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The Polestar 1 and 2 are Insider's 2020 Cars of the Year

Kristen Lee,Matthew DeBord   

The Polestar 1 and 2 are Insider's 2020 Cars of the Year
  • Unlike in previous years, Insider selected two winners for 2020's Car of the Year award.
  • The Polestar 1 and the Polestar 2 impressed us with their looks and performance.
  • But we especially liked Polestar's mission and believe that it's making good, electrified products that people will actually want to buy.

We know, we know. How can you have two Cars of the Year?

Easy. It was a tie. That's how.

Among other things, sustainability weighed heavily on our minds this year. We find ourselves in the midst of a climate crisis that's become far too dire to ignore.

Keeping in that vein, we want to applaud Polestar - not only because it is an exciting new brand but because it's a brand that's committed to building and selling low- and emissions-free vehicles that are attractive and reasonably attainable.

We need more electric cars that people actually want to buy. Right now, Polestar makes one.

The Polestar 1

The $155,000 Polestar 1 hybrid blew the reviewers Matt DeBord and Kristen Lee away when they drove it.

"What we have here is a ferociously good grand-touring car that reminded me of the Lexus LC500h and the BMW i8," DeBord wrote. "The Polestar 1 platform, to simplify, is a front-wheel-drive, gas-powered machine that's not overly stunning on paper; add the batteries and the dual-electric motors to produce rear-wheel drive and AWD in concert and you get provocative bliss.

"In all-electric Pure mode, the Polestar 1 is quiet, quick, and torque-y, doing a passable impression of a Tesla Model S. Switch to fun mode, however, and you get the bold petrol-fueled dynamics mated to electric boost."

"Advancements in manufacturing and battery technology have given us a contemporary plug-in hybrid that is not only mighty and fast, but will also age gracefully in the coming decades," Lee wrote. "It's met with a buying populace that's only becoming more and more willing to embrace electrified cars."

The Polestar 1 would have easily won this year's Car of the Year award. Except for one thing: its accessibility.

Most people cannot afford a $155,000 car. And even if they could, Polestar is making only 1,500 examples of the 1, so there may not exactly be enough to go around. The 1 might get people excited about the brand, but there isn't a terribly strong business case for it that we were able to observe.

Still, though, the car is too good and too capable for us to write it off completely.

The Polestar 2

Whereas the Polestar 1 was inadequate in terms of accessibility, the Polestar 2 EV is the one for the masses. It's not cheap-cheap - it starts at $59,900, but that's still nearly $100,000 cheaper than the flagship 1.

The 2 retains the 1's good looks and Polestar's overall corporate fascia, but it's shorter in length and stockier in stance. It's a sedan with back seats and a usable trunk. It runs the Android operating system natively. It's set up to be far more consumer-friendly.

"Take away my sight, and I'd be tempted to guess I'm at the wheel of the Tesla Model 3, about as good an electric car as can be driven," Lee wrote. "But I'd know better because something feels different: Things here are more substantive, more satisfying.

"The interior is built to be something an actual human would use and enjoy - not a button-free, avant-garde exercise in alternative design. This is the all-new Polestar 2, you see, and it drives like a finished version of the Model 3."

Furthermore, the Polestar 2's interior is made largely from post-consumer recycled materials.

"Built in Luqiao, China, the Polestar 2 quickly established itself as a champion of sustainability," Lee went on. "In addition to running without reliance on fossil fuels, the 2 also touts seat fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles, interior plastics made with waste cork products, and carpets woven from recycled fishing nets."

We found the Polestar 2 to be highly capable and downright pleasant to drive. It was not difficult for us to imagine a buyer becoming easily enamored with its looks and everyday comfort and usability.

As a brand, Polestar is one of the most exciting ones there are right now. The company has made the leap past promises and mere renderings of its products to actually selling them.

There's still a lot more work to be done - its dealer network needs to expand - but with backing from the deep-pocketed Geely, it's most likely only a matter of time before Polestar catches on in more US locations.

But as starts go, Polestar has hit the ground running.

It's unconventional for us to name two cars as winners, but as a grand-touring hybrid and a volume-seller electric vehicle, the Polestars 1 and 2 knock it out of the park. It's also the first time we've named a hybrid and an EV as winners.

But we felt these two offer buyers a legitimately good electrified alternative that perform wonderfully and are great to look at.

Congratulations to the Polestar 1 and the Polestar 2. Take your wins - you deserve it.


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