“I give it one month before something breaks,” read the entirely predictable comment that appeared on an Instagram post introducing ‘our’ new Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. “Hope you don’t live too far from the dealership,” read another. Such digs admittedly made up a minority of the responses, but it showed that the Italian brand still has a reputation for shoddy reliability that’s hard to shake.
Much of this can be traced back decades to cars like the Alfasud with its penchant for rust and other gremlins. Subsequent Alfas had their issues too, though, and there were some pretty troubling reports about poor reliability from early examples of the Stelvio’s Giorgio platform-mate, the Giulia. Car & Driver, for instance, ran a Quadrifoglio and said it was left “consistently disappointed by its unforgivable reliability issues”. Some Giulia Qs run by outlets on this side of the pond also suffered.
As for the Stelvio in the CT stable, we’ve been running it for nearly five months, enjoying over 2500 largely trouble-free miles. That figure would have been much higher if it wasn’t a good chunk of the loan covering a Coronavirus lockdown. In any case, that’s sufficient mileage to make us confident in the Stelvio’s ability to function properly.
We’ve only discovered a couple of issues, both of them minor. The alarm goes off frequently for no apparent reason (Alfa Romeo UK tells us it’s possible to have the sensitivity turned down at a dealer), and the keyless entry sometimes doesn’t work. Anecdotal evidence isn’t awfully helpful, of course - what we need to do is look at the experiences of a large group of owners.
To that end, we can use the data collected by the Driver Power survey from our colleagues at Auto Express. This collates responses from UK drivers who’ve owned new cars for between three months and three years. Impressively, in 2019, the Giulia was ranked third out in the top 100 cars list. In the 2020 results meanwhile, Alfa Romeo as a whole placed ninth out of 30 manufacturers for overall ownership satisfaction with a score of 89.84 per cent, less than one per cent behind first-placed Lexus.
We can’t quite close the case there, though. In the 2020 survey, a whopping 28.6 per cent of owners experienced some kind of fault with their Alfa. The only brands to do worse were MG (31.8 per cent) and Land Rover (33.8 per cent). At the other end of the scale, only eight per cent of Mini owners ran into trouble.
We suspect Alfa’s high fault rate versus the good reliability score is a combination of two things. It could mean that most of the faults were minor (like the alarm thing we’ve noticed) and that owners are more willing to forgive foibles on their Alfa Romeos due to other attributes. On the latter front, it’s worth pointing out the brand placed first in the ride/handling, acceleration and exterior styling categories.
A breakdown of the reported faults shows that the majority (37 per cent) were related to the electrics. Engine faults and gearbox faults each made up only five per cent of the total.
So, to answer the question posited in our title, it’s complicated. Alfa Romeo has been rising in the ranks of various ownership surveys in recent years, both overall and for reliability. The brand gets more flak than it really deserves for major problems, particularly when its traditional rivals often escape such criticisms.
There’s certainly still room for improvement, but you can certainly ignore that keyboard warrior who’s insisting a new Alfa will inevitably suffer from some kind of dramatic failure. And yes, the rusty dark ages are ancient history.