It has taken a while for the Italian car manufacturer to enter the SUV market, however, Charlie Flindt thinks that it has been worth the wait
If you can live without noise-based nostalgia, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is an SUV that was worth the wait, says Charlie Flindt.
For more on Alfa Romeo, read Charlie Flindt’s review of the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
ALFA ROMEO STELVIO
It took some time for Alfa Romeo to jump on the SUV bandwagon but now that it has, it’s come up with a cracker – the Stelvio.
The first thing to strike me as ‘just right’ was at the front. Some years ago, Alfa chose to plant a dirty great shield/grille on the front of all its models, and we’ve been waiting for the car that matches it. On the Mito it looked plain daft; on the Giulietta and Giulia, slightly less silly; but on the Stelvio, it looks the right size – although it still necessitates a symmetry-destroying numberplate shift.
Overall, it is very beautiful, with a hint of Quattroporte in the styling, and only the bright yellow callipers marring the side view. Mind you, I spent much of my wedding weekend trying to find and mend the inboard brakes of a chum’s Alfasud. (Who said romance was dead?) There would be no such problem with my test Stelvio.
It’s curiously snug on the inside. The front is OK but the back would be a struggle for decent-sized adults, even though the rear seats are oddly low, and the boot is small enough to inspire panic in a flatcoat’s eyes as the tailgate shuts. The small rear window does little for the view out the back, too.
But there’s a good reason for these compact interiors: the Stelvio is heavily based on the Giulia, Alfa’s four-door saloon that has been such a hit. And once you get in and up and running, the Giulia’s road-going qualities shine through. The Stelvio feels exceptionally solid and secure in the late-autumn downpours, helped, of course, by the four-wheel-drive.
The only sadness is how eager the Stelvio is to change up a gear. My youth was full of Alfa engines that soared to the red line – the flat four of the Sud or the legendary V6. The Stelvio’s inline four has hardly moved away from idle when it changes up. Fiddling with the gimmicky ‘DNA’ system improves things a bit but hardens the suspension too much. I could use the enormous paddles, but I don’t; horrid things.
Tear yourself away from the noise-based nostalgia and the Stelvio is a delight on the road. The Giulia fundamentals mean body roll is limited and that 4wd grip combines nicely with the diesel’s grunt to give a drive that does stir some memories. Even the dials, set deep in chrome-lined cowlings, remind you of Alfa dashboards of old – but without the Christmas tree of warning lights that so often decorated the one on my own Sud.
Banks of flashing warning lights: for many, sadly, that, and early MOT failures for tinworm, is still what Alfa is known for. But as every year goes by, the Alfa cliché of rust and unreliability fades into the distance, helped by huge improvements in quality and a run of new models that really catch the eye. The Stelvio may only be a recent addition but it will go a long way in boosting Alfa Romeo’s image.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 Diesel
♦ Engine: 2,143cc turbodiesel
♦ Power: 210PS
♦ Max speed: 134mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 6.6 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 58.9mpg
♦ Insurance group: 31
♦ Price: £38,490