able to crack 62 mph (100 km/h) in 8.5 seconds. But if the Alfa is configured to offer electric power to the rear axle on hybrid models, it could also be configured as an all-wheel drive EV with a motor at either end and offer far more performance than the e2008 and Opel Mokka.
We understand the EV won’t make a fake engine noise, but will have a sound synthesizer that drivers will be able to switch on and off.
What Will It Look Like?
Unlike the Tonale, which Alfa previewed with a concept back in 2019 (pictured above), there have been no design studies directly hinting at how the baby SUV might look. But there have been a few clues.
“A family feel will be respected – we have style themes across the range,” an Alfa Romeo spokesman said of the new SUV when talking to Autocar in 2020. “But we don’t want to do a copy and paste across the line-up, because every segment has its own personality, and customers are different in terms of age and expectations.”
Those customers the Alfa guy referred to for the baby SUV are likely to be significantly younger than those buying the Tonale or Stelvio. And that means they’re probably more open to bolder, funkier designs, so it’s likely Alfa will get braver with the baby SUV’s styling than it did with the Tonale, which was toned-down for production.
But even if it isn’t a carbon-copy of the Tonale or Stelvio we can expect Alfa’s familiar design staples – the heart-shaped grille and slim lamps – to make an appearance, and make the newcomer easily recognizable.
Although the Opel Mokka, DS 3 Crossabck and Peugeot 2008 share the same platform, you’d struggle to guess from behind the wheel. The Mokka’s Mr Sensible here, its instrument panel sweeping into the infotainment screen, while the 2008’s gauge pack is mounted above the wheel, which takes some getting used to.
But we’d expect the Alfa to look more like this leaked photo of the Tonale, with Alfa’s familiar 1960s-style double-bubble instrument cluster.
When Is It Coming?
According to information from Stellantis’s Polish arm, that country’s FCA facility in Tychy has received $206 million of investment to prepare it for the production of three new EV-capable B-segment SUVs in the second half of 2022. The first one off the line is understood to be the new baby Jeep that will slot below the Renegade, while its Fiat and Alfa cousins will follow close behind. If that info holds, we should see the Alfa on the streets before the end of 2022 in ICE form, and as an EV from early 2023.
But which streets? European ones, certainly, but it’s not clear yet whether Alfa will bring its smallest car to North America. As for prices, it’s all educated guesswork at this stage, but Audi’s Q2 – which isn’t offered in the US – starts at around £24,000 in the UK ($33,800), and we’d expect Alfa to be taking its lead from there.
Do you think Alfa’s baby SUV plans will save the legendary name from going to the wall? Let us know in the comments.
Note: The opening image is an independent, speculative illustration made by Jean Francois Hubert/SB-Medien and is neither related not endorsed by Alfa Romeo