Road test: Alfa Romeo Stelvio
It’s a chunky beast that drives a lot better than it looks.
What is it?
The Stelvio is an Alfa Romeo, but not like any others before it. Big, chunky and pumped up, rather than sleek and low-slung, but just as sporty..
How green is it?
By SUV standards, and considering its lively performance, its 127g/km CO2 output and upper-50s mpg is pretty fair and rather better than many others.
Who should buy it?
Keen drivers who care more about the way a car feels than the way it looks. Alfisti – Alfa lovers – who would rather drive an SUV and can now buy one wearing their favourite badge.
Road test by Sue Baker, February 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
It’s an Alfa, and so comes with the expectation of being sporty. It is, and the Stelvio is very entertaining to drive, although it does have a few flaws. Some of the controls are a bit clunky, the indicators won’t easily self-cancel so you have to flick them the other way toturn them off. .There’s also a bit of body lean going into tight corners.
Those criticisms apart, the Stelvio is a driver-pleaser for its sheer tactile engagement and grippy precision on the bends. Unlike some other biggish 4×4 SUVs, its all-wheel-drive system is about road-going surefootedness and security, rather than any desire to be capable across rugged terrain. The Stelvio feels securely planted and clings on tightly with poise and grip when you take it galloping on a cross-country road route.
The steering is sensitive to the point of feeling almost alive. That can be a bit disconcerting at first, but it quickly becomes an endearing feature of the car. It has a thoroughbred feel that makes you relish a long trip.
The 2.2 litre diesel engine has plenty of punch for what Alfa says is one of the lightest all-up weights of any similarly sized SUV. Its power output is a very respectable 207 bhp, and 347lb ft of torque is a meaty amount in a car that weighs just over one-and-a-half tonnes, while other comparable models are closer to two tonnes. The 0-62mph acceleration time in under seven seconds shows it’s no slouch, and considering its performance the Stelvio’s fuel consumption is good with 50-ish mpg real-life attainable.
Other engine options include 178bhp diesel (available with rear and four-wheel drive) a178bhp petrol AWD and a 2.0-litre 276bhp petrol AWD. All are matched to the same eight-speed automatic gearbox.
It’s disappointing that the Stelvio isn’t as refined as some others, and as well as engine noise there’s some wind rustle past the mirrors on a motorway. So it is by no means perfect, but it’s more fun to drive than most.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The Stelvio is roomy enough in the front. Seat comfort is high, with a seat structure that snugly wraps you like a big bear hug and feels very cosseting, even if a big nannying.
, But considering the Alfa’s overall size at almost 4.7 metres, it is not especially generous in the back for tall adults on a longer trip.
The boot is about average at 525 litres, some way behind a Jaguar F-Pace’s 650 litres. The boot edge is slightly lower than some, and the space inside is nicely square and uncluttered, but could do with more places to strap down a load. Levers to release the rear seat backs and fold them forward are unusually located under the outer edges of the seat bases.
There are some odd features to the car. It has the biggest steering column paddle-shifts to manually control the auto gearbox that you will see in just about any car. They seem rather intrusive, and tend to get in the way of other controls.
The Stelvio had no problem scoring highly in Euro NCAP testing, with a five star rating and 97 per cent adult occupancy result. It did okay too on the child passenger and pedestrian protection scores, but not quite as well for provision of safety assistance measures. It does have standard automatic braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning though. NCAP testers criticised the Alfa’s speed-limiter, that you can set to stay legal, as being too complicated.
Across the Stelvio range, every version comes equipped with smart alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a colour infotainment touchscreen, eight-speaker audio, multi-function leather steering wheel, active cruise control, LED rear lights and rear parking sensors. All but the base trim version have front parking sensors, leather trim and satnav. Up-scale Milano models have 20-inch wheels, keyless entry, heated front seats, rear camera and privacy glass. Some versions have sporty red brake calipers.
By the standards of other posh-badged SUVs, the Stelvio is priced quite competitively, starting from £33,990. That is for a rear-wheel-drive 2.2 litre diesel in base level trim. Move up to a smarter trim level though, and the price jumps accordingly, to almost £44,000 for our top-spec test car. Petrol models start from £34,690 with all-wheel-drive, with which all but two out of 11 models in the range come equipped.
WE SAY It’s a chunky beast that drives a lot better than it looks.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds
Economy: 58.9mpg combined
Insurance: Group 33
Figures for the Stelvio 2.2 Diesel Q4 AWD Milano