From £31,6907
First tilt on UK roads reveals a chassis almost as absorbing as the Giulia’s, though the Stelvio’s comfort and quality levels may disappoint SUV clientele

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?

What is it?

This is the second chapter of Alfa Romeo’s grand new epoch, ready for sampling on UK roads for the first time. With the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Turin follows up the well-received Giulia saloon, and answers some questions that be considered key to the success of the rebuilding process that it’s currently undertaking.

Can the firm successfully appeal to the tastes of buyers outside of the segments it has traditionally occupied? How effectively can that expensive new ‘giorgio’ platform be applied on a more challenging vehicle type than a compact executive saloon? And can we really expect Alfa to make the best driver’s car in every part of the market it enters from this point onwards – or was the Giulia just a wonderful exception?

It won’t be long before we’ll all have a chance to find out. The car goes on sale in right-hand drive form in September, initially with a choice of 276bhp petrol and 207bhp diesel engines - but with an entry-level 177bhp diesel and a 197bhp petrol available soon afterwards. It comes with punchy UK pricing starting under £34,000, with a mid-level trim 177bhp diesel undercutting an equivalent Audi Q5 by a cool £3000.

Besides value, the Stelvio can claim a promising power-to-weight ratio courtesy of a kerbweight between 100- and 200kg lighter than rivals, for which its relatively compact proportions, aluminium construction and carbonfibre propshaft are all contributing factors.

In advance of the arrival of the first right-hand drive cars, Alfa brought a left-hand drive 2.2-litre 207bhp diesel Stelvio over to the UK to provide us with an introduction on British roads.

What's it like?

Alfa’s literature on this car heralds the arrival of its first SUV, and it does so loud and clear. Maybe they forgot to tell the designers at Centro Stile because the Stelvio looks more like a large, jacked-up five-door hatchback than it does a conventional modern SUV in the metal.

The car’s roofline is curvy and fairly short, its rear screen has plenty of rake on it and its belt line is only medium-high. If you had to guess, you’d say those designers were aiming to create an alternative to a Porsche Macan rather than a rival for a BMW X3 or Audi Q5. But, while the car they’ve created is quite pretty in the details, it’s plainly not the visual success that the Giulia was. Its appearance wasn’t helped, in the case of our test car in particular, by quite a lot of uneven ‘orange peel’ paintwork.

You sit only medium-high in the Stelvio’s driver’s seat - though high enough to excuse most drivers from the need to bend at the waist to get in. There’s plenty of headroom up front to allow you to adjust your seat upwards if you do prefer a lofty vantage point. Room in the back is just about class-competitive, although you’ll find yourself sitting lower in the second row than you might expect to, with more bent knees.

Like the Giulia’s, the Stelvio’s cabin quality is passable but certainly isn’t on a level with most of its premium-brand opposition. From its tough, coarse-feeling leathers to its slightly dull-looking decorative trims and its relatively cheap-feeling switchgear, the Stelvio’s interior isn’t likely to sell it to someone considering giving up an Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Still, our test car’s sports seats were very comfortable and usefully well-bolstered; its controls were adjustable and well-located; its infotainment system was acceptable for functionality and standard of presentation; and its instruments were readable. Now ask yourself how many low-rent buttons or slightly wobbly fittings you’d be willing to overlook for a rev-counter that says ‘giri’ rather than ‘rpm’? If the answer’s none, you’re probably a bit too impartial to be a serial Alfa owner anyway. And, as they’ll surely point out, you’ve no idea what you’re missing.

Alfa’s four-cylinder diesel engine idles with a faint clatter, but it settles down nicely at cruising revs and overall is certainly refined enough to suit the car’s purposes. It feels torquey, too, working through an automatic gearbox that’s fairly quick to engage and to fully lock up, and chiming in with a gutsy shove of motive force from around 2000rpm. The Stelvio’s relative lightness makes itself apparent in several ways as you drive it, but this is the first of ‘em. And while at the other end of the rev range this engine isn’t the freest-revving four-pot diesel you’ll ever encounter, it still does a decent job – making for an overall performance level that’s notably keener than the average diesel SUV.

The car handles very well by SUV standards, feeling surprisingly agile around bends, gripping tenaciously and keeping a taut hold on its body. In the minutae of its driving experience, though, it doesn’t show the polish of some of its SUV opponents. A steering rack as quick as the Giulia’s helps create that sense of handling dynamism, but it requires more power assistance to work on this taller, heavier car and it therefore lacks almost any contact patch feel, being notably short for on-centre stability too.

Combine that with the Stelvio’s slightly excitable, occasionally brusque ride and you have a car that feels a touch too reactive over bumps than really befits an SUV, and that’s also a little too trying to place precisely on the road over a less than perfect surface. When the tarmac is smooth, the Alfa handles with an energetic zeal that really sets it apart, hanging onto your chosen course and attitude easily as you’re powering out of corners and showing off an encouraging balance of grip. Among SUVs like this, few handle better. But when the road deteriorates, the Stelvio’s shock absorption and general damping begins to come up short, allowing it oscillate a bit on its suspension springs and to toss its occupants around over bumps and through little compressions.

Like the power steering, the car’s pioneering brake-by-wire system (shared with the Giulia) has only an approximation of feedback which is better at some speeds than others, and so the pedal can be tricky to modulate and the car sometimes tough to slow down smoothly. Both outright stopping power and pedal response are good, though.

Should I buy one?

For many of the same reasons you might quite fancy a Giulia – styling apart, perhaps, although that much is for you to judge - it’s certainly worth considering. The Stelvio has decent engines, represents good value for money and will return an interested driver’s vote of confidence with its keen, agile handling on a regular basis.

The question for this tester is whether the car’s dynamic selling point will work in the SUV segment quite as successfully as it seems to be for the Giulia in the executive niche. For me, a good-handling SUV is necessarily a different prospect from a good-handling saloon, and better ride comfort and cabin isolation is expected.

In the event, though it does a fine job of approaching its sister car’s poise and engagement, the Stelvio seems to struggle to improve on the Giulia’s civilised side, and I fear that may count against it slightly for the average premium SUV buyer.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 TD 210 AWD Speciale

Location UK; On sale September; Price £42,290; Engine 4cyls, 2143cc, turbodiesel; Power 207bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 347lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic; Kerb weight 1659kg; Top speed 130mph; 0-62mph 6.6sec; Economy 58.9mpg; CO2/BIK tax band 127g/km, 27%; Rivals Jaguar F-Pace 25d R-Sport, BMW X3 xDrive30d M-Sport

Join the debate

Comments
30

18 August 2017

0-62mph 6.6sec; Economy 58.9mpg; CO2/BIK tax band 127g/km

With many employers fleets limiting their drivers choices to 130g/km or under, Alfa has played a bit of a game changer here. None of its family sized SUV opposition with this sort of pace would even get on the choice list as they are over the magic number. 3.5 stars? pah!

 

18 August 2017

A carbon fibre propshaft?!

How long will that last before it has to be replaced with a new one? How much will it cost to replace?!

18 August 2017

The Stelvio is a different proposition to other dull SUVs in this class. And it does in style (the cheap sarcasm like "Maybe they forgot to tell the designers at Centro Stile because the Stelvio looks more like a large, jacked-up five-door hatchback than it does a conventional modern SUV in the metal" would never be uses by this mag with other brands, and you know which ones..). Stats are top notch. This car is the best handling SUV in his class (the Macan costs almost double Stelvio's prices). That should be enought to get a better treatment. But we all know that Autocar is not generally very kind with Italian cars... 

19 August 2017
RednBlue wrote:

The Stelvio is a different proposition to other dull SUVs in this class. And it does in style (the cheap sarcasm like "Maybe they forgot to tell the designers at Centro Stile because the Stelvio looks more like a large, jacked-up five-door hatchback than it does a conventional modern SUV in the metal" would never be uses by this mag with other brands, and you know which ones..). Stats are top notch. This car is the best handling SUV in his class (the Macan costs almost double Stelvio's prices). That should be enought to get a better treatment. But we all know that Autocar is not generally very kind with Italian cars... 

I commend your optimism, but I would still bet many would rather buy a used Macan over one of these. For me, it looks like a good car and certainly different to the norm which thus makes it appealing. However, driving experience better than a Macan? I do seriously doubt that. 

18 August 2017

A brake-by-wire system?!

How will the car stop when the electronics develop a fault?

A terrorist could use a device to confuse the vehicle's systems. Cars will be crashing all over the place.

 

 

18 August 2017
max1e6 wrote:

A brake-by-wire system?!

How will the car stop when the electronics develop a fault?

A terrorist could use a device to confuse the vehicle's systems. Cars will be crashing all over the place.

 

Are you serious? It's a Continental patent and if there's a fault in the system, it works like a normal hydraulic system. Get a life. 

18 August 2017

You are assuming that the system will be able to detect a fault and also assume that it will be able to correctly work 'like a normal hydraulic system' in the event of a fault.

You get a life.

19 August 2017

Quite simple, when electronic system doesn't work - the normal brake system is working in the background and car falls back on that. Similar to a car's steering, i.e. if power steering brakes down, the car doesn't become - incapable of being steered. Neither does a car with brake by wire become, without a brake. The electronic system need not detect a fault -- if the electronic system collapses, the other system is working underneath or in other words, in the background.--The idea that terrorists can simply take over cars -- is popular cult story. However when FBI-last year, tried to brake into an I-phone, they had lot's of trouble - it took 'em months to brake into a phone already in their possession. With decent protection, system's aren't in actuall truth easy to take over, as popular TV show and Hollywood movies paint 'em as being.

19 August 2017
max1e6 wrote:

You are assuming that the system will be able to detect a fault and also assume that it will be able to correctly work 'like a normal hydraulic system' in the event of a fault.

You get a life.

The (big) differennce between my life and yours is plain simple: before I say something, I try to fact check what I say. I know exactly how the brake-by-wire system - developed by Continental in Germany - works, even in the event of troubles. There is a back-up hydraulic which works exactly as "regular" brake systems. I know because I am an engineer.  You have no clue. At all. And you mix up terrorism and technology here not in a very smart way. Sorry, but next time try to put your doubts down in a different manner, and maybe someone will help you in understand what's not clear to you. Au revoir. 

19 August 2017

That saved me some typing. Thanks. :)

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Hyundai i30 N
    First Drive
    25 September 2017
    We get behind the wheel of Hyundai's first crack at a hot hatchback, and the i30 N doesn't disappoint
  • Alpina B4 S
    First Drive
    25 September 2017
    Our first UK drive in Alpina’s more potent sports coupé emphasises the breadth of ability on offer from this Bavarian alternative
  • Genesis G70
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Based on the Kia Stinger, Genesis' new G70 saloon shows plenty of promising signs that it could be a hit in Europe
  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Still visceral and dramatic as ever, but does the vast number of mechanical changes and tweaks help make the Lamborghini Aventador S more engaging?
  • Renault Koleos
    Car review
    22 September 2017
    Renault’s new crossover sees the Koleos name return, attached to an SUV of a quite different stripe