Everybody has to be building an SUV now. Even brands that have specialised for years in sleek, sporting saloons. Hence we have the Jaguar F-Pace, the Maserati Levante and even the likes of Lamborghini building the Urus. And, of course, this â€” the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
Thereâ€™s no doubting that itâ€™s an Alfa. The corporate face is there â€” albeit in a deeper more bulbous fashion. The rest of the exterior follows Alfaâ€™s curvy design language in an inoffensive but not particularly inspiring way. The curse of SUV proportions mean itâ€™s no Giulia but the curves are a nice alternative to a lot of sharply-shaped rivals.
The interior is more convincing, thereâ€™s nothing overly fussy, just a straightforward sensible layout where everything falls to hand as youâ€™d like it to. The dark, grained wood on the dash is nicely done and flows neatly with the rest of the dash. Circular air vents, a twin-bump instrument binnacle and steering wheel-mounted start button are other nice touches that donâ€™t verge into the showy and elsewhere it looks and feels good. Iâ€™m not convinced, however, that itâ€™s quite a match for the likes of the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.
It is at least a properly usable sized SUV. Thereâ€™s good space all round for driver and three passengers and as a practical family machine thereâ€™s a healthy if not spectacular 525-litre boot.
The biggest letdown in the cabin is the lack of refinement for such a supposedly premium vehicle. Wind and road noise are fairly obvious at the national speed limit and more so than Iâ€™d expect in a Â£40,000 car.
Also contributing to the noise is the engine. The 2.2-litre diesel sounds gruff even under fairly light loads. It settles down reasonably at cruise but under any acceleration youâ€™re reminded that itâ€™s an oil-burner.
In its favour, the four-cylinder engine is remarkably potent. Working through a smooth eight-speed auto gearbox its 207bhp and 347lb ft of torque deliver 62mph in 6.6 seconds and buckets of shove whenever required. And despite its hot hatch-shaming pace the Stelvio still returns 58.9mpg.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 Diesel Q4 AWD Super
Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 6.6 seconds
CO2 emissions: 127g/km
The steering and ride feel set up to remind you that this is an Alfa â€” a brand renowned for its sporting heritage. A Stelvio Quadrifoglio has just blasted round the Nurburgring in a record-breaking seven minutes 51 seconds in an effort to prove that this is still a sporting Alfa.
Our test car might have been equipped with the humble 2.2 diesel rather the QFâ€™s 503bhp 2.9-litre petrol but even in this model the steering is remarkably sharp and quick. Aided by a relatively light kerbweight this makes for an engaging drive where you can chuck the Stelvio around with aplomb lacking from some others in the class.
The ride, too, is definitely at the firm, sporty end of the spectrum. This aids the sporty drive but at the expense of comfort. It might feel composed on the smooth autostrada of Italy but on the pockmarked B1224 just outside Weatherby it never feels settled.
A four-wheel-drive diesel Stelvio like our test car starts at Â£38,450 and comes with the sort of kit youâ€™d expect for that money: dual-zone climate, 8.8-inch DAB touchscreen with navigation, auto lights and wipers, parking sensors, power tailgate, AEB, lane departure warning and projector halogen headlamps. An extra Â£7,000 of options chucks in the likes of power adjustable seats, 19-inch alloys, rear camera, auto high beam, keyless go and even a cooled central armrest.
The Stelvio has got the badge, the looks and the kit to cut it in this sector and itâ€™s a fun drive, too, thanks to plenty of shove and lively handling. Only its harsh ride and below-par refinement let it down in the face of some fierce rivals.