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Alfa Romeo’s stellar Stelvio steals limelight

The Stelvio takes Alfa Romeo into the sport utility vehicle market but has sacrificed the brand�s dynamic driving experience. Picture: Alfa Romeo

The Stelvio takes Alfa Romeo into the sport utility vehicle market but has sacrificed the brand�s dynamic driving experience. Picture: Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo’s first sport utility vehicle ever is certainly getting the legendary Italian car-maker new admirers but does it live up to its looks? Motoring editor Andy Russell finds out.

Alaf Romeo's Stelvio looks imposing on the road. Picture: Alfa Romeo Alaf Romeo's Stelvio looks imposing on the road. Picture: Alfa Romeo

As a motoring journalist, you can get blasé driving the latest cars and don’t always appreciate how special a new model is.

Take the Alfa Romeo Stelvio – the first sport utility vehicle in its 107-year history, following on from the excellent Guilia sports saloon.

The Stelvio attracted so much attention, with people wanting to know what it was, but it wasn’t until one swept past me on the road that I appreciated its head-turning looks.

Unfortunately the Back end looks a bit dumpy from certain angles. Picture: Alfa Romeo Unfortunately the Back end looks a bit dumpy from certain angles. Picture: Alfa Romeo

Looks and image

When Alfa designed this sport utility vehicle, sport was the operative word with the dynamically-styled Stelvio looking for a slice of the premium sector against the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Range Rover.

Good job then that it has an imposing presence with that distinctive family face dominated by the shield grille and off-set number plate. Unfortunately the back end looks a bit dumpy from certain angles.

Smart headlights add to the front-end flair. Picture: Alfa Romeo Smart headlights add to the front-end flair. Picture: Alfa Romeo

Under the bonnet

A choice of 200 and 280hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol and 180 and 210hp 2.2-litre turbo diesel engines, all mated to an excellent, quick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, and all-wheel drive as standard, although the 180hp diesel is also offered with rear-wheel drive.

Don’t think diesel is the dull option with the 210hp version boasting a healthy 470 Newton metres of torque at 1,750rpm for effortless low-down and punchy mid-range performance.

It also has three DNA drive modes – dynamic for sporty driving, natural and advanced efficiency for eco motoring – with the former really suiting the Stelvio’s character but not so good for economy with a 40mpg overall.

Alfa Romeo's traditional shield grille. Picture: Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo's traditional shield grille. Picture: Alfa Romeo

How it drives

Based on the same platform as the Guilia sets the tone for the driving experience so it’s an Alfa Romeo first and foremost, not just another SUV.

It shows in the handling with bags of grip, very little body roll through corners for a tall vehicle and sharp, responsive steering which, until you get used to it, feels over-sensitive – a problem I also found with the Guilia. Once you’ve got the feel of it, flicking the Stelvio through bends on challenging roads is so entertaining.

Fascia looks classy with a sporty design. Picture: Alfa Romeo Fascia looks classy with a sporty design. Picture: Alfa Romeo

The ride is pretty good too, even with the test car’s bigger, optional 19in wheels, soaking up poor surfaces to make the Stelvio an accomplished long-distance cruiser. They do create more tyre noise but no more than many sporty superminis.

Space and comfort

Only available with five seats, there’s plentiful headroom and decent rear legroom but a narrow opening at the bottom of the back doors and chunky seats mean taking care getting in and out. A middle passenger in the back has to contend with a chunky all-wheel drive transmission tunnel.

The five-seat Alfa Romeo Stelvio offers decent rear legroom. Picture: Alfa Romeo The five-seat Alfa Romeo Stelvio offers decent rear legroom. Picture: Alfa Romeo

The 525-litre is equally capable of carrying a good load of luggage – it goes back a long way and is well shaped with flat sides so all useable space.

The floor is at sill level, which makes loading and unloading large heavy items easier but it’s quite a high lift, and there’s no storage underneath with a space-saver spare wheel.

Handles in the boot release the 60/40 split rear seat backs, but they still needed a shove to drop on my test car, and the load cover doesn’t match the quality of the rest of the car.

Boot is well shaped to make the most of the 525 litres of space. Picture: Alfa Romeo Boot is well shaped to make the most of the 525 litres of space. Picture: Alfa Romeo

At the wheel

The classy fascia picks up the brand’s sporty look and influence with big dials and a 8.8in high-rise infotainment screen, operated via a central controller, which is easy to use but the sat-nav’s operation can be slow and clunky if it gets confused.

The glovebox is quite small but large doorbins and a locker between the front seats go some way to making up for it.

Final say

The Stelvio is a radical departure for Alfa Romeo and highlights the importance of having an SUV in your line-up to satisfy drivers’ desires.

It’s never going to be a big-seller, nor is Alfa a volume brand, which makes the Stelvio all the more desirable for those looking to be different and stand out from the SUV crowd.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Super 2.2 D AWD £38,490 (range from £33,990)

Engine: 2,143cc, 210hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel with standard eight-speed automatic gearbox

Performance: 0-62mph 6.6 seconds; top speed 134mph

MPG: Urban 51.4; extra urban 64.2; combined 58.9

CO2 emissions: 127g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 25pc

Insurance group: (out of 50) 31

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,687mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,163mm; H 1,671mm

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