I was lucky enough to visit California in 2017 & especially in San Francisco, noticed the presence of the Tesla Model 3. Tesla’s small electric car arrived in the UK in 2019 & has gone on to be extremely popular, especially in the company car sector, thanks to its cool design, electric range & 0% BIK. No surprise then that other car manufacturers wanted a piece of the pie & the brand who have come closest to launching a Model 3 competitor is Polestar, the Swedish electric car manufacturer with their Polestar 2.
Polestar is inextricably linked to parent company Volvo, with the name originally used for Volvo Motorsport & more recently, as the badge for Volvo performance cars. Owned like Volvo, by Chinese giant Geely, Polestar launched the Polestar 1 as a low volume plug-in back in 2017. Their first main stream full-electric car though is the Polestar 2, which is being targeted not only at the Model 3, but other electric performance cars like the Jaguar I-PACE, Audi e-tron & Mercedes-Benz EQ.
The Polestar 2 uses Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, which is also used for our small SUV favourite, the Volvo XC40. This makes it quite compact, as it measures just 4,600mm in length, is 1,950mm wide & stands 1,480mm tall. Like the Model 3 it’s a saloon-style car, but in Polestars case, comes with a hatchback & sits slightly higher, making it a more practical five-door car than the Model 3.
Currently, electric cars fall into two categories. Small battery, lower range, or large battery, higher range & the Polestar 2 falls into the latter.
Polestar has fitted a 78kWh battery to the 2, which sends power to two electric motors, located at each axle offering 4WD. There’s no shortage of power with 402bhp & 660Nm of torque, which can be delivered if required, in a rapid accelerative push, made of course, in almost total silence.
Polestar has done away with traditional trim levels, instead offering just the additional Performance pack to the standard level of equipment you get. So all models get, electronic climate control, heated front/rear seats, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry with handsfree boot lid opening, an electric tailgate with soft closing, a panoramic roof with projected Polestar symbol & WeaveTech (vegan) upholstery.
Also included, are 19″ 5-V Spoke Black Diamond Cut alloys, Pilot Assist & Adaptive Cruise Control, DAB+, a 12.3 “digital driver display, with a 15” centre display & an inductive phone charger.
There’s also 4 x USB-C connectors: 2 front, 2 rear & an Infotainment system powered by Android, which included Google Assistant, Google Maps & Google Play Store. As an iPhone user, disappointingly, Apple CarPlay isn’t offered yet, although it should be available via an over-the-air update in mid-2021.
As far as extras go, these include Brembo brakes, Ohlins dampers, gold brake callipers & gold seat belts. For example, our test car had 20″ wheels & the £4000 leather trim as add ons. The Polestar also features different exterior trim & cabin colour combos, which Polestar call ‘themes.’ These are inspired by different cities, including London & Berlin.
To our mind, the standard spec is so good, that there’s really no need to bother to spend more than the cars asking price of £49,900. And the quality inside the cabin is really top-notch, with much of the good things on show borrowed from Volvo, such as the air vents, tabloid touchscreen & speakers. Even the look, touch & feel of the plastic & wood finishes is very Volvo.
Storage & Practicality
Up front, driver & passenger get plenty of head & leg room & there’s storage space in the doors, a sizeable glove box, underneath the centre armrest & in front of the gear leaver for your keys, which you don’t use to start the car, as it does this itself. Rear passengers also have good leg room & even with the panoramic sunroof, a bonus to brighten up the dark can with it’s charcoal roof lining, rear headroom is decent.
Boot space for the Polestar 2 is 405 litres, which increases to 1,095 litres with the rear seats folded. As we mentioned, unlike the Model 3 the Polestar 2’s a hatchback, so you can get much larger items in & making it more useful for a trip to IKEA. There’s also an extra 35 litres of storage in the car’s nose which is large enough to store the two charging cables that come with every Polestar 2, freeing up the boot.
Climb aboard & the Polestar starts itself. Like other electric cars, it features an auto box so you select from Neutral, Drive or Reverse. As in the Model 3, it is via the touchscreen that most of the driving adjustments can be made. Most useful is the selection of regenerative braking. The Polestar 2 has three; Off, Low or High. Again as with other electric cars, if you select the most powerful setting, this enables you to drive for periods without the need to touch the brake pedal itself. The system will even bring the car to a complete stop during low-speed town driving. And, again similar to the Tesla, there is a Creep Mode, which lets the Polestar crawl in traffic without touching the accelerator, as in a petrol or diesel car. Brilliantly simple & extremely effective.
Whilst we’d describe the ride as quite firm, we felt that the Polestar 2 has more of a drivers-car feel to it than the Model 3, which alongside, feels a bit squidgy. Steering is precise & the wheel’s offer great grip even on damp tarmac. Uneven surfaces are ridden over harshly, but no more so than any petrol performance car. Despite its 2.2 tonne kerb weight, its really good fun & we couldn’t fault the smile factor on offer. With a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds & a 127mph top speed, it offers performance as well. For example, we were travelling to Skipton for a launch & got stuck behind an HGV carrying a canal barge & a mobile crane to remove it. Two long vehicles were dispatched in the blink of an eye, with the instant shove of electric torque, more than enough to put a smile on my face.
The Polestar’s 78kWh battery supplies 72.5kWh of actual usable energy. Charging on standard home 7.4kW charger will take 10 -11 hours, whilst on a 50kW- 100kW fast charger this is considerably quicker. Battery range is 232 miles & a full charge from empty will cost an average of around £10 at home, where prices sit at around 12 -14p a kWh. If you could mate the range to the distance travelled, 10,000 miles would cost around £500 in electricity, about a third to a quarter of the cost compared to a petrol performance car travelling the same distance. Food for thought.
Talking of range, how did we get on ?
A range of 200 miles is achievable, but as we discovered, is only possible if you drive the Polestar 2 slowly on the motorway & by slowly we mean at under 65mph. In town & at speeds of up to 50 mph, it will hit the magic ratio of 1 mile travelled, to using one mile of range. But accelerate hard, after all the Polestar 2 does offer exhilaration & you’ll see that range drop considerably. We found that a trip of 62 miles from home to Skipton combining motorway, A & B roads & travelling as fast as 70mph, we used up 100 miles of range. On the return journey, travelling back the same way & over the same distance, but at speeds of only up to 60 mph, we used up just 70 miles of range.
Warranty & Servicing
Polestar 2 offers a3-year/60,000-mile warranty cover & includes free servicing for three years at an authorised Polestar service partner, along with three years roadside assistance.
The Polestar 2 is both a little bit different & in the flesh, very attractive & will garner looks wherever you drive it. The interior features Scandi design at it’s best & like Volvos, the seats are incredibly comfortable. Standard equipment levels are also fantastic. Even with a heavy battery, it rides & handles well & as a bonus comes with a practical boot. Safety is a given with Polestar being a Volvo subsidiary & at just under £50,000 the price is about right. The 0% BIK for fleet customers is also a bonus.
Whilst the Polestar 2 features almost as much on-trend tech as the Tesla Model 3 & the graphics are excellent, you’ll need a bit of time to get to grips with the infotainment set up, which doesn’t offer as many simple touchscreen options as the Model 3. The majority of functions in the Polestar are controlled by Android with Google Assistant & are accessed via voice control, so setting up a Google account is paramount before you can access these. The Model 3 system is easier to access & to work from the off. The Polestar is also very Volvo-like, which could put some off.
As Polestars first full-electric car, it’s a brilliant first effort. It’s easy to forget that the Model 3 is Tesla’s third electric car so they’ve had more time to get the 3 right. Having said that, the Polestar is better made, better looking, more enjoyable to drive & feels more substantial than the Tesla, whilst the Tesla has a more user-friendly interface for it’s functions. If you’re looking for something different in the executive electric sector, the Polestar 2 is well worth your time.