Rewind a couple of years and you’d have plenty of reasons to be concerned about the fate of Alfa Romeo.
The iconic Italian brand’s plummeting sales were never going to be reversed by its skeletal range of sub-par models, made up of the MiTo supermini and Golf-sized Giulietta.
Both these models packed their fair share of design flair, but they were hugely flawed in every other area, not to mention overpriced and unreliable.
Dramatic change was necessary if the brand was going to survive and that’s exactly what happened with the arrival of the 3 Series-rivalling Giulia and the Stelvio – Alfa’s first ever SUV.
The first phase of Alfa’s resurrection was a hit with the Giulia being met with generally positive reviews when it launched early in 2016, and now it’s down to the Stelvio to do the same. So what do the critics think?
Top Gear awarded it a solid eight out of ten, praising its powerful four-pot engines and seductive styling.
The Stelvio is offered with a choice of two engines: one diesel – a 2.2-litre unit with 207bhp – and one petrol – a two-litre block with 276bhp. Both come with all-wheel drive, mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, but it was the diesel that impressed Top Gear most due to its 6.6-second 0-62mph sprint; just 0.3 secs slower than Porsche’s six-cylinder Macan S Diesel.
“In practice, it goes every bit as hard in the mid-range as the numbers suggest – a satisfying, whooshy punch that encourages you to squeeze the throttle and feel the surge, just for the hell of it,” wrote Top Gear.
However, they added the diesel isn’t perfect, bemoaning “a fair bit of clatter at start-up”. They were less enamoured by the uninspiring handling and a build quality that simply can’t compete with that witnessed with German rivals.
It was an equivalent four out of five stars from Car Magazine, who considered it to be the “only SUV you’d buy on looks alone”.
Car thought Alfa held back when it came to enhancing the character of the Stelvio’s petrol engine, despite its impressive 5.7-second 0-62mph sprint.
However, they remained mindful that this is Alfa’s first shot at an SUV and on that basis, “it’s borderline brilliant”.
Auto Express also dished out four stars, claiming that the Stelvio is “exactly what the company needs”.
“It’s dripping with style, but backs that up with an engaging drive, a fine cabin and a punchy yet frugal diesel engine,” the motoring weekly beamed.
They admitted that competitors bettered it for space and tech, but maintained that the Stelvio proved that “Alfa can make a genuinely appealing alternative to the Germanic norm”.
Autocar was almost as satisfied with the Stelvio, handing it 3.5 stars from a possible five.
They complimented the SUV for its rigid body and widespread use of lightweight aluminium on the doors, bonnet, tailgate, suspension and sub-frames.
Areas they were less happy with were the Stelvio’s comfort and again, cabin quality, which Autocar describes as passable but certainly not on a level of its premium rivals.
“The Stelvio’s interior isn’t likely to sell it to someone considering giving up an Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC,” Autocar writes.
Still, they liked how the car handled, praising it for being “surprisingly agile around bends, gripping tenaciously and keeping a taut hold on its body”.
So there you have it; the Stelvio is a solid four out of five car – not the best out there but well worth considering if you’re in the market for a new SUV.
Have you driven Alfa’s SUV? What do you think? If not, do these reviews make you want to take it out for a test drive? Tell us down there in the comments.