First Drive: Updates to Alfa Romeo Stelvio help to keep stylish SUV fresh

What is it?

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio has been providing buyers with an alternative choice in the SUV segment since it arrived back in 2017. Since then we’ve praised it for the dynamic way it drives, its elegant good looks and its value for money too.

Large cuts along the side give a dynamic look
(Alfa Romeo)

But back then we had qualms with it – interior quality being a significant one – and it was a few of these small niggles which held the Stelvio back from properly competing.

Well, Alfa Romeo must have listened, because it has released this facelifted version of its first-ever SUV which looks to address some of those issues. We’ve headed to Italy to find out if those early problems have been remedied.

What’s new?

Those revisions formulate the majority of what is new with this 2020 model-year Stelvio. There are no tweaks nor changes to speak of when it comes to the engine, gearbox or chassis – but then the way the car handled was one thing we wouldn’t have changed in the slightest, so this isn’t much of an issue.

Black badges feature at the rear of the car
(Alfa Romeo)

Alfa has bolstered the Stelvio’s list of safety assistance equipment, however, with lane keeping assist, active blind spot assist and active cruise control three key additions in a whole suite of new safety tech now included.

What’s under the bonnet?

As before, the Stelvio is powered by a 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel engine with 188bhp and 450Nm of torque. There’s also a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine available too – in various states of tune – for those who want an alternative to the diesel.

New alloy wheels feature on the updated model
(Alfa Romeo)

Sending power to all four wheels (lower-powered models power the rear wheels alone), Alfa claims that the Stelvio will go from 0 to 60mph in 7.4 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 130mph. Efficiency figures are reasonable – the firm claims 42mpg combined and emissions of 146g/km CO2. It’s worth pointing out, however, that these emissions figures are from the older, less rigorous NEDC tests rather than the up-to-date WLTP ones.

What’s it like to drive?

We had few complaints about the way the pre-facelifted Stelvio drove, so we’re pleased that Alfa has left this area untouched. The steering remains super-quick – almost unnervingly so, to begin with – but it gives a great sense of agility to an otherwise big and bulky car. The ride is good too, and the engine manages to be relatively refined as well.

Large alloy wheels sit on all four corners
(Alfa Romeo)

The steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles are still a delight to use, and they help to make changing gear a bit more of an occasion than it usually would be in a run-of-the-mill SUV.

What we didn’t remember is how lively the Stelvio is out on the road. The Italian roads were unseasonably wet, granted, but the SUV managed to push both into understeer and surprising oversteer when pressed.

How does it look?

Alfa has given the exterior of the Stelvio a bit of a nip and tuck in places to help give it a bit of a boost. The headlight design has been left alone, however, in a break from the norm when it comes to usual facelifts. However, the grille can now be specified in black (on certain trim level) and there are new alloy wheel designs too.

The headlights have been kept the same as the outgoing model
(Alfa Romeo)

It’s still an impressive pretty car given its size; it manages to deal with its large proportions far better than other cars of its type, somehow appearing sleeker and less bulky than you’d expect.

What’s it like inside?

It’s inside where things have been overhauled the most, and Alfa made no bones about the series of complaints raised against the cabin quality of the original Stelvio. For the most part, the re-boot has been successful, with a nicely leather-wrapped gear selector replacing the cheap and nasty plastic version from the outgoing car, and there are plenty of soft-touch plastics on the dashboard too.

An updated infotainment system sits in the middle of the cabin
(Alfa Romeo)

However, the overall perception of quality simply isn’t as high as in rival offerings. Yes, the steering wheel has been reshaped and the infotainment control has been given a knurled, machined effect, but it’s still not the same in the cabin as when you’re sat in a car such as, say, Audi’s Q5. That said, the driving position remains very good – but we just wish that plastics around areas like the switchgear and heating controls were of a higher quality.

What’s the spec like?

There’s a big change when it comes to the Stelvio’s specification, too. The infotainment system has been completely overhauled, with the software being displayed on the 8.8-inch touchscreen display far more detailed than the one before it. It’s more like a smartphone display in design, with different ‘widgets’ displaying various information. It may not be quite as sharp to respond as rival systems, but it’s a huge leap forward from the one in the older car.

A new leather-wrapped gearstick sits in the middle
(Alfa Romeo)

That redesigned rotary controller helps the experience too, though it’s great to have the option of both physical and touch controls for the screen. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included too, so it’s easier to integrate your smartphone into the car’s system than before.

Verdict

The tweaks which Alfa has applied to the Stelvio really do help to do give it a much-needed refresh as it enters the second half of its lifecycle. The interior changes which have been made make it feel a little more premium, though it continues to be held back by some lower-quality plastics.

The infotainment is a big shift, however, and we’re glad that more safety equipment has been included too – as will the families towards who this car is angled towards. It may not be as premium as rivals, but the Stelvio remains a worthy choice in the SUV segment.

  • Model: Alfa Romeo Stelvio
  • Price: £TBA
  • Engine: 2.2-litre turbochargerd diesel
  • Power (bhp): 188
  • Torque (Nm): 450Nm
  • Max speed (mph): 130mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.4 seconds
  • MPG: 42
  • Emissions (g/km): 146 (NEDC)
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