Polestar 2 FWD review: new kid on the blockchain

David Linklater
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Photos / David Linklater, supplied


Base price
Boot Capacity
Range (km)
Towing (Tonnes)
0-100 km/h
  • Extreme air of quality
  • Dynamic polish
  • Appealingly understated 
  • Can’t get a long-range model under $80k
  • Flaky infotainment on test car
  • Hard-to-reach manual seat adjustment

You know a car is in demand when it’s sold out by the time you come to review it.

That’s the case with the Polestar 2, launched in New Zealand last year. The launch specification is now at its end, with an updated 2022 model on the way. Year to date it's the number two pure-electric car in the country, behind the Tesla Model 3. It's doing well.

So for the record, there are new colours and trims coming, plus more changes to the model’s manufacture that take it further towards Polestar’s ultimate goal of a climate-neutral vehicle by 2030. For example, the battery casing for all versions sees a “CO2e” (a term for quantifying different greenhouse gases in a single unit) reduction of 750kg per car, because the aluminium for this component is now only purchased from smelters that use renewable energy.

In the second half of the year, Polestar has pledged to produce its alloy wheels with low-carbon aluminium from renewable energy, a further 600kg CO2e reduction per car.

Polestar has also partnered with Circulor, which specialises in supply chain traceability, to include blockchain traceability of mica (the cobalt is already traced in Polestar 2 batteries). Blockchain technology can trace risk minerals from material source to finished product.

That’s all to come. From a review point of view, although the car you see here is technically no longer available, it’s also not too different from what’s to come in terms of driving and ownership. Even the Midnight blue paint colour is still current for the updated 2022 model.

We’ve talked Polestar before, but to recap: it’s a new BEV brand co-owned by Volvo and parent company Geely. The sedan-cum-SUV Polestar 2 you see here is first; the Polestar 3 medium-SUV will be unveiled in full in October (production early-2023), followed by the coupe-style 4.

While we’re digressing, Polestar ran a prototype version of its forthcoming 5 four-door GT at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this month and also previewed a high-performance BST edition 270 version of the 2.

Which brings us neatly back around to the reason we’re here: the production Polestar 2. The range has two tiers: the more mainstream FWD single-motor models and the go-fast dual-motor AWD versions.

Our test car is the former, which comes in both standard (69kWh) and long-range (78kWh) battery specifications. Same 170kW power and 7.4-second 0-100km/h time for both, but the WLTP ranges are 470km and 540km respectively.

Our test car is the FWD long-range, but we’d stick with the standard model if we were buying; 470km is still plenty and price increases with the updated model mean the 78kWh version is now over $80k even in basic form: $86,900.

You can buy the 69kW model for $76,900, add the Pilot Lite pack (adaptive cruise, a suite of driver-assistance features and 360-degree cameras) and still come in at $79,900 including on-road costs, meaning you can walk away with the $8625 government Clean Car Discount as well; real-world price $71,725, or a $15k saving over the FWD long range. It’s the only way to go.

Its natural competitor (and one openly acknowledged by Polestar) is the Tesla Model 3 sedan, although the 2 also has elements of SUV in its design. So you could include the new Model Y here as well.

If you think it looks a bit Volvo-like (right down to the Thor’s Hammer headlights), that’s quite deliberate; it’s a reminder for potential buyers that there’s serious expertise behind this ostensibly new brand. Once Polestar is established and Volvo goes BEV-only in 2030, expect a bit more design divergence.

The Polestar 2 is all about minimalism and quality of fit/finish. You don’t really even get badging: the logo is body-coloured on all cars (practically invisible) and the model/specification details are a simple decal on the front door.

The cabin is also Volvo-like, with very few buttons (you do get a physical volume control for the audio) and most functions handled through a 12.3-inch portrait screen.

The design and quality is truly premium, punching well above its price range. As is the technology, with a fully integrated Google operating system that gives you everything from live mapping to the “Hey Google” voice assistant. Yes, you can ask it anything; sign in with your personal account and the functionality is even better.

It works brilliantly… when it’s working. The OS in our test car was freezing and blank-screening incessantly for a few days – enough to make you think modern cars are way too reliant on tech. But a quick Google search (not from the car, sadly, ha ha) revealed an easy reboot by holding the Home button for 20 seconds. Once that was done, the whole thing was back at 100 per cent strength and smarts.

If you buy a Polestar 2 I still reckon you’re best to embrace Google completely. There’s no Apple CarPlay for now, and in theory you don’t need it (you can still tether via Bluetooth for phone calls). But it makes sense to enjoy your music via one of the integrated apps (Spotify or Google Play Music) because listening as an “outsider” via Bluetooth is a bit clunky and brings a few quirks; for example, with Google Maps navigation active and music playing via Bluetooth from my mobile, the volume control would only work for the map voice instructions. To adjust the phone volume I had to go into a separate on-screen menu.

To drive, the Polestar 2 is smooth as vegan silk (yes, yes I know). The dynamic experience in the single-motor version is all about balance – and sans that common BEV trick of crazy standing-start acceleration. But you can dial up extreme levels of one-pedal driving; I’m not sure I used the brake pedal at all during our week with the car.

It’s front-drive, true to Volvo tradition, which might be an issue if the low-speed acceleration was dialled up to silly levels, but it’s not. Instead, it’s got a relaxed gait across Kiwi roads, with linear power delivery and a firm but truly composed ride. It’s a Chinese car that’s nailed all the Swedish sweet spots.

It’s clear that Polestar is taking a more holistic approach to BEV product than most and the result with the 2 is a compact-executive that deserves mention alongside Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz (okay, Volvo too), regardless of whether we’re talking EV or ICE. You can feel good about driving zero-emissions and enjoy a feelgood car while you’re doing it.

ENGINE: 78kWh battery, single motor
POWER: 170kW/330Nm
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, FWD
0-100KM/H: 7.4 seconds
CONSUMPTION: 14.4kWh/100km, range 540km (WLTP)
PRICE: $86,900


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