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2021 Polestar 1 Review: A New Star

Polestar 1 | Photo: B.Charette
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Benoit Charette
The model will be scarce in Canada, but its technologies are likely to become widespread

Auto123 reviews the Polestar 1, Volvo's enigmatic new plug-in-hybrid performance car.

The Polestar name remains an intrigue for many motorists. Yet Volvo enthusiasts are surely familiar with the name. Polestar has been Volvo's performance division for years and has now achieved brand status as a company dedicated to producing partially or fully electric models. In the tradition of the Swedish automaker’s penchant for restraint and sobriety, don’t waste your time looking for the Volvo logo on the car, or even the Polestar name. No, your Polestar 1 will be anonymous on the road, save for the Polestar logo.

Nor should you waste effort looking for a Polestar dealership in your neighborhood. There will only be three Polestar stores in Canada: one in Montreal, one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. To feed the few outlets, only 500 Polestar 1s will be built annually for all markets over the next three years. Of those, only twelve will head to Canada (150 are labeled for the United States). The Polestar 2 will arrive next spring, followed by the Polestar 3.

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2021 Polestar 1, front
2021 Polestar 1, front | Photo: B.Charette

Gasoline and electricity
The Polestar 1 is a plug-in hybrid model capable, according to the manufacturer, of driving 125 km in pure electric mode. During our test drive, we did 119 in highway mode, which is very good, and definitely close enough not to make a liar out of the automaker.

Power comes from the same 2.0L 4-cylinder engine found in Volvo's current T6 versions. On its own, it’s good for 309 hp. In addition, there are two 85-kW electric motors in the rear. The combined output of the two engines is 232 hp, plus you have to factor in 71 hp from the starter-alternator; it all amounts to a decidedly impressive 619 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque.

Power comes through an 8-speed automatic transmission, and you get no fewer than five drive modes, including EV as well as 4WD, Individual, Sport and Hybrid modes. Hybrid is the default mode, which makes sense because it's the optimal mode for everyday driving, and this is supposed to be a green vehicle, after all.

2021 Polestar 1, profile
2021 Polestar 1, profile | Photo: B.Charette

Evocative styling
The lovely shape of the car, based on the coupe concept dating back to 2013, is made of carbon fibre panels, which explains in part its eye-watering price tag of $200,000 CAD. But don't assume from that the car is light; the Polestar 1 weighs 2,350 kg. However, the Chinese-Swedish brand called upon its best people to give this car some real bite. It will, as a result, take you barely 4 seconds to go from 0 to 100 km/h, and thanks to the Ohlins suspension, 21-inch Pirelli tires and six-piston Akebono brakes, the Polestar 1 accelerates and brakes like a true sports car.

All that's missing is a decent engine sound to accompany this very neutral handling. Volvo engineers have once again proven that performance and fuel economy can go hand in hand.

2021 Polestar 1, interior
2021 Polestar 1, interior | Photo: B.Charette

Sober and elegant
These two adjectives apply both to the sculpted carbon-fibre exterior, the makeup of which freed up the designers to get creative, and to the interior, where the Volvo signature is instantly recognizable.

The centre screen is the same as what you get in current Volvos - which means it's just as difficult to master at first attempt. It will take a few days before you understand how everything works.

The sportier-looking seats are very comfortable, but a little thinner than in your average Volvo, and the driving position is higher - too high in my case. Above, the all-glass roof is nothing short of spectacular.

2021 Polestar 1, roof
2021 Polestar 1, roof | Photo: Polestar

Behind the wheel, you feel like you're in a GT, not a sports car like a Ferrari F8 Tributo, but like an Aston Martin. Some people like this feeling, others aren’t enamoured of the "heavy" feel associated with that format. The inside trim is simple, sober and tasteful like all Volvo products.

The electronic driving aids are all present and act discreetly and, above all, without getting intrusive, making the driving experience more enjoyable. Needless to say, the 21-inch tires are spectacular, but they'll also make for a less-comfortable driving experience. Cover a few miles of bad pavement, and you can feel the bumps and holes in your spine.

The batteries are separated into two groups. One is located in the central tunnel between the seats and the front section, and the other is hidden behind the small rear seats (in the style of the Porsche 911). Its presence there leaves a minuscule 143 litres of trunk space. We're not talking about a car that's well suited for long road trips with more than two people, clearly. To console the owner, a plastic panel allows you to see all the exposed wires of this battery, which gives an even more exotic flavour to the whole thing.

2021 Polestar 1, trunk
2021 Polestar 1, trunk | Photo: B.Charette

With this unique model, Polestar has no real competition for the moment (with the exception of BMW's i8, which is disappearing). With only 12 units per year on sale in Canada, you’ll at least know that the 200 grand you fork over gets you a totally unique car on the road – plus you’ll feel good about making a good gesture for the environment.

We like

Sublime lines
Surprising power
Sober and elegant interior

We like less

High driving position
Narrow rear seats
Tiny trunk

2021 Polestar 1, three-quarters rear
2021 Polestar 1, three-quarters rear | Photo: B.Charette
2021 Polestar 1, rear
2021 Polestar 1, rear | Photo: B.Charette
2021 Polestar 1 pictures
Benoit Charette
Benoit Charette
Automotive expert
  • More than 30 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 65 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists