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TEST Can a car be too sporty? BMW X1 challenges Alfa Romeo Tonale and Volvo XC40 -

How sporty do you want a compact SUV? We test the engine and driving characteristics of the Alfa Romeo Tonale 1.5T Hybrid, the BMW X1 sDrive20i and Volvo XC40 B3. And what about the price and fixed costs?

Engine: BMW X1 leaves nothing untouched by Alfa and BMW

All three cars have mild hybrid technology, which means that the petrol engine is supported by a starter-generator with 14 kW (19 hp, BMW X1), 10 kW (14 hp, Volvo XC40) or 15 kW (20 hp, Alfa Romeo Tonal). With the Alfa Romeo you notice least that it draws support. In the lower speed range, the 1.5-liter engine is rather lethargic, only above 4000 rpm does it start to have fun. It shifts gears with ease and the box responds to kick-down commands like a child who has to clean his room.

You have to manually downshift to keep up the momentum, which you do via enormous paddles on the steering wheel. But even then it is not very harmonious at a hurried pace. In addition, the gearbox shifts jerkily. When driving calmly, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is better in its element. That is also good for your wallet, because during our test drive the Tonale turned out to be quite thirsty with an average of 8.0 l/100 km.


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Volvo XC40 B3 MHEV performance

The Volvo does better with 7.6 l/100 km. Thanks to its large engine capacity of two liters, it looks confident and is sharper than the Italian at low speeds. The XC40 B3 builds up its power more evenly than the Tonale. That does not mean that he is also faster on the hundred sprint. On the contrary, with 9 seconds the XC40 carries the red lantern. The Alfa Romeo (8.7 s) and BMW (7.9 s) are faster.

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The.. proves that a relatively small engine can have a lively character BMW X1. It distributes its capacity of 1.5 liters over just three cylinders. But only in theory is Schraalhans a kitchen master, because the engine responds spontaneously to movements of the accelerator pedal and is unexpectedly powerful even at high speeds. The X1 is the best sprinter of this trio and also has the highest top speed at 216 km/h. At the same time, it is the most economical with a consumption of 6.9 l/100 km. Yes, no one has to explain to BMW how to build excellent engines...

Alfa Romeo Tonal driving characteristics

On the track you notice how good the Alfa Romeo Tonale feels at home here. It remains stable, hardly leans and thanks to the 20-inch wheels you can take turns at high speed. In the limit range, the Tonale does not do anything strange, at most the rear occasionally takes a small step to the side. The steering is precise, but could have been a little more sensitive - steering is just a little too light. The braking distance of over 35 meters from 100 km/h to a standstill (cold and warm) is neat. The fact that the Tonale does not receive a better rating has to do with its weak drivetrain. It is not the chassis, which can handle more power without any problems.

You don't buy a Volvo XC40 for sporting escapades. It is not surprising that he lags behind his two competitors. The body leans in corners and 'dives' when you brake hard. In addition, it starts to slide over the front wheels to the outside of the corner early. The ESP reacts overzealously and brakes the car almost to a standstill. Furthermore, a relatively large number of steering corrections are required to follow the desired direction.

BMW X1 is perhaps too sporty

Only the BMW X1 is truly a dynamic car. It steers sharper than the other two and reaches the highest cornering speeds. While the front axle is the epitome of stability, the rear axle is playful. The responsive steering ensures that you can place the X1 razor sharply in bends. You don't have to make a sharp change of direction to tempt the rear to break out. As an untrained driver, leave the ESP on, because if you turn it off, you need to be able to steer properly. No wonder that you can only activate sports mode if you agree to deactivate the ESP.

Price: the domain of the Volvo XC40

Compact SUVs are quite expensive these days. Only the Volvo XC40 B3 remains below 50,000 euros (45,995 euros), the Alfa Romeo Tonale (51,500 euros) and BMW X1 (51,535 euros) exceed it. If we add all the options of the test cars to the base price, the prices of the Alfa and BMW rise even further. The Tonale makes more mistakes with its high depreciation, but it weighs the least and is therefore cheaper in road tax than the BMW and the Volvo. It is the XC40 that is the cheapest, mainly due to its favorable base price in combination with the low depreciation.


The new Alfa Romeo 1.5T Hybrid 160 does a lot right: it looks nice, has excellent driving characteristics, good brakes and a large trunk. It's a pity that the engine and gearbox are not cooperating, there is room for improvement. The Volvo XC40 has no dynamic ambitions, but that is no problem for fans of the brand. Furthermore, the XC40 B3 makes a balanced impression in this test. The BMW X1 is emphatically focused on dynamics. Some people will find it too sporty. Its fast and economical engine in particular earns the BMW many points, and the X1 is also comfortable and spacious.

You can already read the full test (with extensive specs). Auto Review 10/2023. Can be found in the magazine shelf and can be ordered in our webshop.

This post was last modified on October 12, 2023 5:05 am


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