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Volvo stablemate takes early pole position in EV race

Offering an admirable range, with spunky Scandinavian style and an online showroom, Polestar makes a strong case in the electric vehicle market.

POLESTAR 2 The Polestar2 has adopted a sleek and minimalist approach to design and layout.
February 5, 2023
By Peter Atkinson
5 February 2023

When is a Volvo not a Volvo?

When it’s a Polestar.

Confused? Don’t be. Polestar is merely the name used by Volvo, and its Chinese owners, to build a bit of space between the clever Swedish car maker and its electric vehicle offshoot.

It has effectively created a new brand out of bits and pieces left on the Volvo production floor. And the new kid on the block has already created a buzz with its value and performance, so much so that Volvo has a mountain to climb when the two brands clash.

Polestar recently unveiled a second model – imaginatively named the Polestar2 Single Motor, tested here – and Volvo has a long list of electric or electrified models about to hit the market, including two SUVs closely related to this car.

They’re moving quickly because Volvo has promised to have an electric version of every model by 2025. They’ve committed to having a million electric Volvos on the road by that year and at least half of the cars they sell from 2025 onwards will be emissions free.

Polestar is playing an integral role, establishing a basic range and then, when the time is right, rolling out some fancy up-market models, often under a different name (think Toyota and Lexus, Hyundai and Genesis).

But this time there’s one big difference. Volvo has been around for decades, while the Polestar brand is lesser-known. In fact it was first released as the high-performance brand of Volvo when the company, for some obscure reason, decided it would be good to have Volvos competing in motor racing events such as V8 Supercars.

Yes, even though they don’t actually have a V8 model in their fleet.


Focus on Polestar for a minute.

The brand became part of Volvo in 2015, which in turn became part of Chinese giant Geely in 2010. The first car, the Polestar1, was built in Chengdu, China, in 2019 and only sold roughly 500 per year.

The Polestar2, which arrived in Australia in 2022, has since been joined by the Polestar3 – the brand’s first SUV – and that looks suspiciously like the two Volvo EV models available in Australia.

Drivers who might be unsure about Chinese-built cars need not worry about this one. The precision Swedish design and build quality is evident on the two Polestar2 models.

The Polestar2 Single motor is a pretty good thing, even if it can’t quite match strides with its sharply-performed stablemate.

Both Polestars are seriously impressive to drive – even this “slow” version which isn’t that slow at all.

The most powerful model, with 300kW on tap, will reach the speed limit in 4.7 seconds while the single motor gets there in a modest 7.4 seconds. Most families would find that adequate. Optional long-range batteries promise a range of up to 540km.

But with a single motor and more modest performance, it brings a compelling value equation in a market where most buyers pay a big premium to do their bit for the planet.

The single motor starts at an attractive $63,900, or $5000 more with the bigger battery. The dual-motor model offers only the long-range battery for a still reasonable $73,400. All prices are before on-road costs.

Chief rival will be Tesla’s popular Model3 Long Range – which costs $77,800; with the Hyundai Ioniq5 ($79,500) and Kia EV6 GT-Line ($79,590) also part of the equation.

The Polestar certainly doesn’t feel $15,000 less impressive than any of those.

Quite the contrary.

It’s reported that the two Volvo electric models are even more frisky than the Polestars and, with Volvo’s luxury car credentials to protect, both are rather posh.

Another interesting thing about Polestar is the almost total lack of motor dealers. In most cases buyers will be encouraged to visit a website, tick some preferences and buy a new car without seeing it. Availability is another plus, with Polestar pointing to mid-March delivery, which beats many of its rivals by a year or more.

The Polestar2 is a seriously cool thing and very Scandi in its design and fit-out.

For instance, the innovative cloth trim in the door panels, the woodgrain-style material across the dash, and the upmarket synthetic on the model tested here are all recycled or bio degradable.

The cockpit is almost devoid of buttons to push – sleek and minimalist is the ethos.

Most functions are handled by the i-Pad sized, vertically mounted touch screen which allows owners to use customised apps (Google Maps and Google Play, for instance) as well as an equally pretty and functional digital instrument panel

There’s not even a start button, nor any keys to insert, just park the car and close the door. The car turns off and locks itself, then instantly returns to life when the driver returns, greeted with a little chime.

The Polestar2 test covered about half of its 470km range – the battery more than enough for a week’s driving and a weekend getaway.

It’s a relaxed, comfortable and solid performer on the road. In city traffic its zippy performance and “one-pedal” driving style (the car slows when the accelerator isn’t pushed) makes it even more fun weaving through the traffic. It’s engaging and sturdy without feeling threatening (unlike some more powerful electric machines).

Oh, and because it has no actual engine, the Polestar2 provides decent cargo space in the back, plus a little more under the front bonnet.

Where will this all end? With a good and growing reputation for building modern, attractive machines (and particularly SUVs) Volvo would be loathe to tinker with the lower end of the market.

And that, of course, is where Polestar came in.

POLESTAR2 Single Motor

* HOW BIG? It’s a mid-sized hatchback which despite its sleek lines offers good headroom plus cargo space in the front (bonnet) and back (boot).

* HOW FAST? It’s 0-100km/h speed of 7.4 seconds is modest, but the car has plenty of overtaking power.

* HOW THIRSTY? The model tested claimed about 470km of range, plenty for most families.

* HOW MUCH? The base model is excellent value at $63,900 plus on road costs.

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