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road test

The Polestar 2.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Polestar isn’t sharing how many of its compact electric cars it has sold since launch a year ago, other than to say the numbers in North America are on track, and globally they’re in the tens of thousands.

Reading between the lines, most sales have probably been in Europe and China, with Polestar a joint venture between Sweden’s Volvo and its Chinese parent, Geely.

There are three reasons to believe we’ll soon see more Polestars on Canadian roads. First is that the Polestar 2 launched last year but only with a loaded two-motor trim priced at $70,000. Now there’s a single-motor base model starting at $49,900 and the dual-motor starts at $56,900.

Second, coming next year is Polestar 3, a crossover that will compete where most of the entry-luxury-market action is these days. Third, the Polestar 3 will be built alongside Volvos in Ridgeville, S.C., which should mollify buyers who prefer to buy “domestic.”

As for the Polestar 2, it’s still coming out of China, and the company line is “We have not announced any manufacturing changes for Polestar 2 as of this time.”

The Polestar 2 Long Range is taller and doesn't look like the traditional hatchback.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Geopolitics aside, let’s recap on the car itself. The 2 competes in the compact luxury sedan segment, though it’s actually a hatchback (nothing wrong with that, and we can call it a five-door fastback if you prefer). It’s about 15 cm shorter and 4 cm taller than the norm in that class. The new Long Range Single Motor (SM) base car has a 170-kW (231 hp) motor in the nose driving the front wheels, versus the Dual Motor’s (DM) 150-kW motor at each end.

Maximum torque is halved, from 483 to 243 lb.-ft, but while the output differences are substantial, the SM has “quicker” gearing, 120 kg less mass to propel, and more balanced weight distribution, to mitigate the loss of fun-to-driveness.

The lighter, slower model also has a range advantage, officially 435 km versus 400 km. The DM’s rating is an increase on last year’s, thanks to reprogrammed software that can also be over-the-air (OTA) updated on 2021 models. Additional range of up to 10 per cent could also be available, Polestar says, if you opt for the $5,500 option package that includes a heat-pump HVAC system.

Battery capacity remains at 78 kW (of which 75 kW is usable) though the “Long Range” part of the car’s names implies a more affordable smaller-battery alternative. A Standard Range model does exist, but Polestar says it’s not coming to Canada.

Beyond the $49,900 for the SM, the dual-motor starts at $56,900. By luxury-car standards the options menu is quite simple. A $5,500 Plus Pack on either model includes the aforementioned heat pump plus a glass panoramic sunroof, Harmon Kardon audio, wireless phone charger, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.

A Performance Pack ($6,000), available only on the DM, comprises handling and braking upgrades, though an upsize to 20-inch wheels is available on either model for $1,200.

Like the DM we tested last year, the SM Polestar 2 combines practicality, comfort and safety with a driving experience that, if less exhilarating, is still engaging. Its range is competitive, and so is the price.

Tech Specs

Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor

Base price/as tested: $49,900/$49,900

Powertrain: 170-kilowatt motor/78 kilowatt-hour battery pack

Transmission/drive: one-speed automatic/front-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (Le/100 kilometres): TBD

Alternatives: Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW i4, Tesla Model 3, Volkswagen ID.4, Volvo XC40 Recharge

Looks

Shorter in length than most rivals but also a tad taller, the Polestar 2 has a stubby, chunky look that belies its svelte 0.28 drag coefficient. It doesn’t look like a “hatchback,” either, but effectively that’s what it is.

Interior

Polestar 2 Long Range Single MotorJeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Apart from the large portrait-oriented centre touch-screen, the cockpit looks relatively conventional at first glance. Forward visibility is great, the “shift lever” is where you’d expect, and the driving position sportily low-slung. Once installed, you’ll notice there’s no stop/start button – the car powers up when it senses a body in the driver’s seat – and precious few buttons of any other kind.

For better or worse, secondary controls rely heavily on the touch-screen. Nor are there any “virtual” dials on the digital gauge cluster. The minimalist display can be configured to show the navigation map, but otherwise it features little more than a digital speedometer, and bar graphs for range and state of charge. Leather is an expensive stand-alone option in a décor that otherwise prioritizes sustainable, eco-friendly materials. As for passengers, the rear cabin is certainly not cramped, but there’s less room than in most of its peers.

Performance

The SM’s 7.4-second 0-100-km/h time substantially lags the DM’s 4.7 seconds. You feel it most at launch, the acceleration steady and linear where the DM lunges off the line. The SM still feels pretty punchy once you’re rolling – for example when you need a quick burst of speed to pass a slower car.

While the SM car’s cornering limits don’t equal the Performance-Pack’d DM we tested last year, its engaging handling will still satisfy “expressive” drivers. The ride is still somewhat choppy. As for range, the test sample (which did not have the heat pump) showed 434 km at 100-per-cent state of charge when we picked it up. After 200 km of mixed (and sometimes spirited) driving on a 20-degree day it showed 225 km of range remaining at 54 per cent SoC.

Technology

The Polestar’s Android infotainment system, co-developed with Google and capable of over-the-air updates, is one of its biggest highlights.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The technology pièce de resistance is Polestar’s Android infotainment system, co-developed with Google and capable of over-the-air updates. Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play are integrated, with no need to plug in your phone (yes, it also works with iPhones).

Most assisted-drive mod cons are standard but you’ll pay $4,500 for the Pilot Package that adds adaptive cruise and Level 2 semi-autonomous drive capability, plus various lighting/visibility upgrades.

Cargo

Flat-and-flush folding seats beneath a lifting tailgate optimize versatility for storage.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

A tow rating is rare in any passenger car these days, let alone an EV, but the Polestar 2 can tow up to 900 kg of braked trailer. Flat-and-flush folding seats beneath a lifting tailgate optimize versatility, even if cargo volume is unremarkable: 405 L (including underfloor volume), plus another 35 L in the “frunk.”

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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