The Chinese automotive industry is, as you might expect, vast. But relatively little is known about it in these parts, largely because the Chinese are only really getting started when it comes to global exports and its’ growth will be fuelled by our increasing need for electric vehicles.
Apart from the occasional individual import there have been very few Chinese manufacturers’ products seen in this part of the world, especially in an era when internal combustion engined cars were preeminent. But the growing demand for electric vehicles is set to change all that in the very near future.
Domestic Chinese EV brands are many and varied but in a very short time we will begin to see some of them arriving here, so watch out for names such as BYD (which stands, cutely, for ‘bring your dreams’) Nio and Great Wall Motor on a forecourt near you in the not-too-distant future.
Indeed BYD are set to market three new EVs in Europe and these were launched at last year’s Paris Motor Show, including the Atto 3 SUV. For their part, Great Wall Motor is set to launch a budget EV groovily called the Ora Funky Cat in the coming months.
Right now, China’s largest car maker, the state-owned SAIC, is already here. Having bought the British MG nameplate in the early noughties it is already a presence in Ireland and its new MG4 is said to be a game-changer in terms of both price and range. It is something we will be testing soon.
Irish motorists will also be familiar with the MG5, quite a few of which have been sold here and which we tested some time back – relatively favourably it has to be said, but with reservations about build quality, a 1980’s time capsule design and questionable manufacturer range claims.
But the most significant Chinese car import to Ireland thus far has been an unexpected one, mainly because everyone thinks it’s Swedish. Polestar is actually controlled by Li Shufu, the billionaire owner of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group which bought Volvo back in 2010. Volvo and Geely founded Polestar as a new brand in 2017, headquartering it in Gothenburg – Volvo’s home town.
All the Polestar top management and designers are based in Sweden, but production is based at Luqiao in China at a plant which also builds a Volvo EV.
Chinese Polestar production last year set manufactured some 50,000 units of the Polestar 2 which were sold in 27 global markets. It has only been in action since 2021 and last year’s output was double that of the previous year.
The worry for the company is that an aversion to Chinese-made cars (or anything else, for that matter) is possibly at an all time high in the US – remember Donald Trump’s various anti-Chine-NAH rants – but so far sales are brisk and hopes high as Tesla, the EV market leader there with around 140,000 sales in the first nine months of last year, sales appears to be slowing.
Here in Ireland, though, where there is no native manufacturing, there is little public concern about where cars are made and this is expected to play into the hands of Polestar which is marketing a premium product at a reasonable price and with an acceptable range.
We drove a single motor version of the car last August which we found to be beautifully appointed and reasonably capable. Although the claimed range was in the 550 km ballpark, we could not manage to get it to charge to provide anything more than 420 km, but the fact of the matter was that it gave you pretty damn close to that figure.
Not the fastest car in the world, the single-motor Polestar 2 is not the quickest car in the world; the 0-100 km/h time of 7.4 seconds was brisk enough, but the 160 km/h top speed was far from it.
This time around we have a twin-motor set-up and this boosts performance considerably. The 0-100 km/h dash takes just 4.7 seconds and top speed is a very acceptable 204 km/h. That sort of pace is up there with Tesla figures and on a par with the BMW i4 coupe which received an Examiner Motoring Car of the Year award just last week.
The stated range with this version of the car is 480 km but – once again – the most we could get it to charge to (it did tell me it was 100% full) was 420 km, but the car was very truthful and on the two occasions it got long runs while with us, it delivered pretty much that. No range anxiety here, then.
And it is bloody quick too. Sure the factory claims can always look impressive, but the visceral speed of this thing was almost hooliganistic. Indeed for such a staid-looking beast – the fastback look is betrayed by the sheer bulk and presence of the thing – it delivered pretty monumental performance with no apparent drop-off in range if you were too enthusiastic.
Our tester comes with Polestar’s ‘Performance Pack’ which upgrades the suspension set up (Ohlins dual-flow valve manually adjustable dampers), Brembo with gold calipers (to match the gold seatbelts) and gives you 20” alloys as well.
In terms of safety the Polestar is equipped with a ridiculous amount of systems, including run-off road mitigation, forward collision prevention with pedestrian detection as well as the usual battery of whiplash protection, tyre pressure monitors, eight airbags and lane assist. The AWD system is also a bonus.
From the drivers’ point of view the adaptive cruise control, 360-degree surround camera, the 12.3” digital instrumentation and the 11.5” centre infotainment screen (which incorporates the very impressive Google Android operation) – not to mention the 13-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system – all add greatly to a very rewarding experience. The modernity and freshness of the cabin is a real plus.
So too the car’s on road behaviour which is excellent; ride and handling are spot on and that means that B-road driving is exhilarating, while highway journeys are undertaken in a serene and composed manner. In fact, this car was a lot better in this area than the simple single motor version which seemed flighty by comparison.
I suggested in the original review that if that car was a sign of more to come from Polestar, then it boded well. And that’s just how it has turned out because this dual motor is as close to seriously enjoyable electric motoring as is out there right now. On this evidence the forthcoming BST Edition should be a hoot altogether.
For now, though, the twin motor Polestar 2 – irrespective of where it is made – is a fine beast in its own right and capable of delivering an exciting driving experience and a fantastically cossetting passenger experience. This is a space to watch, believe me.
One thing worth pointing out is that the car – along with all Polestars – can only be bought online.