If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you may have heard about the incoming tidal wave of Chinese made battery electric vehicles (BEV) about to make their way over to our shores. Chinese made vehicles don’t exactly have the best reputation especially as there aren’t many on sale here yet, but there are some quality examples of what China can produce if you look hard enough. For example, the Volkswagen Taos is designed and manufactured in China and is one of the best vehicles available in its segment. While Tesla shareholders wait for Chinese made Teslas to arrive, sending their shares to the moon, there is already a Chinese made EV here, on sale today – the 2023 Polestar 2 Single Motor.
Polestar got its start as the performance division from Volvo Cars, and is now jointly owned by Volvo and Zhejiang Geely Holding. Launched with the Polestar 1, a limited-edition plug-in hybrid high performance grand tourer, Polestar is now a standalone electric vehicle brand. In 2020 the Polestar 2 was released, a BEV sedan available to the mass market equipped to do battle with the Tesla Model 3.
The exterior of the Polestar 2 is a design study for minimalism, using a variety of simple geometric shapes that come together to give us something of a mashup of a 2007 Subaru Outback Sedan and a 2013 Scion tC. Sedans may have fallen out of fashion but with stylish new entries like the Toyota Crown and the Polestar 2 there may be some hope yet for a future with fewer crossovers.
The Polestar 2 features Volvo’s signature Thor’s Hammer headlight design as well as Polestar’s own calling card, a rectangular shaped tail light spanning the width of the car. A pair of sleek frameless side mirrors, complete with integrated LED blind spot monitors and 19-inch five double spoke black diamond cut alloy wheels augment the minimalist theme with their simple less is more design. Our test vehicle is wearing a coat of “Jupiter” paint, a $1,500 option that does a good job of showing off the lines of the car as well as looking champagne classy like that 1991 Seattle Silver Honda Accord your parents used to have.
The cabin is a testament to Scandinavian minimalist design; It is so quintessentially Volvo that we’re surprised they left out the Swedish hang tag on the seats – though given it’s manufactured in Chengdu China, maybe a red flag with five yellow stars would be more apropos.
The interior consists of a nice mix of high-quality textiles akin to a well tailored suit, complete with fancy buttons placed for no other reason than for aesthetics. There are three colorways to choose from in the “Plus” pack, including the Slate WeaveTech with Black Ash deco found in our tester. The build quality and design are enough to make it look as though going vegan over the available Nappa leather upgrade is a conscious decision versus a budgeting one. Just about the only thing we don’t like is the sharp angle of the center console which is uncomfortable when putting the arm rest to use.
Actually, there is one other thing we weren’t crazy about – the sound of the turn signal indicator which sounds as if it’s being played through a blown speaker, and almost induces motion sickness. Needless to say, you won’t see a Polestar 2 where the driver has forgotten to turn off their signal.
A lone center console “tablet” drives the infotainment interface. Instead of trying too hard to integrate it flush into the dash it appears to float above it with a clean black bezel – as a result it actually looks cleaner and more minimalist than other attempts of portrait mounted touchscreens. Unfortunately sticking to the minimalist mantra means climate controls are all touchscreen based. At least Polestar gives us a physical volume knob with play/pause button, as well as physical defroster and hazard buttons. The system is equipped with wired CarPlay and Android Auto, but when you can simply download the same apps to the built in Google OS you quickly realize you may not need it.
Polestar 2 is available in Canada with only one 78 kWh lithium-ion battery option, but you can opt for either a single motor front wheel drive or dual motor all wheel drive configuration. The single motor puts out 231 horsepower and 243 lb-ft. of torque, versus the dual motor and its 408 horsepower and 487 lb-ft. torque. That’s a heck of a lot of horsepowers, torques and all wheel drive for an extra $5,000. It seems like a no-brainer, though the single motor doesn’t lack in pep. It delivers all 243 lb-ft. in trademark BEV fashion – instantly, which makes it feel a lot more powerful than the numbers suggest. You’ll also get improved range, 434 kilometers versus 418. Charging is done in as little as 35 minutes on a level 3 fast charger, or 8-hours on a level 2 charger.
If you don’t need all-wheel drive and supercar-like acceleration, you could opt to spend the extra cash on ventilated Nappa leather for the interior ($5,000), or one of the two packages installed on our tester; the Plus Pack ($5,700) and the Pilot Pack ($4,700). The Plus Pack gets you the 600-watt 13-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system, a good upgrade but nowhere near the incomparable Bowers & Wilkins system found in Volvos and the upcoming Polestar 3 SUV.
You also get creature comforts like a heated steering wheel, heated seats, and a beautiful full-length panoramic tinted glass roof. The Pilot Pack is a suite of active safety and drive assist features like adaptive cruise, 360 camera, and park assist. Many of the features found in these packs are now standard in many other modern vehicles so charging an extra $10,400 for them stings as they seem like necessities.
The 2023 Polestar 2 Single Motor starts at $53,950, and with the additional cost of Jupiter paint and the Plus and Pilot packs our tester rings up at $65,850. And you thought Chinese EVs would be more affordable! The good news is the Polestar 2 is well built with high quality materials and checks all the boxes with everything you expect to find in a modern BEV. It drives well, has a frunk, and is packed with high tech features like an air quality sensor and vegan water and dirt resistant seats. It’s certainly a worthy alternative to the Tesla model 3. With the Polestar 1 and 2, the brand is off to a great start and we expect big things from the upcoming Polestar 3 and 4. They sure have this minimalism thing figured out, right down to the names.