Alfa Romeo, one of the more intriguing divisions of Fiat Chrysler, arrived in the United States during the 2017 model year. Its Giulia sedan and Stelvio sport-utility vehicle compete with premium Japanese brands Lexus, Infiniti and Acura, as well as European stalwarts Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, BMW, Audi and Porsche. The Alfa Romeos are loaded with sex appeal, performance and Italian style. It remains to be seen whether they can thrive in a very crowded U.S. market — especially the one where the Stelvio seeks a niche.

Having driven a number of high-end compact SUVs, as well as the Giulia, we had high expectations for the $61,090 Stelvio. It delivered. If there’s a compact SUV out there that’s as engaging to drive as the Stelvio is, we haven’t driven it yet. Frankly, we didn’t know an SUV that performs the way the Stelvio does was even possible, and certainly, most automakers don’t even try.

Available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Stelvio is priced from $40,545, ranging up to $80,245 for the 505-horsepower Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Our test car, a Stelvio TI Sport with all-wheel drive, had a base price of $44,745 and sticker price, with options and destination charge, of $61,090.

Our Rosso (red) Stelvio was well equipped, with three drive-mode settings, remote start, front and rear park-assist sensors, power liftgate, Apple CarPlay, Google Android, satellite radio, sport leather heated front seats and paddle shifters. Among the optional features were a hands-free power liftgate, blind-spot and cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, land-departure warning, heated rear seats, dual-pane sunroof, premium audio system and navigation system.

This being a premium automobile, we would expect some of the high-priced options — especially the blind-spot warning, premium audio and adaptive cruise control — to be standard. The blind-spot warning system is particularly necessary in the Stelvio, which has unusually wide B-pillars.

Italian models haven’t fared well in the U.S. market over the years, in part because they acquired a reputation for unreliability. Alfa Romeo seeks to deflect that concern by providing a substantial warranty: basic, four years or 50,000 miles; power-train, also four years and 50,000 miles. Our test car, with about 5,200 miles on its odometer, seemed solidly built with quality materials, and it exhibited just one quirk: a warning light briefly telling us, incorrectly, that someone had put in too much engine oil.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio TI Sport AWD

Price: $61,090

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 280 horsepower, 306 lb-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,044 lb.

Suspension: double-wishbone front, aluminum multi-link rear

Ground clearance: 8.1 in.

Wheels: 20x8.5-in. sport aluminum

Tires: P255/45R20 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 18.5 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 56.5 cu. ft.

Maximum towing capacity: 3,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons

Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

The Stelvio is undeniably fun to drive, but is it fun to live with? We noted a couple issues. With the front seats moved all the way back, knee room for tall passengers in the back seat was practically nonexistent. Space for small items in the front seat was skimpy, though the map pockets in the doors were large. And the Stelvio requires premium gasoline, which costs at least 10 percent more than regular.

The layout of the cargo compartment also is unusual. Rated at just 18.5 cubic feet, it’s quite long, but narrow. The rear seatbacks can be lowered to bump cargo capacity to 56.5 cubic feet.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.