The Tesla Model 3 has been the most successful EV so far on the market, and its unit sales now surpass even the Nissan Leaf, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. But no king wears their crown forever, and in the last few months, a contender to the Tesla Model 3’s throne has emerged. The Polestar 2 is priced almost identically to the Tesla Model 3 Long Range and has a comparable specification. So we thought we’d compare the two to see which one is best.
Price, Options and Exterior
The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus is cheaper than the Polestar 2, and the Model 3 Performance is much more expensive, but the Model 3 Long Range is almost the same price. The Polestar 2 is just £90 cheaper – which can hardly be a coincidence. The Model 3 Long Range is white as standard and the Polestar 2 black (is this also significant?) but the Polestar colour options are a little cheaper at £900 where the Tesla’s cost £1,000, with red costing £2,000. However, the Polestar colour choices are more sombre than Tesla’s, with no lighter blue or red.
The standard Tesla Aero wheels are 18in but the Polestar 2’s are 19in, and in our opinion look better. You can purchase 19in wheels for the Model 3 for £1,450, and 20in wheels for the Polestar 2 for £900. Again, we reckon the Polestar wheels are more visually appealing, as well as being a cheaper upgrade.
The big option for the Polestar is the Performance pack, which costs a princely £5,000 and adds a different set of 20in wheels, yellow seatbelts, Brembo brakes, Ohlins Dual Flow dampers, gold valve caps and a high gloss roof section. However, this pushes the price too close to the Tesla Model 3 Performance, which is in a different class for speed.
The appearance differences are a matter of taste. We prefer the Polestar s’s wheels, and the car itself looks like a futuristic take on a Volvo (because basically it is), with a dash of American muscle car thrown in. The Model 3 has a froglike frontal appearance and has been designed for aerodynamics more than looks (its drag coefficient is just 0.23), but it’s not ugly and the latest de-chrome trim changes neaten things up a little.
Polestar’s keyless entry system is more conventional than Tesla’s. With the keys in your pocket, you can use the handle to unlock and open the doors. Tesla requires you to touch a key card to the B-pillar to open the car, or pair a mobile phone, after which it can be opened in a similar fashion to the Polestar. Some people love this feature of the Tesla Model 3, but relying entirely on your mobile phone to even get into your car does have its dangers.
Who’s winning so far? It’s a matter of taste, although the paint and wheel options are cheaper with the Polestar 2.
There’s a similar amount of space in both cars. Since they both have panoramic sunroofs, this adds a little bit of extra headroom and a less claustrophobic feel. The legroom is decent in the rear in both cars. They also both have electronically adjusted front seats, with a memory function. This uses traditional buttons in the Polestar 2 but reacts to the keycard (or paired mobile phone) in the Tesla. There are air conditioning vents and USB charging points in the rear in both cars, they both have dual cupholders front and rear, and there is wireless phone charging in both cars.
However, there are subtle differences in facilities. Both cars have heated front seats, but the Model 3 Long Range and Performance have heating for all three rear seats. The Polestar only warms the outer two rear seats, but also provides control buttons for these for the rear passengers whereas the Tesla only offers operation via its front LCD panel.
The interior trim options are quite different. The Tesla’s interiors are synthetic, with a basic black or £1,000 extra for the white alternative, which is only available with the Long Range or Performance, not the Standard Range Plus. The Polestar 2 offers charcoal or slate coloured WeaveTech material options, but you can get ventilated beige Nappa leather for a hugely expensive £4,000.
Who has the best interior? Tesla cars usually get some criticism for the minimalism of their interiors, particularly the Model 3. The Polestar does have a more conventional approach, and this could appeal to some purchasers. This is entirely a matter of taste, but if this matters to you, the Polestar 2’s interior is a very nice place to be, and that might just shift your choice.
Cargo space is one area where the cars differ considerably. On paper, the Model 3 has more of it, since its boot capacity is 425 litres as standard with some extra beneath the boot floor, and then 1,140 litres with the rear seats down, whereas the Polestar 2 has 405 litres and 1,095 litres respectively. Both vehicles have frunks, but the Polestar 2’s is a bit smaller. However, although the latest Model 3 now has a powered boot, it’s not a hatchback, and the Polestar 2 is. The latter also has a natty system where you simply kick out your foot under the rear of the car to open the boot, assuming you have the keys on your person. So while the Model 3 has more space, the Polestar 2’s space will be more flexible since there’s a hatch to get to it.
Both cars have a £1,000 tow bar option, but Polestar’s flip-down implementation is much slicker than Tesla’s. You press a button in the boot and the tow-bar appears from underneath with the Polestar 2. You can press the button again and push the bar back up. With the Model 3, you have to unscrew a hatch underneath the car and then insert the tow bar. Both vehicles can tow 750kg unbraked. The Polestar 2 can handle 1,500kg braked, but Tesla doesn’t state a clear braked weight for the Model 3.
Who wins on cargo capacity? The Model 3 has more, but the Polestar 2 is a hatchback, making its storage more accessible, and its towing option is more smoothly implemented too.
General Controls and LCD Menu System
Turning on the power in a Tesla Model 3 is pretty slick. If you have a paired mobile phone on your person or the keycard in your left pocket when you sit in the driver’s seat, a mere touch of the brake pedal will power things up. The Polestar 2 goes one better, however, detecting your weight on the driver’s seat and powering up automatically.
One of the clearest differences between Polestar and Tesla is how far they have gone with innovating the control systems. The Polestar 2 has a conventional steering wheel with stalks for lights and windscreen wipers. In fact, the steering wheel is a rebadged part also used by other brands in the Geely group portfolio, including Volvo and LEVC. A gearstick-like controller in the central console selects drive, neutral or reverse.
Tesla, on the other hand, has cut the steering wheel down to the bare essentials. There’s a dial on the left that mostly controls the audio system, with the dial on the right for adaptive cruise configuration. The stalk on the right operates the gears in the same fashion as a Mercedes, while the one on the left is for indicators. There isn’t any control for lights here, and just a button on the left stalk to wash the windscreen, with no option to change wiping speed.
This leads us to the most controversial aspect of the Model 3. Almost everything is operated through the central 15in panel. There isn’t even a dashboard display. The Polestar 2 does offer this, although it’s strictly digital with very little heritage in conventional dials or readouts. The menu on the Tesla’s LCD is well designed, and the space for a satnav map huge. But this is the only place you can see your speed, and the indicator for remaining charge is tiny, as is the clock.
The Polestar 2 has some attractive features for its smaller, 11in portrait-orientation central LCD, with big clear icons for car settings. It relies entirely on Android Automotive, using Google Maps and traffic for navigation. However, the design isn’t intuitive in some respects. Getting the home screen involves touching the white lines top or bottom of some screens, but this isn’t a particularly standard interface iconography like a “burger” three-line menu button or three dots. What’s particularly annoying is that you need the home screen to operate the climate control on the Polestar. Tesla at least keeps this clearly accessible at all times, although we’d still rather have discreet air conditioning controls.
Both cars also appear to be pushing you towards voice control. You can operate the climate control on both cars with voice commands. You can open the glovebox on the Tesla with a voice command – otherwise it’s a trip through the menu. You can also change the wiper speed on the Tesla with a voice command. But our research with EV drivers on social media has shown us that only about half of them want to use voice control. So not providing easy, more conventional alternatives is a fail for both Tesla and Polestar.
On the plus side, if you have premium connectivity on the Tesla Model 3 (£9.99 a month after the first year with the Long Range or Performance), you can watch Netflix, YouTube, and Twitch, browse the web, and stream Spotify. This is supposedly coming for Polestar, but isn’t available yet.
Who wins on control and interface? This is six of one and half a dozen of the other. The Tesla’s menu is more logically designed, but the more conventional Polestar 2 will be preferable for some.
Performance and Driving
The Tesla Model 3 is one of the best-handling EVs on the market, and the best for under £100,000, particularly in Performance guise. The Long Range doesn’t have quite such potent brakes or the 20in wheels, but it still has dual motors, giving the reassurance of all-wheel-drive. Both Dual Motor Model 3s weigh over 1,800kg, which is as much as 400kg heavier than an equivalent petrol or diesel saloon. You do feel this weight in corners, but the Model 3 is still a surprisingly nimble car with fantastic handling.
The Polestar 2 with the Performance upgrade is also a great-handling EV, and it’s not likely to be that much worse without this £5,000 enhancement. However, the throttle response has a little more delay, and the Polestar 2 is even heavier than the Tesla – nearly 300kg heavier. This extra weight also means the Polestar 2 isn’t as quick as the Model 3 Long Range. While the Polestar 2 is still fast, taking a mere 4.7 seconds to reach 60mph, the Model 3 Long Range takes 4.2 seconds, and the Model 3 Performance a brain-wrenching 3.1 seconds.
Who wins on driving and performance? Although the Polestar 2 is a great drive, the Model 3 Long Range is faster and handles better.
Range and Charging
The most significant area where the Model 3 Long Range gets a clear (and literal) lead over the Polestar 2 is how far you can go on a single charge. The Polestar 2 can manage an impressive 292 WLTP miles, but the latest Model 3 Long Range is now capable of 360 miles, and even the faster Performance is still rated for 352 miles. Both Tesla and Polestar use the CCS2 connection. However, while the Polestar 2 supports charging up to 150kW and can be replenished to 80% in 40 minutes, the Model 3 can manage charging at over 200kW with a V3 Supercharger or IONITY’s 350kW units, taking just 20 minutes to reach 80%.
With the plethora of Tesla charging points (second most numerous after the Polar network), not only can you drive further in the Tesla, you’ll have more chance of finding a spot for rapid charging when you do need to replenish the batteries. All versions of the Model 3 are more efficient, too, costing less per mile in electricity. This has been further helped by the fact that the latest Model 3 version now has a heat pump, whereas the Polestar 2 won't be getting one until 2021.
Who wins on range? This is a clear victory for the Tesla Model 3.
The Polestar 2 has a full complement of electronic aids provided as standard. These include collision mitigation, road sign detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assistance, and blind spot detection. The parking camera is a little unorthodox, because instead of offering front and rear cameras, perhaps with a birds-eye view to the side, the Polestar 2 entirely relies on this top-down 360 display, which fills the entire screen.
The Tesla Model 3 is more conventional in this respect, although its reverse camera is very clear, and accompanied by side camera views with the latest software release. There’s no front camera view but the system measures distance at both ends extremely accurately so you can park precisely in the middle of a street spot.
Autopilot is the stand-out Tesla safety feature, however. The sensors this relies on do offer the usual emergency braking, lane departure warnings and blind-spot detection. But the cruise control is in another league. Not only is it adaptive, but on highways it will also steer the car for you. If you pay the £6,800 extra for Full Self Driving, you can even turn on Navigate on Autopilot, which will allows you to change lane with a simple indicator signal, and promises complete autonomous driving in the future. But even the basic autosteering Autopilot makes boring traffic-laden motorway driving much less stressful.
Who wins on safety? Tesla’s Autopilot has unique features, and the Full Self Driving option could make the Model 3 the cheapest route to autonomous road transportation in the near future.
Who Wins Overall?
Polestar has created a strong competitor to the Tesla Model 3. The Polestar 2 puts up a decent fight against the Standard Range Plus, being faster and having longer range, but also more expensive. The real direct comparison is the Tesla Model 3 Long Range. The Polestar 2 wins on interior and cargo thanks to its hatchback, but the Long Range is faster and can go considerably further on a single charge. If you add the Performance pack to the Polestar 2, it handles better, but the Tesla Model 3 Performance wins hands down.
Overall, although the Polestar 2 is very promising, the Model 3 Long Range and Performance keep their crowns as the ultimate electric saloons.
|Tesla Model 3||Polestar 2|
|Price:||Standard Range Plus – £40,490; Long Range – £46,990; Performance – £56,490||£46,900|
|Range (WLTP):||Standard Range Plus – 267 miles; Long Range – 360 miles; Performance – 352 miles||292 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||Standard Range Plus – 7 hours; Long Range, Performance – 12 hours||11 hours|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||Standard Range Plus – 40; Long Range, Performance – 60 minutes||60 minutes|
|Charge time (250kW, 80%):||20 minutes||30 minutes|
|Battery:||Standard Range Plus – 54kWh; Long Range, Performance – 79.5kWh||78kWh|
|On Board Charger:||11kW||11kW|
|Cost per mile*:||Standard Range Plus – 2.83p; Long Range – 3.1p; Performance – 3.16p||3.7p|
|0-60mph:||Standard Range Plus – 5.3 seconds; Long Range – 4.2 seconds; Performance – 3.1 seconds||4.7 seconds|
|Top Speed:||Standard Range Plus – 140mph; Long Range – 145mph; Performance – 162mph||127mph|
|Power:||Standard Range Plus – 283hp; Long Range – 346hp; Performance – 450hp||408hp|
|Wheels driven:||Standard Range Plus – rear-wheel-drive; Long Range, Performance – all-wheel-drive||All-wheel-drive|
|Cargo:||425 litres, 1,140 litres with rear seats down||405 litres, 1,095 litres with rear seats down|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh