New 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio review

Tyler Heatley

25 Oct 2021

1/8
Alfa Romeo's stylish SUV has been updated, but can it take the fight to the Germans?

YesAuto Score:

73/ 100

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car.

YesAuto’s exhaustive evaluation criteria considers every aspect of a car in terms of how it stacks up against rival models in the same class only. Below are the areas every car is judged and scored out of 10 on, each contributing to an overall score out of 100:

  • Interior quality and design
  • Interior tech
  • Interior space
  • Boot space
  • Engine performance
  • Engine economy
  • Ride and comfort
  • Handling
  • Driving and safety tech
  • Fit for purpose

Electric cars are scored out of 10 in the following areas instead of performance and economy:

  • Battery and motor
  • Range and charging

PROS:

+ Handsome design

+ Good standard equipment

+ Fun to drive


CONS:

- Costly

- Firm ride

- Not the most practical in its class


Verdict: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is amongst the most elegant of SUVs with a beautifully curvaceous design and plenty of Italian flair. Some rivals are more refined, but this car is certainly amongst the best in its class to drive.




2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio review: the five-minute read


The rise of the SUV has been an ongoing thing for over a decade now, and so we’re unperturbed by the notion of a high-riding Rolls-Royce or Lamborghini. However, there were a few raised eyebrows back when Alfa Romeo introduced the Stelvio. While at that point Alfa had been somewhat neglected by its parent company, mainly producing reworked Fiats, could the bastion of driving enjoyment really pull off an SUV? The answer was a resounding yes with the Stelvio becoming a big success for the Italian marque. A recent string of updates aims to keep this SUV in contention for best in class.


It still looks utterly fantastic to our eyes. A handful of nips and tucks for this model year only serve to make the SUV more handsome, with this Italian car sticking with organic curves as opposed to the hard creases of rivals. The real success of this car’s design is that despite Alfa previously never making an SUV, it is immediately identifiable as one via that signature grille and unfussy lines. God is in the detail with the Alfa Romeo script on its brake calipers and the suggestive line below the rear windscreen being good examples.


Some of the most significant changes are found in the cabin where material quality has notably increased. You’ll still find some hard plastics below knee height, but optional wood and metallic finishes really serve to boost the perception of this space. Dependant on trim, rich leathers are joined by lovely little bits of Italian badging, not to mention those very Ferrari-inspired aluminium paddle shifters. However, its closest German rivals still win out in terms of overall build quality.


This is Alfa Romeo’s most practical model, so the best choice if you have a family. There’s some storage for various gubbins around the cabin, and the sportily bolstered front seats offer good adjustment to get comfy. The rear bench seats three, and will happily host your average adult, however, leg and headroom aren’t the most spacious in the class. Boot space stands at a handy 525-litres with a flat floor aiding the loading of heavy items. It’s a good square space that will easily take a pram or the other bulky paraphernalia associated with young children.


In sporty Veloce trim, Stelvios can only be had with the most potent of petrol or diesel engines. The 276bhp turbocharged petrol is a sweet motor if you really enjoy working in the upper edges of the rev range, especially with those aforementioned paddles. A 0-62mph sprint can be cracked in 5.7 seconds, and the adaptive dampers of this particular car further enhance an athletic characteristic. 


Show the Stelvio some twisting Tarmac and it will dance with the very best. Its quick change of direction comes thanks to quick steering, tempered body roll, and a Q4 all-wheel drive system that predominantly sends power rearwards. In many respects, it handles like a big saloon car, but its tactility, when driven at a pace, makes this one of the most enjoyable SUVs to pilot spiritedly.



At more sedate speeds around town, you’ll feel that the Stelvio rides a bit firmer than its competitors – largely thanks to being geared towards a sporty drive. It’s not terrible, especially if cars with adaptive dampers are in their cushiest setting, however, low-speed high-frequency bumps tend to shudder through the cabin. Things improve at higher speeds or with smaller alloy wheel options.


If you’re a keen driver that has needed to surrender the sports car keys due to family commitments, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio will be up your street. Its dynamic ability outshines its closest rivals, and while not as plush or outright comfier than competitors, it has a sense of occasion to it when hitting B-roads. The V6 Quadrifoglio might get all of the headlines, but in reality, the Veloce will tick most of your real-world performance SUV boxes. A Jaguar F-Pace might be a better allrounder, but it’s the Alfa Romeo enthusiasts will truly desire.



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Extended read…



2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio interior and infotainment


There’s never been any quibbles over how stylish the Stelvio’s interior is with its neat stitching and wheel-mounted starter button, but the material quality is another matter. Too many plastics and harsh materials on touchpoints worked against it in the past, but the facelift has injected a bit more class into this cabin. It’s still not on the same level as an Audi, but the plusher materials and reworked console certainly boosts perceptions. Changes to the gear selector make it a touch more ergonomic than before, but there are also more aesthetic touches like Tricolore badging that add detail.


Sat between a pair of analogue dials is a 7-inch screen that can display various pieces of driving data. It’s a nice blend of old and new, and a more characterful view than the typical 100% virtual cockpits we see these days. The sporty three-pronged steering wheel is pleasingly restrained, populated with a handful of shortcut buttons for key controls. However, the highlight of the Stelvio’s cabin has to be those aluminium paddle shifters. They really could be straight out of a Ferrari F8, looking and feeling extremely premium – take note Audi with your plastic alternatives.


The infotainment system has been mildly tweaked also, providing modestly faster responses. All cars get an 8.8-inch touchscreen, and we’re big fans of the rotary dial controls, however, the software is still rather clunky to use. In fact, sat next to what’s on offer from Jaguar, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, it very much sits in fifth place. The good news is that you can plug in a smartphone to take advantage of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Not only does this give you access to all the apps you’re familiar with, but its operation is far slicker than the native system.




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2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio practicality and boot space


One of the key reasons you might consider an Alfa SUV is because a Giulia isn’t practical enough. A hatchback opening for bulky cargo and increased ride height for ease of installing child seats are both valid reasons for a family SUV. In this regards the Stelvio quits itself well with a boot larger than that of a Volvo XC60, however, it is smaller than what you get with a Jaguar F-pace. It's a nice big square loading area with a flat floor that makes hefty items that bit easier to saddle. A cargo net can be had to stop things from flying around the boot, but a pair of hooks would have been a more convenient solution.


There are some useful cubbies dotted about the cabin – essential for all the nicknacks of family functioning – and the cup holders are also particularly sizeable for when you decide to go large on that latte.


Passengers in the back of average height shouldn’t have a problem, however, other cars in this class offer better leg and headroom. Those of the long-legged type may find space to be a little limited on extended trips. The middle passenger also has to contend with a protruding transmission hump in the floor. Some redemption is to be found in the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat.




2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio engines


The Alfa Romeo Stelvio can be had with a range of petrol and diesel engines. For those covering big motorway miles, the 2.2-litre diesel will be your best option thanks to a claimed 47mpg. If petrol is more your thing, a 197bhp 2.0-litre unit is also up for grabs.


Opt for a Veloce car and the most potent petrol and diesel engines become available to you. Fans of the black pump can enjoy 207bhp, or if you want the spriteliest Stelvio not featuring the quadrifoglio verde, a 276bhp car is on the menu. Go for the latter and you’ll be sprinting from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. You’ll need to rev the engine out to get the most out of it, but in more sedate operation it is smooth and rather refined.


All cars are equipped with an impressive 8-speed automatic transmission that is rapid to respond when commanded manually. It’s a competent piece of engineering that delivers silky-smooth shifts in most situations.



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2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio driving


Most SUV owners won’t really care for how their new car drives. As long as it’s comfortable, looks good, is full of tech, and has the right price, their world will keep turning. However, those opting for an Alfa Romeo are exactly the sort of people who would expect their new car, SUV or not, to be engaging to drive. Thankfully the Alfa Romeo Stelvio delivers on that front.


Big cars like this technically have all the wrong ingredients to deliver on sporting credentials. They are heavy, high centre of gravity, typically have slow steering and poor body control. When you push such a car beyond an urban assault you tend to get plenty of understeer and a lack of composure, but not so in the Stelvio. Feeling much more like a plucky saloon car than an SUV of its size, the Italian model is quick to respond to inputs. Small gestures of the wheel garner fast outputs, and while there is a bit of roll, lateral body motions never feel uncontrolled. There is a precision to all the controls, especially the brake pedal that’s easy to modulate. Really get a hustle on and the Stelvio relishes showing off its rear-wheel bias all-wheel drive system. It's keen to get its nose into an apex, and there’s plenty of grip to ensure it stays there.


It’s all well and good being the most fun to drive in the class, but as much as we all love a good car on a good road, this is a family wagon after all. So how does it deal with the everyday stuff? There are certainly areas where competitors from Jaguar and Audi do better, with the ride at low speed being a bit disruptive and visibility not as good. The harder ride is really due to things being calibrated for sweeter handling over outright comfort, but the adaptive damper option does begin to remedy this and at higher speeds, it's less of an issue. There’s a standard reversing camera to help quell the poor rear visibility, but the resolution is poor. Parking sensors are also standard, and in combination with light steering at low speeds, the Stelvio is relatively easy to park.


On the motorway, there is some wind and road noise, but put the car into comfort, activate the standard cruise control, and the Stelvio makes for a pleasant means to clock miles. Diesel options deliver strong torque for overtaking, so are maybe better suited to this sort of lifestyle, but the petrols – especially in Veloce guise – are no slouches.


Overall the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is a refreshingly characterful machine in a sea of copycats. It stays true to Alfa’s philosophy of making the driving experience central to the car while adding the practicality that comes with an SUV. This Stelvio is a mighty handsome thing, and while it isn’t perfect, it is one of our favourite SUVs on sale today.



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Tyler Heatley

25 Oct 2021