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Meet Polestar 2, a Volvo in an Electric Suit

Liz Dobson finds there is much to like as Geely swaps things up for the Swedish brand.

20 June 2023

Kiwis are charging ahead with buying electric vehicles thanks to greater options for buyers and the government’s clean car rebate, so with many great choices it takes a lot for one model to stand out.

Meet Polestar 2, an all-electric vehicle from a car brand you may not have heard of before.

Polestar is an offshoot of Volvo and along with the famous Swedish brand is based in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Both brands are owned by one of China’s largest vehicle manufacturers, Geely.

The first vehicle from Polestar was a hybrid coupe, but Geely decided to swap things up and make it a fully electric brand, with its first product being the Polestar 2, to be followed by the Polestar 3.

Polestar uses technology and safety features from Volvo but its exterior design is dynamically different from its parent brand thanks to futuristic aspects. Like Volvo cars aimed at the Asia and Australasia market, Polestars are built in China at Geely’s factories.

The Polestar 2 arrived in New Zealand last year with three variants; the standard-range single motor, long-range single motor, and long-range dual motor.

The standard model is priced from $76,900 (at the time of print). Add $3,000 and you get the Pilot Lite Pack, which is an array of safety features such as a 360-degree camera and adaptive cruise control (that lets you set speed and distance between you and the vehicle in front on motorways).

Clean car rebate

Both these models are eligible for the clean car rebate of $7,500, which is for any new fully electric vehicle priced under $80,000.

The two standard models have an electric range of 470km and have a 69kWh lithium-ion battery. It produces 170kW of power and 330Nm of torque.

Next up is the long-range single-motor version priced from $86,900, with an electric range of 540km. It gets the same battery as the standard Polestar 2 but has electric motors on the front and rear axles. If you want features such as heated seats, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless charging for your smart phone, add $8,000 for the Plus pack.

The top model long-range dual motor costs from $104,900 and has a range of 480km, but has a more powerful energy output of 300kW of power and 600Nm of torque. That sees it go from 0-100kph in just 4.7 seconds – 2.7 seconds faster than the two other models.

This extra power from the 78kWh battery really comes to the fore when you’re on the motorway, taking off from traffic lights, or on-ramps.

If you want added appeal, then add the performance pack for an extra $10,000, and with that you have such features as updated alloys and the Polestar Engineered Performance software upgrade.

All charge from 20 per cent to 80 per cent in 40 minutes at a standard public charger, or seven hours overnight via a home wallbox.

The five-door electric vehicle is categorised as a fastback, which is an SUV with a roof sloping to the rear, and this gives the Polestar 2 a more commanding look. But the car’s rear lights make it more sci-fi than its direct competitors, the Tesla Model Y and Model 3.

The front lights are similar to Volvo with the “Thor’s hammer” design, while the rear lights run the length of the vehicle and then curve into a U shape. It’s an impactful design statement, especially at night.

Navigation system

The cabin is a lesson in Swedish minimalism that I loved and is similar to the Volvo XC40 and C40 electric models. There is a middle vertical information screen that has all the functions you need such as radio stations, navigation and apps.

You also have controls on the steering wheel that change radio stations or set advanced cruise control.

But what makes it stand apart from its competition is that the Polestar 2 was the first car in the world to feature an infotainment system powered by Android Automotive OS, with Google built in.

This means you can use voice-activated instructions, but better still a constantly updated navigation system that alerts you to traffic jams ahead.

Another point in its favour is that it has a vegan interior as standard that addresses “plasticisers”.

The Polestar 2 easily seats four adults comfortably with plenty of room in the boot.

I tested the base standard model for a day at the New Zealand launch, and I had the long-range dual motor Polestar 2 for a week.

If you haven’t driven an electric car before then the first aspect is one-pedal driving, which means you don’t need to brake for the car to stop as it halts when you take your foot off the accelerator.

Initially it can be disconcerting, but you get used to it very quickly.

Despite it having “just” 480km of range, I didn’t need to charge it during my test period despite gnarly commutes in Auckland.

What I loved about it was the instant power which is great when you are heading onto a motorway on-ramp, and gives assurance when you want to overtake.

Safety features ‘niggle’

The Polestar 2 drives confidently although a little stiff, but one of the niggles for me was some of the oversensitive safety features it inherits from Volvo. For example, lane keep assist can be too reactive while emergency stop takes its job too seriously. If you are steering around a corner, and it sees a parked car in your line of vision, it will brake.

But once you know these quirks you can change your driving style to deal with them. And hey, better to be safe than sorry.

The Polestar 2’s competition price-wise is the aforementioned Teslas, plus Kia’s EV6 (another futuristic-looking vehicle), and Hyundai’s award-winning Ioniq 5.

There’s also good news if you are still contemplating buying a Polestar 2 as it has just been announced there is an upgrade to the premium compact EV. The 2023 model will feature a new high-tech front similar to the Polestar 3, more powerful batteries and, for the first time in a Polestar, rear-wheel drive.

The first deliveries here are expected in the third quarter of this year.

Liz Dobson is the former motoring editor for The New Zealand Herald’s Driven magazine. In early 2020 she launched AutoMuse.co.nz, a lifestyle motoring website. She’s a member of the NZ Motoring Writers’ Guild and also a judge for Women’s World Car of the Year.

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