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Alfa Romeo Stelvio First Edition 2018 review

The Stelvio is the perfect blend of refined chic with an understated style.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Alfa Romeos. There's just something so appealing about the way they look. And now there’s one to fit my children and all their stuff - the Stelvio, a mid sized SUV with typical Alfa looks. It also, just quietly, sounds exactly like my surname: Stelio meet Stelvio! I was born to drive this car, obviously. 

Alfas haven’t had the best reputation in the past for running as well as their good looks might imply, so many will ask whether the Stelvio is capable of putting an end to that talk. The good word is, however, that  Alfa Romeos today are as reliable as they are beautiful (well, if anything could be that reliable). 

I was lucky enough to spend some wheel time in the 'First Edition' petrol version, which has a bunch of extras added to it. Let’s see how the Stelvio performs over my week of family driving. 

What does it look like?

The first thing you notice about an Alfa Romeo, any Alfa, is that they look far better than most other cars on the road. The typical Italian styling on the Stelvio - bold, passionate, alluring - is hard to beat, but it doesn’t look too ostentatious. They’ve hit the perfect blend of refined chic with an understated style that makes even a mid-sized SUV look good, which is no easy feat. It's fair to say Alfa has mastered this tricky task better than any who've tried before.

 The typical Italian styling on the Stelvio - bold, passionate, alluring - is hard to beat. The typical Italian styling on the Stelvio - bold, passionate, alluring - is hard to beat.

The Stelvio even has the signature Alfa grille and sleek curves, which make you feel fabulous every time you get into it. 

And once you do get in you are treated to an interior that is certainly not ostentatious, and might fall just below super luxury, but is still extremely well designed. It’s like current season Gucci (if we’re talking Italian designers we might as well go straight to the top). It’s not over-the-top pretentious, but it's luxurious enough and so cool that everyone wants a piece. It's the same feeling with the Stelvio. 

The leather seats are comfortable and hug you just the right amount, the steering wheel is leather too and the flat-bottomed shape feels great in your hands. In this First Edition, both the seats and the steering wheel are heated, which won me over because I was driving it on a particularly cold week in Sydney. 

  • The Stelvio has the signature Alfa grille and sleek curves. The Stelvio has the signature Alfa grille and sleek curves.
  • The Stelvio has the signature Alfa grille and sleek curves. The Stelvio has the signature Alfa grille and sleek curves.
  • The Stelvio has the signature Alfa grille and sleek curves. The Stelvio has the signature Alfa grille and sleek curves.

The centre console looks good and is well set out, but also practical - there’s a shiny silver finish which doesn’t let you leave fingerprints on it like some other high-gloss materials can. The manual buttons for the touchscreen are very simple but that is what makes them fabulous. And a special mention goes to the curves on top of the dash where the speedo is, because they make it feel like you’re in a tiny retro sportscar, driving along the Italian Riviera. (Only you're cold, and it's Sydney.) 

How does it drive?

The Stelvio is a smooth thing to drive, but it still feels a bit lively and involving, as if it was a manual-gearbox version (no such option is available, sadly) and you're doing the work yourself, which is want your Alfa to feel like. The handling is excellent and the steering is extremely responsive; turn the wheel and the car immediately goes where you point it. The Stelvio also feels light on its feet for an SUV of this size, there’s no heaviness about it and it could almost be described as zippy. 

The 2.0-lire four-cylinder engine was powerful enough to get me up hills quite quickly and to overtake swiftly when I needed to, which is an impressive effort for such a small engine in such a large vehicle. It's also all-wheel drive, which means better traction on the road. The shift paddles on the steering wheel not only look amazing but they make driving a breeze if you want to make your own gear changes. And in an Alfa, you will. 

The handling is excellent and the steering is extremely responsive. The handling is excellent and the steering is extremely responsive.

Parking was not an issue this week - the Stelvio is not too huge that it won’t fit into city spaces. It’s easy to manoeuvre and the steering wheel won’t give your arms a workout, even if it’s a tight park, which also makes doing three-point turns much easier, which is good for the super competitive parking game we play while doing the school run. You do get a reverse-parking camera but there’s no 360-degree-view camera, which you will see in a few competitors to the Stelvio. 

How spacious is it?

  • My two children, aged four and six, were very comfortable in the back seat. My two children, aged four and six, were very comfortable in the back seat.
  • The front seats have a really good amount of space for me and my 185cm husband. The front seats have a really good amount of space for me and my 185cm husband.
  • There’s enough room to fit everything that even the most equipment-addicted family will need. There’s enough room to fit everything that even the most equipment-addicted family will need.

The front seats have a really good amount of space for me and my 185cm husband, he’s got enough legroom for his very relaxed driving position, and there is loads of headroom, even with the enormous panoramic sunroof (part of the extras in the First Edition). The seats are also far enough apart to have your own airspace, and shoulder room, so you don’t feel too cramped or close together. 

My two children, aged four and six, were very comfortable in the back seat, they had loads of room to climb in and move around. At 161cm, I also had a comfortable trip in the back and there was around 20cm between my knees and the seat in front of me. You can also fit a third carseat in the back. It’s tight, but they all are in this category, and this one is roomier than most. I fit two boosters and a child seat in there. 

The boot is quite spacious, at 525 litres it’s about on par with the BMW X3 and the Mercedes GLA, while the Jaguar E-Pace is larger. There’s enough room to fit everything that even the most equipment-addicted family will need, from a pram to sporting stuff. 

How easy is it to use every day?

The Stelvio is a good height off the ground for the kids to climb into by themselves, which is also a bonus, and if you need to do seatbelts up, it’s comfortable to lean in and click clack. There are two large cupholders in the front and two in the centre armrest in the back. You’ll find bottle holders in each door  and a small-ish centre storage bin, but no extras like a Qi phone charger, which you may find in other cars in this category. 

The auto blinkers turn off slightly early but if you press down, they will stay on until you turn, which is fine. And they’ve placed the start/stop button on the steering wheel - just like a Ferrari - which is actually super handy and different to what everyone else is doing. 

They’ve placed the start/stop button on the steering wheel which is actually super handy. They’ve placed the start/stop button on the steering wheel which is actually super handy.

Jumping in different cars each week I sometimes find myself searching all over for the start/stop, but this was very clear and made sense. There’s also a power tailgate that you can close by touching a button, but I couldn’t open it with the key no matter how many times I tried.

What’s the tech like?

I was in the First Edition, which for some reason doesn’t come with Apple Carplay or Android Auto, but the other models do. I’m not sure it’s worth missing out on these to get the extras that come with the First Edition. The tech still worked fine, though, including sat nav, plus you can connect your phone via Bluetooth to play music through an app like Spotify. But Carplay has voice control and you can dictate text messages through it, which you kind of miss when it’s not there. 

Base models come with eight speakers. Base models come with eight speakers.

The First Edition does come with a 14-speaker sound system, though, so that might make up for it, because, gosh I had fun turning up the sound this week. Base models come with eight speakers, which is still a good option. All models get a digital radio

How safe is it?

The Stelvio comes with six airbags, including side curtain airbags that extend to the back row. You’ll also get newer safety features like AEB, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure alerts, and my personal favourite - rear cross traffic alerts. Coming out of my driveway every morning this was a godsend. 

All the collision warnings made for a very beepy driving experience, however, and I would turn the settings down if I owned the car and was driving it for longer than a week. That’s just a personal thing.

It has newer safety features like AEB, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure alerts, and rear cross traffic alerts. It has newer safety features like AEB, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure alerts, and rear cross traffic alerts.

How much does it cost to own?

The base model Alfa Romeo Stelvio is $65,990 and the First Edition I was driving comes in at $71,900. Fuel consumption comes in at 7.0 litres per 100km, which is pretty good for this category. 

Alfa offers a three year/150,000km warranty and services are needed every 12 months, at $485 each for the first three years.

The base model Alfa Romeo Stelvio is $65,990 and the First Edition comes in at $71,900. The base model Alfa Romeo Stelvio is $65,990 and the First Edition comes in at $71,900.


The Wrap

I really enjoyed testing the Alfa Romeo Stelvio this week. The driving experience completely surpassed my expectations and I felt confident zooming all over Sydney with this peppy engine. 

It looks fairly incredible inside and out and is one of those cars you really develop an affinity with. And it's not just the looks you fall in love with, surprisingly. The Alfa has all the latest safety features you’re after and enough space to fit the whole family, and then some. 

I gave it a family rating of eight out of 10 because I was so happy in it. My children gave it an 8.5, because they just love Italian style.

Likes

Design
Zippy drive
Interior space

Dislikes

No CarPlay on First Edition
A bit beepy
I don't own one

Scores

Nedahl:

4

The Kids:

4.3

$51,888 - $86,800

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