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New Polestar 1 2019 review

The 601bhp plug-in hybrid Polestar 1 coupe has arrived, but is it worth the £139k asking price?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

While every other manufacturer is trying to shuffle people into bloated electric SUVs, Polestar’s elegant coupe is a breath of fresh air in the plug-in segment. It might be as heavy as some of those SUVs, but it’s more engaging to drive. A firm ride and poor boot space do harm its GT credentials, though.

There’s no shortage of companies ready and willing to turn your six-figure sum into a sports car these days, so any manufacturer muscling in on a market dominated by names such as BMW, Mercedes, Aston Martin and Porsche has to do something pretty special to stand out. 

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For Volvo-owned Polestar, that something is the plug-in hybrid Polestar 1 coupe, and while customers might balk at the idea of spending £139,000 on something developed in Sweden, the newcomer fights back with a 601bhp drivetrain, carbonfibre structure and one of the most handsome shapes we’ve seen in years.

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It’ll certainly have no trouble standing out if the reactions of passers-by are any indication. The Polestar 1 has enormous presence despite its relatively subtle detailing and crisp, clean lines - at once classically elegant and utterly contemporary.

It’s a shame the interior isn’t quite as striking, with much of the dashboard architecture lifted wholesale from the Volvo S60 and V60, including the digital instruments, portrait-style centre touchscreen, and three-spoke steering wheel. 

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Still, the quality is every bit as good as others at this price point, and the frameless doors and absence of B-pillars give the cabin an airy feel. The seats are supremely comfortable too, though this is definitely a 2+2 rather than a proper four-seater - the rear’s better for kids or luggage than adults.

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Given the grand tourer billing, the boot is inadequately sized too, half occupied by the battery and attendant electronic controls. If there’s a saving grace, it’s that Polestar has chosen to show off the electronics behind a clear, annotated panel, rather than cover them in carpet - it’s a neat detail, and feels like the electric vehicle equivalent of a supercar’s glass engine cover.

The Polestar 1’s drivetrain is certainly more complex than its styling. Up front is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder petrol engine. In the middle are a pair of battery packs, and the rear axle is powered by a pair of electric motors, good for a 78-mile WLTP range on EV power alone. 

Combined, the whole system is good for 601bhp and a thumping 1,000Nm of torque, but despite bodywork made from lightweight carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), the 1 still weighs in at 2,350kg - as much as many recent electric SUVs.

Still, the powertrain does a good job of masking the car’s weight under acceleration - a 4.2-second 0-62mph time doesn’t do justice to the instant, electric-assisted response and supercar-like surge through the gears. Enormous brakes gamely haul the car back down from speed too, and in the gentler hybrid and electric modes there’s enough regenerative braking for one-pedal driving.

Accurate steering, enormous grip and great body control, plus torque vectoring from the electric motors, make the 1 surprisingly agile too, though in quick direction changes you’re aware of how much mass is moving around.

We’d be tempted to tweak the manually-adjustable Ohlins dampers too, as the ride quality as tested was pretty firm. It smooths out at speed though, and that’s where the Polestar 1 is ultimately happiest - as a fast, comfortable, quiet and incredibly stylish grand tourer. 

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