A hatchback to give Tesla a run for its money

Doctor on the Road: Polestar 2

Polestar models were originally souped-up Volvos, but now the brand is a stand-alone marque for premium electric cars. Dr Tony Rimmer reports on its latest offering which has its sights on Tesla.

Knowing what your competitors in the health market are offering and at what cost is vital for long-term profitability. 

If you start offering services that have been well established by others close by, then you know you must have unique selling points at similar cost levels for the client base. It is your job to break any monopoly advantage held by your rivals.

For car manufacturers, the brand rival to beat in the accelerating electric vehicle market is, of course, Tesla. Having been established in the UK since 2014, it has a huge lead over other makers and it is they who are playing ‘catch-up’.

Hugely successful 

Initially focusing on the upper premium market with the Model S, it now has the middle-sized premium Model 3, which has gone on to be hugely successful and made Elon Musk – briefly – the richest man in the world.

Enter Polestar, an offshoot of Swedish maker Volvo, which is owned by Chinese giant, Geely. 

Polestar models were originally souped-up Volvos, but now the brand is a stand-alone marque for premium electric cars. Its first model, the imaginatively named Polestar 1, was a 2018 fast sports coupé model with 590bhp that cost £135,000 and was left-hand drive only. 

Now we have the Polestar 2, a premium all-electric hatchback that has its sights firmly set on the class-leader, the Tesla model 3.

Cleverly packaged

Based on a Volvo chassis shared with the XC40, the Polestar’s large 78kWh battery pack is cleverly packaged down the car’s spine and under the floor. 

This powers two electric motors, front and rear, giving four-wheel drive and 402bhp. Maximum range is claimed to be 292 miles. 

The car is very well equipped and the only significant option available is the £5,000 Performance Pack. 

This adds special Ohlin dampers, Brembo brakes, 20-inch forged alloys, gold valve-caps and gold seatbelts. It does not add a bigger battery or any more power. 

The on-the-road price is almost identical to the Model 3 and, at £49,900, just scrapes in below the £50,000 threshold to qualify for the Government’s £3,000 ultra low emission grant.

Good-looking pose

So how does the Polestar 2 compare to the Tesla? Well, my test car was fitted with the optional Performance Pack and strikes a good-looking pose on the road. 

It has a front ‘grille’ which gives it a more normal look and its slightly raised stance – remember, it uses the XC40 SUV platform – gives it real road presence. 

The greatest benefit over the Model 3 in my book is the fact that it is a hatchback. This is much more useful than the Tesla and essential if you have, like I do, a dog. 

You have to move to the Tesla Model Y to get this benefit, which is likely to be a lot more expensive when it arrives in the UK later this year.

If you do not like the minimalist interior of the Model 3, the Polestar’s dashboard is more a conventional take on the high-tech information and functions available on all electric cars. 

Vegan interior

It also works better in a more intuitive way. The vegan interior – leather is not an option – is supremely comfortable and the quality of materials is definitely a step above the Tesla. 

Room in the back is fine for two or three passengers with particularly good leg room. Boot space, at 440 litres is similar to the Model 3, but the hatchback, as mentioned, makes it more convenient. The front load area is only really big enough for the charging cables.

On the road, the Polestar 2 is as swift as any sports car. Like the Tesla, the linear silent acceleration is an experience that becomes slightly addictive and something you never tire from. 

Regenerative braking

The regenerative braking can be altered to taste and, in its most powerful mode, allows one-pedal driving. The steering is sharp and the handling is impressive for a car weighing more than two tonnes. 

I am sure this is helped by the special Ohlin dampers, but the trade-off has become the Polestar 2’s Achilles heel – an overly firm ride. For a car that should be comfortable and smooth to make the most of its electric attributes, it disappoints. 

The little Honda e I drove recently has a better ride. I would therefore recommend avoiding the Performance Pack option and enjoy more comfortable journeys and, at the same time, save significant money.

So the Polestar 2 would be a great start for any of you ready to enter the electric car marketplace. 

If you do not do many long journeys – where the Tesla Super­charger infrastructure wins hands down – then it is a classy alternative to the Model 3. 

It drives really well, has sporty performance and has a real range of over 230 miles. 

Also, look out for the new Volvo C40 crossover. Due in the UK early next year, it uses the same platform and drivetrain as the Polestar 2 and will have predictably solid Swedish build quality.

Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a former NHS GP practising in Guildford, Surrey