The Stelvio is Alfa Romeo's very first SUV, competing in the hugely popular market against premium rivals such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
What is it?
Alfa Romeo diving into SUVs represents a big shift for the brand, but one that is needed. The SUV market is now too important for manufacturers to ignore, and while some Alfa purists' eyebrows may have been raised at the announcement of the Stevio, the Italian manufacturer has made it clear that the new model is "an Alfa Romeo first and an SUV second".
Based on the Giorgio platform – the same as the Giulia – there is some truth to this brash statement. The Stelvio is extremely light for a car of this size, coming in at 1,664kg with the Q4 all-wheel-drive system, making it one of the lightest vehicles in its class. The all-wheel-drive system is also clever because it sends 100 per cent of the drive to the rear wheels for most of the time, only sending it to the front wheels when more grip is required.
What's under the bonnet?
Our test car came with Alfa Romeo's 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine and the Q4 all-wheel-drive system. It produces 207bhp and 470Nm of torque, giving a 0-60mph time of 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 134mph.
What's it like to drive?
Despite the Stelvio's relatively large size, its handling is impressive, and shows that it remains true to the Alfa Romeo ethos of producing cars aimed towards the driver. It feels agile and the steering provides lots of feedback, with the front end only washing out when you really pushing it hard.
It was equally impressive on the motorway too, being a comfortable cruiser that can eat up miles effortlessly. The 2.2-litre engine is also quiet under acceleration, and the ride feels easily soft enough to deal with the UK's rough roads. The only slight gripe with the drive is the 20-inch wheels, which produce quite a lot of tyre noise, though it is by no means a source of irritation.
How does it look?
This is the aspect of the Stelvio that provides a bit of uncertainty. From certain angles, the Stelvio is a great-looking car, but from others it just looks a bit odd. However, opinions are always subjective and only you can really decide if you like the look of the car. No matter what your thoughts though, you can't deny that the Stelvio is one of the most eye-catching SUVs on sale.
What's it like inside?
Given the Stelvio's sporty appearance and sloped roofline, it is impressive just how much space there is in it. There is plenty of room for both front and rear seat passengers, even for taller people. Boot space stands at 525 litres, which should be easily enough room for most owners, although it is slightly less than rivals such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 that both offer 550 litres of room.
What's the spec like?
Our Stelvio came in Milano Edizione specification, a way of giving its launch edition some Italian flair. While it does start at £43,990 – which seems expensive in our opinion – it does come laden with equipment.
It features 20-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, a 10-speaker sound system, a heated sports steering wheel and aluminium shift paddles, to name just a few features you get as standard.
Other trim levels include the standard Stelvio spec, as well as Super and Speciale – the latter will serve as the range-topping model once the Milano Edizione is no longer on sale. Alfa Romeo predicts these range-topping versions will be the most popular.
For a first attempt at producing an SUV, Alfa Romeo has done an excellent job. While it may have slightly controversial styling, its drive, practicality and efficient engines really round off the package. After several years of producing disappointing cars, it is great to see Alfa Romeo back on form producing great cars. Well done Alfa.
Model (as tested): Alfa Romeo Stelvio Milano Edizione 2.2-litre diesel 210hp AWD
Price (as tested): £43,990
Max Speed: 134mph