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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

The Stelvio’s low kerb weight promises ardent performance for a diesel SUV with enough power to be considered only ‘warm’ by the standards of today’s hatchbacks.

Indeed, Alfa’s claim is that it takes just 6.6sec to breach 62mph from rest, which looks good value next to the 6.3sec of the substantially more powerful – and expensive – Macan S diesel. Top speed, meanwhile, is pegged at 134mph.

The Stelvio’s lateral grip isn’t huge and patience is key to make the apices of tighter corners

With temperatures only a few degrees above freezing and in damp conditions at MIRA’s test facility, our test car duly delivered, recording 6.8sec to 60mph, in the process underscoring its maker’s claim.

Weight aside, the four-wheel-drive system and the four-cylinder Multijet II diesel’s 354lb ft slug of torque from just 1750rpm are largely to thank for that turn of pace, with that torque characterising the on-road performance.

This engine isn’t notably reluctant to rev out at least by four-cylinder diesel standards, but its best work is undoubtedly done between 2000rpm and 3500rpm.

Short-shifting through the eight ratios of the automatic transmission is no chore, though, with fresh gears engaged quickly, smoothly and with no small amount of satisfaction if you’re calling for them manually by using the paddle shifters.

The diesel’s response to throttle inputs is also adequately sharp for this type of car. It’s a characteristic facilitated by Alfa’s decision to fit an electrically controlled variable-geometry turbocharger.

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Of course, strong performance alone is not enough to carry a car with such a broad remit, so it’s decidedly a good thing that this engine is refined once up and running.

That you can sit at 70mph in eighth gear with the crankshaft performing just under 1700rpm means very little unwanted noise intrudes into the cabin from the engine bay.

Our test figures also indicated a touring economy of 49.7mpg, which yields a conveniently leggy range of 530 miles, given the 64-litre fuel tank.

Diesel is somewhat under the cosh in the UK and it might be tempting to look towards the petrol engines Alfa offers for the Stelvio.

They straddle our 207bhp test car in terms of power, but neither can match the fuel economy of the diesel unit, and nor are they capable of providing the kind of understated urgency that suits more athletic SUVs so well.