The new Stevlio works well enough on UK roads, but comfort and quality might not delight everyone
Right-hand drive Stelvios don't go on sale in the UK until September, but we’ve managed to bring a left-hand drive 2.2-litre 207bhp diesel Stelvio over here to see how it will fare on British roads.
This 207bhp diesel will initially be joined by a 276bhp petrol version, with an entry-level 177bhp diesel and 197bhp petrol coming shortly afterwards. Pricewise, the Stelvio proposition will start at under £34,000, with a mid-spec 177bhp diesel coming in at around £3000 less than an Audi Q5.
So that’s the value box ticked, along with (you would think) the performance one, given the Stelvio’s promising power-to-weight ratios. It will be between 100 and 200kg lighter than the opposition, thanks to its relatively small size and its use of lightweight materials such as aluminium and carbonfibre (for the propshaft).
This, of course, is Alfa’s first SUV, but the styling seems more closely related to a big, hoisted five-door hatch than to a regular SUV. It’s more Porsche Macan than BMW X3 or Audi Q5. That, plus the decidedly average paintwork on our car, makes it less visually successful than (say) the Giulia.
There’s enough front headroom and seat height adjustability to deliver a more SUV-ish driving position, if that’s your preference. Rear room is class-average, albeit with a lower second row seat height than you might expect.
In terms of quality, the cabin’s slightly rough-hewn leather and cheap and/or dull trims and switchgear create an ambience that’s demonstrably behind that of a Q5 or Mercedes GLC. The seats themselves are very comfortable though, the controls are well positioned and the infotainment reasonably functional, but many of the buttons and fittings have a wobbly character to them that will bring a quizzical look to the faces of all but Alfa diehards.
The four-cylinder diesel soon gets through its faint idling clatter to settle into an acceptable level of refinement. There’s good midrange thrust from around 2000rpm too, marshalled by a responsive automatic gearbox.
By SUV standards, the handling is very good, with surprising cornering agility, grip and body control. The car is a bit more reactive to bumps than you’d expect an SUV to be, making it harder to place it as accurately as certain other SUVs that deliver a more nuanced handling experience.
The steering is typically Alfa-quick, giving an impression of dynamism that’s confirmed on smooth roads. The additional power assistance required by this taller, heavier car robs the Stelvio of much in the way of feel, but the zeal with which the Alfa hangs on to or changes its line is heartening.
Things aren't so rosy on crumblier roads, where the
Stelvio’s springing and damping don’t coalesce quite so well, allowing a degree of oscillation and passenger-jiggling. The advanced brake-by-wire system delivers a rather random mixture of feedback, but the actual stopping power and response are both fine.
All in all, the Stelvio combines decent drivetrains with a willing chassis and sharp pricing. The adoption of hatch-style handling characteristics in an SUV is something for an individual buyer to rationalise. Giulia-type dynamics are great – in a Giulia. Some might say that the definition of good handling in an SUV is different, possibly involving more in the way of ride comfort and cabin isolation than is delivered here in the Stelvio.
Few would complain about the Stelvio’s ambition to match the Giulia on poise and driving pleasure, but its civility and quality aspects may be seen in a less positive light by many premium SUV buyers.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 TD 210 AWD Speciale
On sale September
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
CO2/BIK tax band 127g/km, 27%
Rivals Jaguar F-Pace 25d R-Sport, BMW X3 xDrive30d M-Sport
Tony Middlehurst is a writer for AutoCar.
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