An Alfa Romeo SUV? You probably think this is madness. But for manufacturers the fast-growing SUV market is too important to ignore - Bentley and Jaguar already have SUVs on sale and now even Rolls Royce and Aston Martin are going to start making them - so naturally Alfa Romeo had to create one too.
The Stelvio is what Alfa Romeo created, and is built on the Giorgio platform – the same as the Giulia, which it shares much of its styling with. However, Alfa Romeo describes it as “an Alfa Romeo first and an SUV second”, and while this may sound like marketing jargon, there is some truth in this.
It weighs just 1,660kg, making it the lightest vehicle in its class, which pays off when it comes to its handling. The all-wheel-drive system also works wonders because 100 per cent of its power is sent to the rear, only being sent to the front wheels when required.
While cars such as the Mito and Giulietta have been front-wheel-drive, Alfa purists will be glad to see it returning back to rear-drive cars.
Engines for the Stelvio include two petrol engines and two diesels.
We tested the 2.2-litre diesel engine with the Q4 all-wheel-drive system. It comes with 178bhp and delivers a 0-60mph sprint time of 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. A rear-wheel-drive version is also available with this engine.
A 207bhp version of the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine is also available. It has a top speed of 134mph and can get from 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds.
As for the petrol variants, there is the option of a 2.0-litre petrol turbo that has 197bhp and a range-topping version of the same engine that produces 276bhp. The former has a top speed of 134mph and manages the 0-60mph dash in 7.0 seconds. The latter has a max speed of 143mph and delivers a 0-60mph sprint time of just 5.5 seconds.
A V6 petrol-powered Quadrifoglio version that is likely to produce over 500bhp is also on its way, although it is not yet clear when this will go on sale in the UK.
Ride and handling
Alfa Romeo has always prioritised the drive of its cars above most other factors, and the Stelvio is no exception.
Its size makes you doubt its agility in the corners, but you have no reason to because it handles impressively. It feels light to drive and the steering provides plenty of feedback. Only when you were pushing it to its limits did you feel the front end washing out.
As for motorway driving, the Stelvio felt equally capable. The 2.2-litre engine is quiet under acceleration, while the ride is easily smooth enough to soak up the bumps on Britain’s rough roads. The only downside was the 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car did let in a fair amount of road noise, although this was by no means irritating.
Interior and equipment
For a car with such a swooping roofline and a sporty appearance in general, the amount of space on offer is impressive. Up front, passengers will easily have enough room, and even in the rear, there is plenty of head- and legroom.
Boot space stands at 525 litres, which should be easily enough for most people, although it is slightly down on rivals such as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, that both offer 550 litres of space.
Standard equipment on the Stelvio includes 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch touchscreen, automatic headlights, Autonomous Emergency Braking, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
The Stelvio starts at £33,990, meaning it undercuts the Audi Q5 by nearly £4,000, although it is priced very similarly to the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace.
Currently there are three other trim levels available, Super, Speciale and the special edition Milano Edizione, which is Alfa Romeo’s stylistically named launch edition. Our test car was the latter, which costs £43,990 for the 2.2-litre diesel model, a bit steep in our opinion.That said, it is only a limited-run model and includes a huge amount of equipment as standard.
Speciale – starting at £41,490 – will act as the range-topping trim level once Milano Edizione launch edition cars are no longer on sale.
The Stelvio produces impressively low running costs too for a car of this size, the 2.2-litre diesel with Q4 all-wheel-drive emits just 127g/km and returns 58.9mpg on the combined cycle – exactly the same as the more powerful 2.0-litre diesel.
As for the 2.0-litre petrol engine, both the 197bhp and 276bhp variants manage the same economy figures, emitting 161g/km and achieving 40.4mpg on a combined cycle.
You have to admire Alfa Romeo, it has gone from producing somewhat disappointing hatchbacks to producing excellent cars such as the Stelvio and Giulia in just a couple of years. The Stelvio impressed us, and is an excellent effort for a car maker’s first SUV. It is great to drive, offers excellent levels of practicality and is packed with some impressive engines. While the styling may not be to everyone’s tastes, there is finally another Alfa Romeo you can buy with your head, as well as your heart.