From £31,6908
Entry-level petrol Stelvio doesn’t get much standard kit, but drives extremely well. Well worth serious consideration in this hard-fought segment

Our Verdict

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is as entertaining as the badge promises, combining enthusiastic thrust with enjoyable handling - but is it a good enough alternative to the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace?

27 July 2017

What is it?

Alfa Romeo’s long-awaited new Stelvio SUV sampled on road for the first time, albeit in its homeland and over the very Alpine pass it is named after.

While most UK-bound Stelvios will be diesel-powered, Alfa reckons the two petrol variants available from launch will make up a significant, and increasing, percentage of sales volume. Both of these use the same basic 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that we’ve already seen in the Giulia saloon, with both 197bhp and 276bhp variants. The less powerful version, tested here, is also the entry-level petrol Stelvio, costing £34,690 in standard form and £36,890 in the plusher Super trim.

As with all Stelvios, an eight-speed automatic gearbox is the only transmission choice, with the 2.0T also getting Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system as standard.

What's it like?

There's much that impresses. The Stelvio sits on the Giulia’s expensively developed Giorgio platform, which makes extensive use of aluminium. That makes the car lighter than its obvious rivals; on Alfa’s numbers, the 1660kg 2.0T is more than 100kg less than the equivalent Jaguar F-Pace, with the company also claiming that the bodyshell is exceptionally stiff.

It certainly feels taut and agile, with a well-damped ride that stayed civilised over the roughest surfaces that the car’s eponymous pass could throw at it. High-speed refinement, as tested on the Autostrada, is also excellent; only the slightest wind whistle from the top of the front door seals disturbed the tranquillity at a rapid cruise.

Handling responses are essentially those of a taller Giulia, with the two cars sharing their major chassis components and electric power steering systems. The Stelvio’s helm is direct and fast-acting, the front end turning keenly, and there’s an impressive absence of body roll even under harder use. What’s missing is any real sensation through the steering wheel beyond raw weight. Alfa is justifiably proud of how well the Stelvio resists understeer - something it demonstrated well on the pass’s numerous hairpins - but in slower turns this seems largely due to the unswitchable stability control system aggressively winding back the engine when the front axle is in danger of running out of grip.

Despite the rear bias of the Q4 all-wheel-drive system and the claim of torque vectoring across the back axle, there’s little give or throttle adjustability in the chassis; even with the controller for Alfa’s so-called DNA system turned to its most permissive 'Dynamic' setting, the engine is never allowed to overwhelm grip. Given the fundamental excellence of the Stelvio’s well-balanced chassis, it feels like a shame that the car isn’t allowed to play more. Roberto Fedeli, Alfa’s chief engineer, confirmed the forthcoming 493bhp Quadrifoglio will have fully defeatable stability control and that the company is considering it for lesser models.

Despite its peak 197bhp output, the basic petrol engine feels more effective than exciting. It’s tuned for torque, the peak 243lb ft available from just 1750rpm, and the eight-speed autobox shifts its ratios adeptly to keep it in the lower reaches of its mid range, where it’s happiest. It will rev when called upon to do so, from the lowly 4500rpm where peak power arrives and all the way to its 6000rpm limiter if forced to. But, although never harsh, the soundtrack lacks the zing and sparkle that used to characterize even Alfa’s humbler four-cylinder engines.

The electrical servo assistance of the brakes also takes some getting used to, with the pedal lacking feel under harder retardation. The system automatically compensates to eliminate the sensation of fade too; a questionable benefit on the descent from the Stelvio Pass, where the pedal stayed rock hard even as the front pads started to smoulder. Some indication of the overworked anchors would have been welcome.

The rest of the car feels less developed than the chassis. While the cabin is spacious and has some nice touches, many of the materials lack the sort of quality that buyers in this segment expect by right these days; an omission considering Alfa’s insistence that we view the Stelvio as a premium player. Scratchy door trim plastics and the insubstantial controllers for the infotainment and DNA systems stood out for particular criticism.

The satellite navigation feels dated and off the pace too; it won’t be standard in the UK on the base model, and this might be one of the few occasions when it’s not worth ticking the box.

Should I buy one?

The Stelvio’s success is vital to the future of the Alfa brand and it is certainly set to enter the marketplace with some very aggressive pricing against key rivals.

The entry-level 2.0T doesn’t have much standard kit, but it undercuts the cheapest petrol-fired Jaquar F-Pace, the 2.0i Prestige, by more than £7000 and the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI SE Quattro by £4500. While both of those rivals have more power, even the quickest and plushest Stelvio from launch, the laden 276bhp 2.0T Milano Editione, looks conspicuously good value at £45,390.

All of which means that, if you’re considering a premium mid-sized SUV with petrol power and for private money, the Stelvio deserves to be high on the list.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T Super  Location: Passo Del Stelvio, Italy  On sale: September 2017  Price: £36,890  Engine: 1995cc four-cylinder, petrol, turbocharged  Power: 197bhp @ 4500rpm  Torque: 243lb ft @ 1750rpm  Gearbox: Eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive  Kerbweight: 1660kg  0-62mph: 7.2-sec (claimed)  Top speed: 133mph  Economy: 40.3mpg  CO2: 161g/km  Rivals: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI Sport, Jaguar F-Pace 2.0P Prestige

Join the debate

Comments
20

27 July 2017

"All of which means that, if you’re considering a premium mid-sized SUV with petrol power and for private money, the Stelvio deserves to be high on the list." Yet it's a 3.5-star car? Hmm. 

27 July 2017

One of the things that comes out of the Stelvio reports that I have seen here and elsewhere is that, in spite of a few shortcomings, people really like it. I think that it looks great, so I hope that it sells well.

28 July 2017

Based on the review, 3.5 stars seem a little low? Sounds like a four star car to me.

28 July 2017
...four stars? Seriously I've read your largely very positive review and I can't see why it deserves less than 4 stars - especially when other, lesser cars seem to get more! Please recalibrate yourselves...

28 July 2017
caustic_river wrote:

...four stars? Seriously I've read your largely very positive review and I can't see why it deserves less than 4 stars - especially when other, lesser cars seem to get more! Please recalibrate yourselves...

Even though highly competitive on price and style and way ahead on emissions and power and quite possibly 'drive' it can't be allowed to be the equal to, say, oh I don't know, maybe an F-Pace? hmmm

28 July 2017

Very good review for a 3.5 star rated car, so why such a low rating? Oh, of course it's an Alfa and Autocar just can't rate it alongside their favourites. It must have hurt to have given the Guila QV a 4.5 rating even though it scored 5 almost everywhere else, (except Autoexpress withi t's luidcrous 4 star).

29 July 2017

It's not a an MQB based VAG car so it can't possibly be scored 4 or higher. 

30 July 2017
Jimbbobw1977 wrote:

It's not a an MQB based VAG car so it can't possibly be scored 4 or higher. 

Unlikely VAG, more likely JLR.  This new Alfa is probably the F Pace's biggest threat to sales. The average Audi Q5 buyer probably can't see beyond the Aviators perched on their nose so they're unlikely to notice either brand. Neither the F Pace or Stelvio can match a Macan down at the lower end of the model range, although the Stelvio Quadrifoglio will likley give the Porsche a good run. At the top end the Jaguar is simply off the pace. As marques Alfa and Jaguar have a similar heritage but the Jaguar brand has been managed much better over the past few years whilst Alfa's has been criminally mismanaged. 

It does appear very odd that this review has been tucked away and not promoted whilst we've had what appears to be an advertorial PR piece on one of JLR's new plants stuck on the front page.

 

31 July 2017
I'm still not getting the comparison with the f pace . That car is based on the larger xf saloon model hence the f pace designation . The article clearly states the stelvio is based on the giulia platform ie an xe competitor . Logically this is an e pace competitor. Looked at that way, the stelvio isn't great value , just par for the course .

31 July 2017
Sundym wrote:

I'm still not getting the comparison with the f pace . That car is based on the larger xf saloon model hence the f pace designation . The article clearly states the stelvio is based on the giulia platform ie an xe competitor . Logically this is an e pace competitor. Looked at that way, the stelvio isn't great value , just par for the course .

The F Pace is built using the iQ modular platform, this is used for both the XE and the F. The Stelvio is smaller, by about 30 - 40 mm but inside they are very similar. The E Pace is much smaller than both. The Macan is in between both, all compete in the same segment.

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