Last updated on December 26th, 2020 at 12:23 pm
- Fast and fun to drive
- Very useful 292-mile range
- Hatchback makes boot storage more usable
- Tesla Model 3 has longer range for similar money
- Not as fast or fun as a Tesla Model 3 Long Range
- Media control unit interface needs more work
Range (WLTP): 292 miles Top Speed: 127 mph 0 to 60: 4.7 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3.7p
Although every EV on the market gets compared to Tesla, very few are direct like-for-like competitors. There’s no real like-for-like alternative to the Model X at its price, and the Model S has only recently had the Porsche Taycan to contend with. But the Model 3 now has a clear pretender to its throne: the Polestar 2. It’s a similarly mid-sized four-door saloon (well, actually a fastback, but more of that later), it’s fast, and it has a decent range. Even the pricing is virtually identical to a Tesla Model 3 Long Range. Does it really have what it takes to compete with the best-selling EV yet?
Price and Options
The base Polestar 2 costs £46,900 (including the £3,000 plug-in grant), making it £90 cheaper than the Tesla Model 3 Long Range – which can’t be a coincidence. Beyond that, there isn’t much to choose from. There is only one drivetrain, with 408hp and a 78kWh battery, which is a very promising specification. The most significant optional extra is the Performance pack, which costs a princely £5,000 but bundles 20in wheels instead of the standard 19in ones, Brembo front brakes, and Ohlins dual flow dampers. The brakes are coloured gold and so are the tyre valves. You also get yellow seat belts, for some added bling.
You can buy 20in wheels with a different design separately for £900, and custom paint colours also cost the same amount. The basic colour is black, which Polestar calls Void, and upgrade options include a white called Snow, a silver called Magnesium, a light brown called Moon, a dark blue called Midnight, and a dark grey called Thunder, which was the colour we were sent. These are all very sober colours, with no reds, oranges, yellows or even lighter hues. There are two cloth interior options – slate grey or charcoal black – but cream-brown Nappa leather is another option, costing a whopping £4,000. There are accessories like roof rack bars and mats, but the only other option you would have to specify at time of purchase is a tow bar, which costs £1,000 – again, exactly the same as with a Tesla Model 3. This also has the same 1,500kg towing limit with a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked. Polestar seems to be aiming directly at Tesla in every respect.
The first thing you notice about the Polestar 2 is that it looks a bit like a tall Volvo saloon. That’s no surprise when you realise that Polestar and Volvo are owned by the same parent company – Geely. This is also the same Chinese organisation that owns Malaysian manufacturer Proton, taxi maker LEVC, and Lotus. The Polestar 2’s appearance is one of the most attractive in an EV, with the height giving a mildly crossover look, and a muscular, no nonsense front grille. It’s reminiscent of a Ford Mustang.
Although the Polestar 2 looks like a four-door saloon similar to the Tesla Model 3, it’s actually a five-door hatchback, which will be attractive if you want a larger orifice for putting cargo in the back. There is a slight slant, making it a fastback, but otherwise it’s not immediately obvious this is a hatchback, like a late 1990s Saab 9-3. For those who want a saloon look but with greater practicality, this is all welcome.
There’s a panoramic sunroof the full length of the car as standard. However, one negative of the hatchback is that the view out the rear window is a bit limited. All the alloys have the current trend of two-tone black and metal. There’s keyless entry as standard, although the door mirrors don’t fold as much as many cars when you lock the car again.
If you find Tesla interiors a bit spartan, the Polestar takes things back in a more conventional direction. The cloth upholstery, made of a material called WeaveTech, is still very classy. The leather looks nice too, but at £4,000 it’s hugely expensive, and only available with the Void, Snow, Moon and Midnight paint choices. We’re not entirely convinced by the yellow Performance pack seat belts, which are reminiscent of LEVC taxi seat belts. They’re fitted front and back.
The central console is quite high, making the front seats feel rather enclosed. They’re very comfortable, however, holding you firmly in place and have plenty of headroom. The front seats are heated as standard, as is the steering wheel and even the wiper blades, which will be handy for clearing the screen in freezing weather. The seats are also electrically adjustable using buttons on the side of the seat, although the cushion length adjustment is mechanical. There’s a memory function for the driver’s seat, with two slots and buttons in the door. This also remembers the wing mirror adjustments.
That high central console houses a Qi charger and a pair of USB C ports at the front in a small cubby. Further back is a single cupholder, which appears solitary, but underneath the armrest is a second cupholder. We’re not convinced by this design because it will be very easy to elbow a container in this holder. Overall, there isn’t as much central space as a Tesla Model 3, although there are a couple of areas for storage lower down on the central console, and the glove compartment is larger – as well as much easier to open than a Tesla’s.
The rear seats are comfortable, although not as much as the front ones. There’s still a decent amount of headroom, although not as much as the quasi-SUV EVs like the Kia e-Niro. The legroom is adequate for a tall occupant, but the VW ID.3 has a bit more. The outer rear seats are heated, and unlike the Tesla Model 3, it’s possible for the back passengers to turn these on for themselves with buttons beneath the central rear air vents. There are also two USB C ports next to these switches for the rear occupants. The central rear seat isn’t heated (unlike with the Model 3), and it’s quite narrow. But if you only have two people in the rear, the back of the central seat can be folded down to make an armrest with two integrated cupholders.
Overall, the cabin interior is comfortable and well equipped. It will be very well suited to transporting four adults for a long distance, as you’d expect for a saloon with executive leanings. It’s also great to see everything but leather a standard feature. If your occupants are a bit younger, there are ISOfix connections on the two outer rear seats and the passenger front seat as well.
Storage and Load Carrying
The hatchback is a clear advantage the Polestar 2 has over the Tesla Model 3. The latest update of the latter has added a powered boot release, but Polestar has already gone one step better still – literally. You simply have to kick your foot out beneath the car to open the boot (assuming the key is in your pocket). There is a bit of a knack to this, but once you’ve got it, being able to open the boot with your hands full of bags is extremely convenient.
Once the boot is open, it’s not quite as capacious as the Tesla Model 3’s – 405 litres compared to 425 litres. There’s a small compartment beneath the boot floor, which could be enough for couple of extra shopping bags. The rear seats fold down in the usual 60/40 split, although the resulting space is still not larger than a Model 3 – 1,095 litres compared to 1,140 litres. But the boot floor is flat, there’s a little bit of extra space behind the front seats, and the hatch will mean you can fit larger items more easily than in a Model 3, or stuff the space full to capacity. There is a small 35 litre frunk at the front – just about large enough for your charging cables.
As mentioned earlier, a tow bar is an optional extra. There’s a button inside the boot to release this, which otherwise is stowed underneath the rear of the car. The boot also has a 12V car power adapter port, which will be useful if you need to plug in a fridge or charge an ebike. Overall, although the boot isn’t as big as a Kia e-Niro’s, it’s very functional, and potentially easier to fill to capacity than a Tesla Model 3’s boot.
Polestar has gone one step further than even Tesla and VW’s ID.3 with the way you turn the Polestar 2 on. Not only do you not need to press a start/stop button, but you don’t even have to depress the brake pedal. The driver’s seat has weight sensors that detect an occupant, and if they have the keys on their person, the car will be powered up on entry – very convenient indeed.
Getting the car in motion is then also very easy. Obviously, you do have to depress the brake pedal here, but then a gearstick-like joystick in the central console is used to select drive, reverse or neutral. There’s a button to put the car back into park, and no separate switch for a parking brake – which is something we find unnecessary in an EV anyway.
The steering wheel seems eerily familiar. In fact, if you look at the steering wheel on a recent Volvo S90, or a LEVC taxi for that matter, you’ll note a startling resemblance. This is clearly a standard Geely Group piece of kit. It’s got plenty of buttons to control things like the adaptive cruise control and audio system without having to take your hands off the wheel. There are also separate stalks dedicated to the lights and windscreen wipers (are you listening Tesla?).
Another feature that those who dislike the spartan interior of a Tesla Model 3 will appreciate is the dashboard display behind the steering wheel. This makes no pretence of mimicking traditional analog dials, but is clear and unfussy, with battery level plus power and regen readouts on the right, a big numerical speed on the left, and contextual messages in the middle, such as next turn when in navigation mode.
However, although we appreciate the discrete knob for audio volume control, with buttons for hazard lights plus front and rear screen defrost nearby, there is still a little too much reliance on the large 11in central LCD panel for other functions. There aren’t discrete controls for climate control, and the menu interface doesn’t keep these onscreen all the time, making it hard to get them back easily if you’re elsewhere in the structure.
The LCD menu is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity of the Polestar 2. It has some really nice design elements, with large clear icons for each section and a very intuitive system for selecting options within each one. It’s also the first car to use the full Android Automotive implementation, so is completely Google through and through. Google Maps provides the navigation and live traffic. You can also download and install apps from the Google Play Store – such as Spotify, and (at some point in the future) Netflix.
But there are some serious inconsistencies and usability issues. You can call up the 360-degree camera with a single finger push, but there’s no obvious icon to get the climate control interface, sat-nav, or radio directly from the home screen. You can set up a profile, which includes things like driving seat and mirror adjustments as well, with your favourite functions in a quadrant of onscreen locations. But configuring this and getting to it is not intuitive. Overall, the design aesthetic of the menu is excellent, and easier to see at a glance than Tesla’s tiny onscreen text, but the logical structure needs a serious rethink.
Performance and Driving
If the menu is a bit of a let-down, driving the Polestar 2 really isn’t. The Polestar name comes from a heritage as Volvo’s competition racing division, and the Polestar 2 honours this tradition well. This is a really quick car, hitting 60mph in a mere 4.7 seconds. However, the Tesla Model 3 Long Range is a little quicker still, reaching 60mph in 4.2 seconds. You’re probably not going to quibble over this in everyday usage. There is a slight pause when you hit the accelerator, particularly from a cold start, which may be a safety feature so you don’t crash when parking, but this is not something Teslas do and it takes away a little of the driving immediacy. Nevertheless, hitting 60mph in 4.7 seconds will give recent Porsche 911s a run for their money.
We haven’t had a chance to drive the base Polestar 2, but with the Performance pack, the Polestar 2 handles extremely well. The ride is quite firm, but fast cornering is very assured and flat, providing loads of driving confidence. Despite the relatively hard suspension setup, this is a great car for long distances as well, feeling very planted at motorway speeds and comfortable. The top speed is 127mph – quite a bit behind the Tesla Model 3 Long Range’s 145mph. But this is irrelevant in a country with a 70mph top speed limit.
Overall, the Polestar is a great drive. It’s really enjoyable and has the sense of extreme power that the best EVs offer. Only Tesla’s Performance cars are significantly faster. However, a Tesla Dual Motor car is that bit better to drive still. Having driven a Polestar 2 with Performance pack back-to-back with a Tesla Model 3 Performance (which only costs £4,590 more), Tesla still holds the crown for EV handling. High marks for Polestar in this department, then, but not top marks.
Range and Charging
Thanks to its 78kWh battery pack, the Polestar 2 manages a very commendable 292 miles of WLTP range. Compared to the broad spectrum of EVs, this is excellent, but sadly here again Tesla goes one better, with the Model 3 Long Range now managing 360 miles – 23% more. Even the Tesla Model 3 Performance now offers 352 miles. Polestar also wins high marks for providing DC charging up to 150kW, so if you can find an appropriate station, you can replenish from 0 to 80% in a mere 40 minutes. But, again, the Model 3 can do over 200kW and has the excellent Supercharger network to counter with.
For AC charging, the Polestar 2 supports up to 11kW, using which it takes 7 hours to replenish to full – which will be great if your company has three-phase AC charging points on premises. A home 7kW charger will require 11 hours, so an overnight full charge isn’t out of the question either. Overall, the Polestar 2 is well configured for home, workplace or motorway rapid charging.
The Polestar 2 isn't the cheapest EV to run, costing 3.7p a mile on a 14p per kWh home electricity supply, although the Audi e-tron is more expensive still. Unsurprisingly, given the performance available, the insurance group is quite high at 42. But the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus is group 48, and both dual-motor models are group 50. So the Polestar 2 will be cheaper to insure than any of these.
The warranty isn’t as generous as Korean EVs by a long chalk. You get a three-year bundle of servicing, connected services, roadside assistance and warranty, with a 60,000-mile limit on the latter. The best elements of this are the connected services and roadside assistance, which are usually premium extras elsewhere, or only provided for a year. There's a 12-year corrosion warranty. The battery has the typical eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty. Strangely, although Polestar states the typical 70% capacity for the battery warranty in other regions, this is noticeably absent in the UK warranty. As with all EVs, you also won’t be paying any VED and zero benefit-in-kind (BiK) as a company car for the first year if purchased through a company.
The Polestar 2 hasn’t had NCAP testing yet, probably because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but as it’s related to Volvo you’d hope that a lot of thought has been given to passenger safety. There’s certainly a full complement of electronic aids provided as standard. These include collision mitigation, which starts with a driver warning before switching to automatic braking. The cameras will detect and display important road sign information, such as speed limits.
There’s adaptive cruise control, although the stepping is only in 5mph increments. You don’t get anything like Tesla’s Full Autopilot, but there is Lane Keep Assistance, which will give you a subtle steering-wheel nudge to ensure you stay within your carriageway on a motorway. Further aiding highway driving is blind spot detection. It’s worth noting that some of these safety features are optional extras on other, more expensive premium EVs, so full marks again to Polestar for having these as standard.
Polestar has taken an unusual approach for parking. Instead of providing front and rear camera views that switch as you park, you get a large overhead 360-degree view. This feels a bit counterintuitive at first, even if you’ve driven cars that offer a 360 view before (because its usually an addition rather than a replacement), but it’s detailed and large, making it very easy to position your car perfectly within a parking space. The Polestar 2 also offers rear cross-traffic alert, to help prevent you reversing out of a space or driveway into traffic you can’t yet see.
|Range (WLTP):||292 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||11 hours|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||60 minutes|
|Charge time (150kW, 80%):||40 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||11kW|
|Cost per mile*:||3.7p|
|Top Speed:||127 mph|
|Cargo:||405 litres / 1,095 litres with rear seats down|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh