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New Alfa Romeo Stelvio: Steeply raked, slim and handsome

No pressure, Alfa Romeo. It's just your first SUV, it's only the fastest-growing segment since, like, ever, and the cost of getting it wrong might run to hundreds of millions of pounds. But, as I say, no pressure.

Of course, there was, and is, quite a lot of pressure on the Italian manufacturer.

Since the firm announced it 2015 that it was making its first SUV, industry hands have been keenly watching for clues of how the Stelvio would look and how the market would react to it.

The news is good on both fronts. As a car-maker with a flair for design, Alfa Romeo has not let us down and market reaction has been generally very favourable.

First off, the company has resisted what may well have been a significant temptation to borrow parts and inspiration from Jeep, its sister company.

Jeep, after all, makes increasingly excellent 4x4s and is, in fact, the grandaddy of the genre, stretching back to the Second World War.

But Alfa's brand is totally different and the decision to base the chassis on the company's recently launched Giulia saloon makes sense because it adds car-like driving dynamics to a segment not known for much sophistication in this area.

The design is classic Alfa with a sporty twist, from the shield-shaped grille at the front and the new Giulia-style headlamps to its rear spoiler and twin exhaust tips.

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Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The overall feel is not muscular, like many SUVs, but steeply raked, slim and handsome.

The model will stand out amongst rivals such as the BMW X3 and X4, Audi Q5 and Merc GLC.

Inside, the same dedication to design is at work.

Everything is well laid-out, from a driver's perspective, and the driving position is well thought-out to give a feel for the car and also that more commanding height that SUV owners love.

The cabin is not shouty, but sophisticated and stylish.

Alfa claims that hours of craftsmanship have gone into the Stelvio, which can come with premium materials including full-grain leather, real wood and fabrics, all carefully chosen for their look and feel.

As is common with all marques these days, you can, of course, trade up inside.

The Stelvio offers a luxury pack that includes full-grain leather seats (in black, brown, red or beige) with electrical adjustment and a heating system, as well as real wood inserts.

The Sport Pack comes with a heated sports steering wheel, specific grip and leather wrapping, racing-style leather seats in black, red or brown, with electric adjustment and heating a system, aluminium inserts and steel pedals.

As of this month, four trim levels are available in the UK: Stelvio, Super, Speciale and the limited-production Milano Edizione.

Standard features on the entry-level Stelvio include 17in, 10-spoke alloy wheels, a 3.5in TFT colour cluster instrument panel and a UConnect 8.8in display infotainment system. Step up to Super and you'll get 18in, five-spoke alloy wheels, front parking sensors, a 7in TFT instrument cluster and more.

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Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The Speciale adds 19in, 10-spoke alloy wheels with red brake callipers, and the limited edition Milano Edizione adds 20in V-spoke alloys and a bunch of other goodies.

UK drivers can choose between two engines - a 2.2-litre, 210hp diesel Q4 AWD and a 2.0-litre, 280hp petrol Q4 AWD - combined with an ZF eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.

The 2.0-litre 280hp petrol offers "best in class acceleration", going from zero to 62mph in 5.7 seconds, with a top speed of 143mph.

According to official figures, it returns 40.4mpg on the combined cycle and a top speed of 134 mph.

The 2.2-litre, 210hp diesel Q4 AWD, meanwhile, officially returns 58.9mpg, with a top speed of 134mph. It accelerates from zero to 62mph in 6.6 seconds.

New diesel and petrol engines with two and all-wheel drive options will be added this month.

The range is priced from £33,990 on the road.

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