Polestar 1 review

The first offering from Volvo's new premium brand is an appealing blend of electrified technology, classically appealing looks and thrilling performance

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5

Pros

  • Gorgeous looks
  • Prodigious performance
  • Excellent electric range

Cons

  • Left-hand-drive only
  • Not very practical
  • Hugely expensive
Car typeElectric rangeFuel economyCO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid78 miles404mpg15g/km

While the majority of new plug-in hybrids are quiet and comfortable saloons like the Audi A6 or BMW 530e, or SUVs like the Range Rover Velar and Mercedes GLE, Volvo's performance brand Polestar has created something very different – and very striking.

The Polestar 1 was the first production car from the Volvo offshoot, and also the last plug-in hybrid it'll make, with the Polestar 2 coupe-SUV setting the company on an electric-only path for future models. That doesn't mean Polestar left anything on the table with its debut car: with 601bhp and a 0-62mph time of 4.2 seconds, the 1 also has a pure-electric range of nearly 80 miles, potential economy north of 400mpg and 15g/km CO2 emissions.

Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine gets a turbocharger, supercharger with twin electric motors on the rear axle to help produce all that power and propel the Polestar 1 to its electronically limited top speed of 155mph. The hardware is then wrapped in an extremely handsome body underpinned by a lightweight and high-tech carbon-fibre structure.

Inside, it's a little less striking, as you can clearly see the carryover from Volvo's more mainstream models in the steering wheel and dashboard architecture, but quality is top-notch nonetheless and everything is bang up-to-date in terms of technology.

There's no 'B-pillar' between the front and rear side windows, so the interior has quite an airy and open feel, but the rear seats are cramped nonetheless. They're comfortable and supportive, like the fronts, but only kids will be happy spending more than a short journey back there. Boot space is on the small side, too – but you do at least get the novelty of having some of the car's electrical systems showcased behind a clear panel, complete with annotations.

On the road, this feels closer to a sports car than a cosseting 'Grand Tourer', with a fairly firm ride quality ensuring you feel every lump and bump in the road. Despite the use of carbon-fibre, this is still a pretty heavy car, tipping the scales at 2,350kg, which is SUV rather than sports-car territory.

Nonetheless, that prodigious power output can get the Polestar from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds, and in reality it feels even quicker than that, courtesy of the electric-assisted instant shove you get upon pressing the accelerator. The brakes are also impressive, capable of scrubbing off speed almost as quickly, and when you're driving more gently, a strong regenerative braking mode allows for one-pedal driving.

On a good road, there's plenty of reward to be had from the 1: it boasts accurate steering, big reserves of grip and superb body control, while a torque vectoring system that controls the electric motors makes it surprisingly agile for something so heavy. And those who are really keen can get out an Allen key and tweak the standard Ohlins adjustable dampers for a smoother or firmer ride as desired. 

If you’re lucky enough to be able to choose one, you’ll save a pretty penny on company-car tax. Plug-in hybrids, no matter their list price, were treated particularly kindly when the government was calculating the 2020/21 Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax changes – so a higher-rate taxpayer will fork out just £1,667 per year in BiK. Compare that with the latest BMW M8 Competition, which has a slightly lower list price but far higher CO2 emissions, and you’ll be stunned: the BMW will cost almost £18,000 in BiK tax in the first year alone.

Those concerned about the dependability of a new brand like Polestar should take comfort in the fact that parent company Volvo finished 10th in the most recent Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with owners praising their cars’ infotainment systems – a part that's carried over almost unchanged to the Polestar 1 – and safety kit. One gripe for Volvo drivers was running costs, which is unlikely to be an issue if you plug in your Polestar on a regular basis.

Overall, surrounded by large hybrid SUVs, the Polestar 1 feels like a relative breath of fresh air. Yes, it's a pretty exclusive, limited-run offering with a price tag to match, but it's still nice to have such a technologically advanced, distinctive and smart-looking car on the roads. It has the potential to be a unique and desirable piece of the brand's history for many years to come.

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