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Alfa Romeo's sweet-handling debut Stelvio SUV shines

PUBLISHED: 16:20 24 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:20 24 May 2017

Alfa Romeo's first sport utility vehicle, the sophisticated-looking Stelvio, is rewarding to drive. Picture: Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo's first sport utility vehicle, the sophisticated-looking Stelvio, is rewarding to drive. Picture: Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo

The Stelvio, which shares many components with the Giulia, is Alfa Romeo's first venture into the sport utility vehicle market. Jon Reay finds out what it's like.

Svelte profile - Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Picture: Alfa RomeoSvelte profile - Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Picture: Alfa Romeo

What’s new?

This is Alfa Romeo’s first sport utility vehicle – no pressure – so the Italians certainly aren’t messing around when it comes to showcasing Alfa’s interpretation of an off-roader.

Rather than borrowing bits from sister company Jeep, Alfa has started afresh with the Stelvio – basing it on the platform of the new Giulia saloon to provide much more car-like dynamics along with a rear-biased four-wheel-drive system.

Engines are largely shared with the Giulia too – although the 2.2-litre diesel has been boosted to 210hp in its most powerful guise – and the four-wheel-drive system is the same rear-biased set-up.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio's dashboard is attractive and logical. Picture: Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo Stelvio's dashboard is attractive and logical. Picture: Alfa Romeo

Looks and image

Alfa’s trademark shield-shaped grille sits proudly in the centre, flanked by headlights that anyone familiar with the Giulia will recognise. In profile, the Stelvio is more svelte crossover than stout SUV as it successfully belies its size.

Inside, things are pretty impressive too. Materials can’t really be faulted, the dash is attractive and logical and the driving position spot on but it doesn’t quite match the wow factor of some premium rivals. Sleek and sophisticated, yes, but no fancy quilted leather, touch-sensitive buttons, hi-tech virtual cockpit screen. But Alfa has clearly put some thought into a few nice details in the cabin – such as the flat-bottomed steering wheel and tactile metal paddle shifters.

Alfa Romeo'’s Stelvio - designed for driving pleasure. Picture: Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo'’s Stelvio - designed for driving pleasure. Picture: Alfa Romeo

Space and practicality

Given its shapely body, the Stelvio isn’t quite as practical as some more traditional-looking SUV rivals but there’s still room for four adults and their luggage. Rear legroom is decent and boot space a useful 525 litres.

Rear visibility takes a bit of a hit though with a relatively small rear screen and thick pillars.

Alfa has brimmed the Stelvio with safety kit and technology to help prevent a crash – lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection,and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Behind the wheel

You’ll find a car-like driving position and a cabin that’s more driver-focused and enveloping than in a typical SUV but where the Stelvio really shines is the way it drives. The steering is direct, accurate and delicate, there’s very little roll around corners – something Alfa’s engineers are rightly proud of – and at 1,660kg for the 280hp 2.0-litre petrol, it’s 100kg lighter than the daintiest German rival.

The trade-off for that composure is a relatively firm ride, it’s not unreasonable or uncomfortable.

Value for money

Prices have not yet been released but there are just three trim levels – Stelvio, Business and Super – and even entry-level cars get an array of standard safety kit, front and rear parking sensors, a 6.5in infotainment screen, keyless entry and 17in alloys. Upgrade to Super and you’ll get half-leather seats, bigger alloys and so on, while Business bundles in a few options above the entry-level car but only BIK-friendly diesel engines.

Who would buy one?

As Alfa Romeo’s first SUV, customers are likely to be new to the brand and Alfa would like to think its customers are more interested in design and handling. It’s nailed that brief – the Stelvio is probably the sweetest-handling SUV this side of a Porsche Macan and looks effortlessly sophisticated.

TECH AND SPEC

Model: Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2d

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

Performance: 0-62mph 6.6 seconds; top speed 133mph

MPG: 58.8 combined

Emissions: 127g/km

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