Polestar 2 hatchback
"The Polestar 2 has a 300-mile range, 403bhp and an upmarket interior, making it the Tesla Model 3's strongest rival yet"
- Build quality
- Strong performance
- Low running costs
- Firm ride
- No dedicated charging network
- Tight rear passenger space
The Polestar 2 electric car has arrived, giving the Tesla Model 3 its first direct rival since it was launched virtually unchallenged. Described as a fastback, the Polestar 2 gets its own distinct style, inside and out, but one that’s clearly connected to its Volvo relations.
Polestar is the upmarket, electric offshoot of Volvo, owned by Chinese manufacturing giant Geely. The car has been designed in Sweden and is being built in China. It's also penned by Thomas Ingenlath, who was formerly Volvo's design chief, so if you like the XC60 and V90, you'll likely enjoy the Polestar 2's lines too. If you've been put off a Model 3 by stories of poor build quality, the Polestar 2 could appeal here too because it shares its CMA platform with models like the Volvo XC40 P8 SUV and the forthcoming Volvo C40 crossover.
The Polestar 2’s performance is close to that of the Model 3 without toppling it. There's a 78kWh battery pack, sending power to two motors that produce 403bhp. Four-wheel drive ensures the 2 can catapult from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds, with a characteristic instant hit of power whenever you press the accelerator pedal. It corners well too, even if its steering lacks detailed feedback. An optional Performance Pack adds Ohlins dampers, Brembo front brakes, 20-inch forged alloy wheels and gold highlights for around £5,000.
An electric range of 292 miles should be enough for most drivers, and 150kW charging can quickly add driving distance if you need to stop to charge on the motorway. Volvo is also hoping to offer owners pain-free access to 195,000 chargers across Europe, but it remains to be seen if this will compete with Tesla's Supercharger network.
The interior is simple but attractive, with nicely chosen materials that give the 2 an inviting feel. Wooden trim and fabric help here, and make the interior vegan-friendly unless you choose leather upholstery as an optional extra. The 11-inch touchscreen is the first to get Android's dedicated operating system and you won't need a key, as the car recognises the owner's smartphone.
Although it doesn’t beat the Model 3, the Polestar 2 is the Tesla’s most convincing rival so far. On the plus side, it feels better-built and some buyers will prefer its interior. The performance and range are slightly off the Long Range version of the Model 3 but if that's not a big issue, the Polestar 2 is a stylish choice.
While the Polestar 2’s powertrain is still relatively new, the Volvo Car Group is backing the technology as part of the electrification of their entire model range by 2030, with the XC40 Recharge P8 and the new C40 Recharge crossover using the same twin-motor powertrain. Safety is highly rated, with the Polestar 2 awarded a five star safety rating by Euro NCAP in early 2021.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Polestar 2 is clearly gunning for the Tesla Model 3 and its 78kWh battery pack has a slightly higher capacity than found in the Model 3 Long Range. Even so, the Polestar 2's impressive 292-mile range isn't quite on a par with the 348 miles the Model 3 can manage. In reality, we doubt owners will notice a huge difference, and the Polestar 2 is close enough to the magic '300-mile' milestone to avoid range anxiety or feel like an inconvenience when compared with a combustion-engined rival like a BMW 3 Series.
The Volkswagen ID.3 will be available with battery packs in 45, 58 or 77kWh sizes, and Polestar has confirmed the 2 will also be offered with more than one battery size when the full line-up arrives. It’s likely a model with a smaller battery will be added to give the range a more affordable starting price.
Charging speeds of up to 150kW are supported and to make Europe-wide public charging simpler, Polestar has partnered with Plugsurfing, a service provider allowing owners to use 195,000 charging points using an RFID tag. However, it will have some way to go to beat Tesla's Supercharger network, which convincingly topped our Driver Power survey of chargepoint providers.
VED tax will be free for the Polestar 2 and company-car drivers will enjoy a 0% Benefit-in-Kind liability in 2020/21, rising to 1% in 2021/22. Three years servicing and roadside assistance is included, and the 2 is covered by a three-year warranty.
Engines, drive & performance
Power is provided by two electric motors, giving the Polestar 2 up to 403bhp and four-wheel drive, with a huge, lag-free 600Nm of torque. The powertrain can get the EV from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds. Power is produced evenly between the front and rear motors, and weight is also distributed 50:50, so the Polestar 2 has a sense of balance on the road.
It certainly grips well as it carves through longer corners, giving the driver plenty of confidence. You can tell the battery pack gives the car a low centre of gravity, and the instant shove of the electric powertrain is addictive. The Model 3 Long Range feels slightly more agile, however, and while the Polestar’s steering is fast and well-weighted, it lacks feel. This is an area where established rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class still do better.
Spend an extra £5,000 for Polestar's Performance Pack and suspension dampers by renowned firm Ohlins are fitted, along with uprated Brembo front brakes, 20-inch forged alloy wheels, gold valve caps and even gold seatbelts inside.
Interior & comfort
Ride comfort isn't bad enough that it should put customers off, but both the 2 and Model 3 have firm suspension, presumably to ensure great handling despite their heavy batteries. Our test car was fitted with the Performance Pack with optional 20-inch alloy wheels, so hopefully the standard 19-inch items and suspension will be more forgiving on UK roads. Refinement is impressive, with noise comprehensively isolated from the interior, even when the road surface turns rough.
Given the car costs around £50,000, you'd expect a plush interior, and the Polestar 2 delivers in most areas. There's a selection of attractive interiors, with finishes including Scandinavian wood trim and an upholstered dashboard. It's also vegan-friendly, although it's possible to add leather as a £4,000 option. Lost keys should be consigned to history, as 'Phone-as-Key' tech senses the driver as they walk towards the car. This smart locking system can also allow collection drivers to pick up the car and delivery services to place items in the boot without the owner being present.
Sitting in the middle of the minimalist dashboard, the 11-inch portrait infotainment screen is the world's first to get Android's in-car infotainment software ‘Android Automotive OS’. It offers Google Assistant, Google Maps and apps, so should offer a great experience if you're an Android smartphone user, while Polestar claims Apple CarPlay will be coming at a later date.
Practicality & boot space
Interior space isn't far off the Model 3 either, with plentiful room for front passengers but slightly less space than the American car in the back, along with a smaller rear door opening. It also seems slightly odd for an EV that there's a transmission tunnel that robs some rear space for the middle passenger - evidence that the Polestar 2's CMA underpinnings are shared with combustion-engined cars like the Volvo XC40. The panoramic sunroof bathes the interior in light but also eats into headroom slightly.
It's swings and roundabouts when it comes to the boot of both cars, because while the Tesla has 425 litres versus 405 for the Polestar, the latter has a bigger, hatchback opening. This will be more convenient for most UK drivers than the Tesla's saloon boot lid, with a larger opening to load awkward items. The Tesla wins back points with its front 'Frunk', which is a more usable shape than the 2's. It is at least a handy place to keep the charging cables.
Reliability & safety
Unless you're a car fanatic, you may not have heard much about Polestar. In that case, it will be reassuring to note that it’s an all-electric sub-brand of Volvo, and that Chinese parent company Geely is one of the world's largest manufacturers of electric vehicles. With all this know-how behind the scenes, we're expecting the Polestar 2's build quality and reliability to be strong right out of the blocks.
The same goes for the car’s safety credentials, which benefit from the latest technology, including central airbags between the front passengers to further protect them in a collision. When the Polestar 2 was tested by Euro in early 2021, it scored the full five stars, with 92% and 89% ratings for adult occupant safety and child safety respectively. It also scored 80% for its vulnerable road user protection and 86% in the safety assist category.
One of the main safety features fitted to the Polestar 2 is the Volvo Car Group’s latest driving assistance technology, which can help accelerate, brake and steer the car at speeds of up to 81mph. A myriad of sensors monitor the area around the car, helping avoid or brake if a pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle is detected. The battery is also enclosed in an aluminium case to protect it from damage.