Alfa Romeo Stelvio long-term test review

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the Italian brand’s first ever SUV, and a rival to models such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace. So, what’s it like to live with a used example?...

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Steve Huntingford
07 March 2019

Long-term Alfa Romeo Stelvio
  • The car: Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2D 210 Q4 Milano Edizione
  • Run by: Steve Huntingford, editor
  • Why it’s here: To see if Alfa Romeo’s large SUV is a match for the best prestige rivals when tasked with family duties
  • Needs to: Offer a practical interior, premium build quality, sensible running costs and a good blend of fun and comfort

Price when new £43,990 Value on arrival £35,340 Mileage on arrival 18,284 Mileage now 23,428 Official economy 58.9mpg Test economy 37.4mpg Options fitted Metallic paint (£770), Driver Assistance Pack Plus (£700), Sound Theatre by Harmon Kardon (£500) and space saver spare wheel (£275)

7 March 2019 – Final report

Alfa Romeo has always produced great looking cars, but its performance in customer satisfaction studies suggested they weren’t so great to live with. That all changed in 2017, though, when the Italian brand finished in the top 10 of our annual Reliability Survey – a feat it repeated last year, when it also beat all of its German rivals.

At the start of this long-term test, then, I was hoping to find out for myself whether Alfa Romeo really has rediscovered its mojo, and by extension if you should choose its first ever SUV, the Stelvio, over long-established models such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. My conclusion, without wishing to give too much away up front, is that it depends on your priorities.

While the Stelvio isn’t especially roomy by large SUV standards, I still found it more than practical enough for my needs, with it easily swallowing the paraphernalia that a family outing with my two-year-old daughter requires.

LT Alfa Romeo Stelvio goodbye

What’s more, the fact that its suspension is set up to be sporty – i.e. firm – is actually a good thing when young kids are along for the ride, because it minimises the vertical bouncing and side-to-side jostling that can lead to them becoming car sick, and that's so often present in SUVs.

Where the Stelvio really dazzles, though, is in the way it performs when you’re on your own and don’t have to worry about spilled drinks or green gills.

Its light, quick steering takes a little getting used to, but once you have, it’s a pleasure to swoop from apex to apex, beguiled by just how composed the car is. Body lean is kept to a minimum and you can really lean on the Stelvio in fast bends, trusting that it's never going to step out of line or act untowardly.

LT Alfa Romeo Stelvio steering wheel

Don’t think it’s just on deserted country roads that the drive impresses, either; those steering characteristics are just as much of a plus in town, where they make this big car surprisingly easy to park and manoeuvre.

However, as much as all of this endeared the Stelvio to me, it’s worth noting that you’re better off looking elsewhere if you value a plush interior over nimble handling.

It’s not that the Stelvio’s is shoddily assembled; everything feels solid enough and there were no obvious signs of wear in my car, even though it had covered more than 18,000 miles prior to me taking delivery. It's that the air conditioning controls and gear selector have a rather lightweight, plasticky feel and the on-screen graphics are nowhere near as sophisticated as those in the latest Audis and BMWs.

LT Alfa Romeo Stelvio parked by viaduct

Fortunately, this doesn’t make the infotainment system tricky to use; like the Q5 and X3, the Stelvio has a rotary control dial for scrolling through its various menus, and I found this far less distracting while driving than the touchscreen in my previous car, a Volvo XC40.

Instead, it was the three faults that my Stelvio suffered that leave the biggest black mark on its final report card, with the battery discharging itself for no obvious reason at the start of my time with the car and two subsequent engine warning lights requiring me to call Alfa Romeo’s roadside assistance hotline.

These incidents definitely give me pause for thought when it comes to the question of whether I’d recommend someone spend their money on a Stelvio. But ultimately, the fact that so few Alfa Romeo owners are reporting similar problems these days provides some reassurance, and for me the good things absolutely outweigh the bad. Yes, there are better all-rounders, but if you value the things the Stelvio does well, I suspect you’ll absolutely love it.

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