Alfa Romeo is not synonymous with SUVs. It’s synonymous with pretty and emotive cars that are, typically, a heart-over-head purchase. And thank goodness for that, because the car world would be a much less interesting place without Alfa’s trademark style and flamboyance. But it’s still a company that needs to sell cars and make money, and so here is its SUV – the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Sized and priced to take on the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo XC60, the Stelvio aims to offer all that Italianate design flair and want-one factor in a car that also offers the modern utilitarianism of a roomy, five-seat family SUV.
Body Style: 5 door SUV Seats: 5 MRP from £35,090 - £45,390
Did you know? The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is named after a famous mountain pass in the Italian Alps. It's the second highest paved road in the Alps.
If you’re after a family SUV that is objectively the best in its class, or that’s ideal for coping with chunky child seats and double-buggies, then you’re best off clicking onwards towards the Audi Q5 or BMW X3. If you’re after something that’ll keep the teenagers happy in the back, but also delivers real design lustre and emotive appeal to keep the driver happy, then you’re in the right place. A choppy ride, a slightly clunky infotainment system and comparably limited rear legroom are the chief things that might see you fleeing for safer, more familiar offerings like the Volvo XC60, which is itself not without serious design swagger. But if you want something that stands out from the crowd, the Alfa is a fun, interesting, competitively priced and reasonably practical SUV.
Strong diesel engine
We Don't Like
So-so rear legroom
Refinement is poor
This aspect of the Alfa, and its potential for being a fun drive, is likely what’s got you interested in the first place. There’s certainly a hint of the Alfa Giulia hatchback that the Stelvio is based on in its swoopy, purposeful lines, and the striking light signatures at front and rear are another very distinctive Alfa trademark. It looks great and, more than that, it looks different to every other SUV out there.
Entry level cars get 17in alloys, but those wheels grow by an inch as you step up through the four-trim line-up until you get to the 20in wheels of top-spec Milano Edizione, which also gets privacy glass and gloss black styling highlights.
The Stelvio’s dash has an appealingly modern, minimalist look to it and drivers of any size should be able to get comfortable, although we can only speak for the electrically-adjustable seats. There are few buttons other than the climate control’s rotary dials, a sparse few buttons on the pretty three-spoke steering wheel and two more rotary controllers laying flat on the car’s centre spine for controlling the infotainment system and the ‘DNA’ drive modes.
There are some plastics that feel cheaper than you’d enjoy in the obvious German rivals, but generally the Alfa’s switchgear and interior finish feel pretty good – better by a fraction, even, than that of the Jaguar F-Pace. You can even get real wood trim if you spec the Lusso pack, but don't worry - it's modern-looking woods, not grandfather clock casing.
Even the switch and stalk damping feels suitably upmarket, although the windscreen wiper control is unfathomably odd. Dipping the stalk itself only activates the rear windscreen wiper (which wipes constantly and has no intermittent setting – also annoying), and activating the main windscreen wipers is done via a fiddly switch mounted in the stalk. Still, at least the windscreen wipers are automatic across the range, and even have two settings for how sensitive you want their response to be.
Other irritations will include chunky windscreen pillars that can obscure your view out onto junctions sometimes, and it can be hard to judge the extremities of the bonnet (so it’s good that all but base Stelvio models get front and rear parking sensors). Generally the driving position is comfortable and you get six-way electric adjustment is a £750 option or is standard on the top two trims.
Headroom is generous wherever you sit in the Stelvio, but rear legroom is more restrictive than you’d enjoy in most rivals. This will be a problem if you have a leggy toddler in a child seat behind a fairly tall driver, when it’s very likely that the child will be able to kick the back of the driver’s seat.
To add to the word of caution if you’ve got unwieldy child seats and toddlers to lug about, the Alfa’s rear door aperture is fairly narrow by class standards, and the door doesn’t open as wide as you might want it to. If you’ve got young kids, there are other posh SUVs out there that will make the everyday practicalities a bit easier, including the Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Still, if you’re not burdened with chunky car seats and toddlers, an average-sized adult will have room to sit comfortably behind a tall adult, and hopefully they’ll be well behaved enough to not kick the driver’s seat.
The Alfa’s boot is a decent size and the rear seats fold flat easily, but if you’ve added the optional space saver tyre (which we always recommend you do) there’s no underfloor storage. It’s a big enough space to cater for enormous weekly shops or a couple of lightweight buggies, but if you’re measuring your SUV on its versatility, there are plenty of more practical options.
An 8.8in colour screen is standard in every Stelvio but base versions don’t get nav, which is one of many reasons why everyone is likely to go for mid-range Super trim or up. The screen is graphically quite dated by comparison to the systems you enjoy in a Q5, X3 and XC60, but the Alfa’s BMW iDrive-style rotary control is easy to use – much more so than the Jaguar F-Pace or Range Rover Evoque's touchscreen systems.
You don’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which is a bit of an oversight given that most rivals have them as standard, but if you plug your phone in via the single USB input, it’s easy to navigate the music selection anyway. Plus, it’s easy to input a postcode and the navigation is simple to follow, so that’s all good. It’s annoying that the screen is quite narrow, and you can’t seem to set the map to a full widescreen mode – it’s in a permanent split-screen mode that works when you’ve got a route plugged in as you have the next direction showing alongside the map, but with no route plugged in, it’s mostly just wasted space on the screen.
Our test car had the optional Harmon Kardon sound system, which is excellent.
The Alfa is available with a 2.1-litre diesel in 177bhp or 207bhp power outputs, or a 2.0-litre petrol with 198bhp or 276bhp - all four-cylinder, turbocharged units mated to a compulsory eight-speed automatic gearbox. The entry-level diesel is available with rear-wheel drive or ‘Q4’ four-wheel drive, while the rest of the range is four-wheel drive as standard. There is a fully-fledged sports option in the Ferrari-engined Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which you can read all about here.
We drove the 207bhp 2.1-litre diesel, which delivers a satisfyingly urgent mid-range blast, albeit with quite a bit of engine noise compared to most rivals. The gearbox, too, is very good if not quite as quick-witted and effortlessly slick as the best dual-clutch alternatives in the Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan, even if it’s better than the ‘box in a Volvo XC60. Ultimately, you’re going to appreciate the way the Alfa goes down the road whether you’re looking to have fun on a good country road, or just looking to get through rush hour without losing your temper. Make sure you add the steering wheel paddles if you haven’t got them as standard, as they’re lovely paddles that are big enough to be just where you want them and have a lovely damping to them, and you’ll want that extra control of the gearbox in enthusiastic driving.
We’ll update this section with more impressions of the rest of the Stelvio’s engine range when we drive them.
Ride and Handling
The Alfa handles rather differently to most SUVs. Only the Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan have a similar fun-first handling attitude, and certainly a Volvo XC60 feels markedly stodgier and more old-school SUV by comparison. Unusually in this class, Alfa Romeo doesn’t offer adaptive dampers so you have to take the Stelvio as you find it, which is no bad thing because it’s one of the best handling SUVs. Sling it into a fast corner and it tucks in with real zeal, delivering confident and predictable but engaging response that’s got more than a whiff of hot hatch to it. Body control, too, is very well sorted for an SUV – only a Porsche Macan has a neater turn-in and body control. Equally, you can weave the Stelvio through town traffic with ease, although the turning circle isn’t brilliant for awkward multi-storey car parks.
The flipside to this entertaining handling is a ride that, while well controlled, is quite choppy. The damping is effective, so it doesn’t crash or shudder even over sharp-edged intrusions, but it is firmly sprung meaning that you’ll be quite aware of the car dipping a wheel into a pothole or chopping about over rugged surfaces. Still, even on the 20in wheels of our test car we’d never have called the Stelvio uncomfortable, but certainly more restless than the more comfort-oriented rivals.
Recommended engine: 2.2 diesel Q4
The Stelvio gets autonomous emergency braking (AEB) at city speeds across the range, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, lane departure warning, and an alarm and immobiliser across the range. It also got a very good five star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, beating rivals like the Audi Q5 for adult occupant protection.
However, there are some oddities, namely that blind spot warning with rear cross traffic assist (to warn of oncoming traffic when you’re reversing out of a blind parking space), is only available on Super trim as part of the Driver Assist Plus pack that’s unique to the Stelvio Super. You can add front and rear parking sensors and rear-view camera – included in the pack – separately to the other Stelvio models, but if you want blind spot assist you have to add that pack and you can only add it to Super trim, which is one up from the basic Stelvio. All quite strange.
All Stelvios get LED rear lights, but the headlights are halogen unless you go for one of top two trims that get Bi-Xenon lights, or you can pay to add them to lesser trims. This is another oddity, given that most rivals get LED headlights as standard or optional; it’s a newer technology that gives better visibility and more advanced adaptive functions.
A space saver spare tyre is an option and costs a bit more than it does in most rivals, but you’re still wise to add it.
Alfa Red (pictured) is the standard colour, and one of the best options too, so we’d be happy to save some cash and stick with that. Vesuvio Grey or Visconti Green are both quite striking, but cost £770, as do all eight of the metallic shades. It’s a more interesting colour palette than many rivals can offer.
There are four trim levels, all of which get rear parking sensors, an 8.8in colour screen, cruise control, climate control and powered bootlid. You’re best off avoiding the entry-level car as it gets cloth upholstery and no sat-nav, which is as desirable as leprosy in this class. Super trim is the next step up and is a fine choice as it adds part-leather trim, nav, 18in alloy wheels, front parking sensors, and a colour driver’s display between the dials. Speciale is good fun as you can tell people you own a Speciale and they'll assume it's an elite Ferrari. It also brings heated and electrically adjusted front seats with lumbar adjustment, full leather upholstery, chrome styling upgrades, 19in wheels, Bi-xenon headlights and red brake callipers. Milano Edizione tops the range with 20in wheels, rear-view camera, keyless entry and sports seats among a few other extras.
If you’re not bothered by heated seats and leather upholstery, the Super trim is the best bet, with the convenience pack for keyless entry and spare tyre added. If you want the full hot cow hide experience (and we probably would in this car), the Speciale is likely worth the jump up in price since adding heated, electrically adjustable seats is a pricey addition on Super trim.
Size and Dimensions
Max towing weight unbraked - braked
750kg – 2300kg
The Alfa’s efficiency is excellent on the 2.1 diesels, with official CO2 emissions undercutting most rivals for very sensible tax costs. We found real-world economy on the high-powered diesel to be roughly what you’d expect, at around mid-40s in varied use, stretching towards 50mpg in easy motorway use. We can’t comment on the other engines as we haven’t driven them, but the petrols also have very competitive official economy and emissions.
The Stelvio will cost a similar amount to insure as key rivals, being a very competitive group 30 for the big-selling diesel models. Residuals are less certain, partly because this is the first time that Alfa has had a car in this class, and partly due to the slightly dubious reputation for reliability that currently maligns the brand. Still, this is something of a new era for Alfa and we’re willing to believe industry forecasts that suggest that it won’t be any worse for re-sale values than the Jaguar F-Pace, even if an Audi Q5 or BMW X3 will certainly hold their value better.
Reliability and servicing
Reliability is tricky to comment on as there’s little data on the Stelvio, but suffice to say that the company doesn’t have a fantastic record for reliability according to owner surveys, whether you look at its performance pre- or post- the merger with Chrysler. The Stelvio does use a lot of new parts – mechanical and electrical - and it feels more solidly screwed together than pre-Giulia models, so here’s hoping that this is a new and improved era of build quality for the Italian brand. A three year, unlimited mileage warranty is standard.
12 months or 12,500 miles
24 months or 25,000 miles
The 2.1 diesel engines are excellent on emissions, bettering even the ever-impressive Audi Q5 2.0 TDI, and so the Alfa will be an impressively cheap company car option. The lower-powered diesel with Q4 all-wheel drive in Super trim will cost £13,191 in BIK tax for a 40 percent tax payer over the next three years – around £1200 less than the Volvo XC60 D4 or Jaguar F-Pace 2.0 Diesel 180. It’ll even undercut the equivalent Audi Q5 by some £600.
List prices are also very competitive, and Alfa has some keen contract hire deals going on the Stelvio. As we write, a higher-powered diesel Stelvio Speciale will cost you just £399 per month for three years after a £3591 deposit, albeit on a fairly low mileage limitation of 8000 miles per year. For context, an Audi Q5 will cost you around £500 per month after a £3000 deposit on a contract hire basis. PCP finance deals are similarly strong for the Alfa, with dealer deposit contributions readily thrown in and comparably low monthly payments available.
Go for Speciale and add one of the more stand-out metallic paints; it'll look fantastic.
The 2.0 280 petrol Speciale is good value for the performance and should be great fun.
Speciale, but add the Lusso pack, which includes full grain leather, heated steering wheel, real wood inserts and 8-way electrically adjustable seats.
The finest interior in the class, with far better refinement and a roomier interior. Expensive, but tough to beat.
Keen handling, great interior and great engines - especially the potent diesels. Also a seriously good package.
|Less practical than the Alfa Stelvio, and not as good to drive, but it's got brand cache and desirability to spare.|
Sharp looks and a lovely interior, plus better practicality and comfort. Not as efficient or as sharp handling as the Alfa.
Even more fluid handling than the Alfa, but less efficient and more expensive.