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Alfa Romeo Stelvio Review

Alfa Romeo swans gracefully into the fruitful SUV market with a typically stylish design, but will the new Stelvio bring the success Alfa craves?

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From £33,990

Pros:
  • Gorgeous exterior design
  • Strong performing diesel and petrol engines
  • The most distinctive SUV on sale today
Cons:
  • Quite expensive
  • Interior quality lower than its rivals

Introduction

Alfa Romeo is coming back. Sure, the MiTo and the Giulietta have been around for a while, but they’ve never inspired the public as the Alfas of old once did. At one point, Alfa was on its last legs, but now the Italian firm plans to revive itself with exciting new models, one of which is this - the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. It’s the very first SUV in the Italian firm’s illustrious history and it goes straight into the toughest segment of the market. So, is it any good?

On The Road

  • Performance
  • Ride Handling
  • Refinement

This is an Alfa Romeo, so there needs to be a certain standard of performance on offer. The Italian company has a remarkable motorsport heritage and Alfa doesn’t want people to forget that it knows how to make cars that feel great to drive. As a result, Alfa says that the new Stelvio is the lightest mid-sized SUV on sale, as well as having 50/50 weight distribution and the best power-to-weight ratio in class.

If you know your cars, you’ll know all the above is rather important when it comes to making a vehicle that’s engaging and exciting to drive, but without a solid engine line-up it means nothing. Thankfully, the engines on offer are very good indeed. There’s a 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel available, both of which are turbocharged. They range in power from 180PS to 280PS and they provide more than enough shove to keep the driver happy. Our pick would be the 210PS diesel engine, as that will get you to 62mph in 6.6-seconds and will still return over 50mpg.

It’s not often you get into an SUV and think about how much fun you’re having driving, but the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is one of those rare SUVs that is enjoyable to drive quickly as it is to potter around town in. A lot of praise should be passed onto the engineers responsible for delivering that 50/50 weight distribution and overall low weight, because the Stelvio feels like a car that is meant to perform, and that is rare indeed in this segment of the market. The steering is fast and direct, and the levels of grip from the road reassuring and seemingly endless. Alfa’s ‘Q4’ all-wheel drive system prioritises sending power to the rear wheels, so it drives much like a rear-wheel driven saloon 90% of the time, only sending power to the front wheels when the grip levels drop significantly enough.

Normally the trade-off for this sort of sporty performance is an uncomfortable ride, but the Stelvio manages to balance a comfortable and smooth ride with its agile, performance-orientated tendencies.

Yes, an SUV is supposed to be refined, especially when you’re spending north of £30,000. This is the territory where the likes of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar begin to prowl, so SUV products dropped into this zone need to be able to hold their own. While the engines in the line-up aren’t as quiet as some of its rivals’ efforts - and probably aren’t meant to be - the cabin more than makes up for it. Comfortable seating with plenty of adjustment, an array of gadgets such as cruise control, climate control, DAB radio, satellite navigation and a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox make the Stelvio quite comfortable in the company of rival SUVs.

While the cabin quality isn’t perfect, it’s still a good effort. It’s just you may be frustrated by the feel of some of it if you’ve come from, say, an Audi Q5. The leather and wood trim is a particularly pleasing interior combination that casts an eye back towards the 1960s glory days of this famous Italian brand - a romantic nod to the past.

In The Car

  • Behind the Wheel
  • Space & Practicality

This is the best place to be inside the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The car is really meant to be driven, so being behind the wheel is where you’ll want to be. The driving position is excellent and the seating - especially in leather - is a real delight to sit in. It looks the part, sure, and aluminium shift pedals behind the steering wheel add another extra little touch of luxury. The overall quality isn’t as high as in an Audi or Mercedes-Benz, but then again very little else is.

As the driver, you’ve got a whole host of all the latest technologies you’ll need for a safe and relaxing journey - even the most basic spec cars come with automatic lights and wipers, autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and rear parking sensors. Full leather and heated seats are only available on ‘Speciale’ trim and the ‘Milan Edizione’, the latter being a launch edition - both will set you back over £40,000 but do come with a selection of other luxury touches, too.

This is the boring bit of SUV reviewing, isn’t it? But let’s face it, we all need to know how much space we’ve got to cram out belongings into our cars. Alfa Romeo knows this as much as any other manufacturer, and with that in mind it has made sure there’s plenty of practical elements to its stylish new Stelvio. In total, 525-litres of boot space is available, and the rear seats fold down in three parts to increase room in the rear, should it be needed.

For the transport of people, the Stelvio does a good job in providing plenty of head and leg room in the rear, which isn’t always easy to achieve in a stylish SUV. This is because sloping roof-lines often cause head-space to be compromised. Not so in the Stelvio it seems.

We should also point out that having the Q4 all-wheel drive system is also practical, giving drivers that extra little bit of grip and security on the roads. We’re heading into the winter now, so heavy rain, mud, snow, and even ice will soon rear their ugly heads.

Ownership

  • Running Costs
  • Quality & Reliability
  • Safety & Security

SUVs often suffer from a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to running costs, and certainly the 280PS 2.0-litre petrol engine won’t break any records for fuel efficiency. But most buyers will probably be opting for one of the diesel engines, and Alfa has done well to make these rather efficient. Alfa claims that both the 180PS and 210PS engines will do 58.9mpg, so expect to see over 50mpg out in the real world.

For those curious about the petrol running costs, Alfa says that both the 200PS and 280PS engines will do over 40mpg, but we think this might be a bit optimistic, especially given the ‘drive me faster’ character of the Stelvio.

We can’t stand in front of you and ignore Alfa Romeo’s track record of disappointing reliability and quality standards. However, the Italian brand is determined to make strides into territory currently occupied by marques who have very good reliability and quality records. The only way Alfa will be able to build up its presence in this sector is by improving greatly on its track record. At the moment, it isn’t clear exactly what the future holds for Alfa Romeo in this regard, but the noises coming out of Italy are good, and the new cars we’ve tested so far do feel a step up on outgoing models.

Having spent time in the new Alfa Romeos, we were a little disappointed with some of the quality of materials in the cabin and how cheap they felt. Rivals, such as the Audi Q5 and Jaguar F-Pace possess a greater feeling of overall quality, but lack in imaginative design. Despite that, the industry is quietly optimistic about Alfa’s future, but we’d like to see Alfa put its money where its mouth is by offering a warranty longer than three years. Challenge accepted, Alfa?

You wouldn’t normally expect Alfa Romeo to be leading the way when it comes to vehicle safety, but the new Stelvio is actually one of the safest vehicles on the road today, according to the Euro NCAP tests. It scored the full five-stars in crash testing, and was also awarded a very impressive 97% score for the protection of adult occupants. Of course, this means there are airbags absolutely everywhere, as well as safety aids like traction and stability control. Basically, should the worst happen to you in a Stelvio, you’re about as well protected as you can be.

Safety features, like autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning all make the new Stelvio feel very safe out on the road and every bit a modern SUV.

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