Design review Alfa Romeo Tonale: ‘simply offensive’

Niels van Roij thinks it is a waste of time and money

Alfa Romeo Tonale design review

With the Tonale, Alfa Romeo has again ended up in intensive care. Car designer Niels van Roij describes the patient’s symptoms and possible treatment.

A truly healthy Alfa Romeo looks like the 156: an unprecedented charismatic design. Agile, slender, slender. Flamboyant, with just the right amount of Italian flair and above all: modernity!

After decades of investment and management trying different methods to revive Alfa, the Italian brand has once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons: ill-advised product decisions that steered sales numbers through poor design strategies. At least special, after absolute blockbusters like the 156, resulting from the right design strategies.

Alfa Romeo the style brand

Alfa Romeo is not a style brand. It is the style brand. One of the few manufacturers known for not just building nice – but simply stunningly beautiful cars. Design is, even more than the brilliant technical discoveries made by the Italian brand, Alfa’s raison d’être.

Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 mille miglia

Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Mille Miglia from 1938.

For decades, Alfa Romeo owners have forgiven their brand very much. Simply because they got a magnificently designed car for their money. Alfa owners didn’t buy a car because they wanted a cheaper BMW, but because they liked the way Alfas were styled and how those looks set them apart from the mainstream motorist. A conscious choice to value style over reliability.

Against this backdrop, the choices of Alfa’s most recent entrants, the Giulia and Stelvio, are mind-boggling. The current range is weak, optically heavy and designed without any sense of balance or athleticism. Despite the much better proportions that the rear-wheel drive platform offered the Giulia designers, their appearance can only be described by someone with any critical aesthetic ability as woefully bad due to the misplaced retro design. Unprecedented after the legendary progressive 156, 147 and 166.

Alfa Romeo Tonale has terrible basic proportions

Then the Tonal. It’s simply offensive. The car has really terrible basic proportions, which unfortunately only emphasize the detailed styling and surfacing. A cab forward body design. A huge front overhang with a nose that curls down like the specimen of an anteater. A large, massively drawn rear with again a gigantic overhang. This design also seriously lacks conceptual depth – the why – and the delicate shapes, elegance and creativity that should have resulted from it. An Alfa this bad looking isn’t an Alfa – it’s a waste of time and money.

The Tonale is particularly resonant, as it is the common thread through the wonderful history of Alfa Romeo design. There is a rich past that should have provided spiritual inspiration.


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