Polestar 2 vs Tesla Model 3 – which is best?
If you’re reading this it’s likely you’re in the market for a premium executive saloon-come-hatch with a generous range, strong performance and a splash of class too. In the internal combustion engine (ICE) world, there’s quite a few contenders to choose from. But, as we head evermore into electrification, there are more and more electric cars of this type becoming available for those who want to reap the rewards.
These two were arguably the first premium EVs to really capture the imagination of the world though: the Polestar 2 and the Tesla Model 3. Both brilliant in their own right, but both quite different. In this blog I’ll go through some of the key differences and things to consider when choosing which one is for you.
- Tesla Model 3 is the faster, sleeker, more sporty option but (despite being loaded with tech) the infotainment system can get frustrating on the move
- Polestar 2 wins the space race with a more practical, comfortable interior that’s extremely well made, but it isn’t as fun to drive
Let’s start with looks. Like your cars silky smooth and sweeping? The Model 3 is the one for you. But if you prefer chunky and imposing, the Polestar 2 is the better option.
You can’t argue with the Tesla’s distinct shape though, which has now made itself an icon around the world. Even those who know nothing about electric cars will see a Tesla and go… “that’s a Tesla”. It’s got quite the following.
The Polestar is a handsome brute though, with Scandinavian minimalist roots very much at its core. Polestar share a lot of their style and exterior/interior design with Volvo, who (handily) own them, so expect to see similarities in their design and parts. That’s no bad thing though, with Volvos having a reputation for comfortable and durable interiors.
That’s where Tesla have had to prove themselves; it’s hard being a brand-new manufacturer in an industry as huge as the automotive one, but they’ve really held their own, particularly inside.
Have you ever been in a new build house that’s freshly furnished? The Model 3 gives off that vibe – modern, crisp and uncluttered. You could spend hours on the hunt for rogue buttons or things to fiddle with on the dashboard, but you’ll be sorely disappointed; this interior is a simple one.
Well, sort of – simple to look at, yes, but it has a lot of tech built in all through that central 15” touchscreen. Everything is controlled through it (which for some might be a bit frustrating) but you can’t argue that Tesla have really thrown the book at this system to make it as smooth and speedy as possible. It’s high resolution and responsive, which we love. Polestar have gone the whole hog too though, as all the bits you use and touch are pinched from Volvo, which means it’s solid and of high quality – it’s a great place to while away the miles.
Let’s talk tech then because both these cars have it in spades. All versions of the Model 3 come with a 15” landscape touchscreen that runs a bespoke operating system created by Tesla themselves. It’s quick, responsive and has great graphics and resolution – plus a few gimmicks as well. Polestar 2 makes use of a 11.2” portrait screen running an automotive version of Android making it familiar and well thought through. There are some differences in the two though:
Tesla Model 3 driving tech & infotainment
The Tesla is chock-full of tech including wireless phone charging, keyless entry and driving, dual zone climate control, automatic wipers, plus their famous Autopilot (albeit in its infancy still). It’ll start, steer, change lanes and even stop for you without you really needing to input at all. Or at least that’s the plan.
Full self-driving capabilities aren’t quite there yet, but it’s still a highly advanced version of adaptive cruise control. If you rack up the motorway miles, you’ll quickly fall in love with Autopilot.
Other driving tech includes plenty of sensors to help you park/around town as well as a clever visual on the screen that shows you exactly what other cars, bikes or people are around you. The Tesla infotainment screen also offers some goofy tech to keep you/the kids busy – like turning the car into a roving fart machine or a cosy warm fire (seriously).
You get the feeling this car is incredibly clever, but it can lull you into a false sense of security if you rely on the sensors alone; remember, you control the car, it doesn’t control you.
Another bug bare is (despite it being an excellent system), everything – and we mean everything – is controlled through the touchscreen. Want to move the steering wheel? Touchscreen. Change the air-conditioning? Touchscreen. Make it fart? Touchscreen. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you’re concentrating on the road and just want to quickly up the temperature or demist the windows, you have to go into menu after menu on the touchscreen. No physical buttons here. If that would annoy you, the Tesla isn’t the one.
Polestar 2 driving tech & infotainment
The Polestar 2 is similarly crammed with tech to keep you safe on the move and as relaxed as possible, but you’ll need to spec the correct pack to get what you want. Pilot is for your driving aids like park assist, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera. Plus gives you the creature comforts like heated rear seats and steering wheel and a premium Harmon Kardon sound system. Performance pack makes your Polestar really rather peppy indeed with dual motors producing 470hp (plus a few sporty styling cues) and specialist Öhlins Dual Flow Valves shock absorbers (sporty suspension) and uprated brakes.
The good news is you don’t have to just stick to one pack, you can spec multiple in one go if you’re feeling really flush, meaning your Polestar could be a walking, talking all-things-to-all-people kind of car. But that’ll rack the price up naturally.
The Android based system in the Polestar is familiar and easy to use. It’s responsive enough and despite being smaller than the Tesla’s, it’s still pretty big!
If you’re the sort of person that must have the latest iPhone when it’s released, for example, then you might find the infotainment in the Polestar a little disappointing. It doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles, nor does it seem as modern (despite being very new indeed), and it doesn’t have all those silly games for your kids to play while waiting at the services. But, overall, it does the job very well indeed.
Driving & charging
Here’s where they really differ slightly. In summary, the Tesla is the sportier option with better power options, but the Polestar is arguably the more comfortable cruiser – though they both have strengths in each other’s wheelhouses.
What’s the Tesla Model 3 like to drive?
The Model 3 is a powerful, exciting car, especially when in Performance guise. Between 280-506hp is on offer across the Model 3 range over the years but whichever you choose, you’re sure to have a smile on your face. It’s a well sorted platform which handles well on a twisty road (albeit not quite sports car level, for a heavy EV it’s really good).
The steering is accurate and the suspension compliant over bumps, though on slower roads you may be more comfortable in the softer Polestar.
You also sit quite low down in the Tesla compared to the Polestar, so it feels sportier, but the cabin is nice and airy. There is good adjustment in the driving position, but if that’s not your bag, then do bear that in mind.
Being electric, power is instant and in abundance and charging is simple too. Standard Plus models charge up to 170kW adding 150 miles in 21 minutes. The higher end Long Range has a max charging speed of 210kW and Performance models can do up to 250kW, meaning 190 miles is added in exactly 20 minutes. Driving the Tesla Model 3 long distances is a doddle and truly means you can put your range anxiety to bed for good.
What’s the Polestar 2 like to drive?
The Polestar 2 is the smoother, softer but still opulent rival to the Model 3 when it comes to driving. Think of it as a mini limo for all the family and you’re on the right track. Being electric, power is still generous and instantaneous with between 230-450hp depending on whether you choose the Single or Dual motor variants. It’s not as exciting to drive as the Model 3 but that’s welcome – sometimes you just want to waft from A to B with no fuss, right?
Steering is decent but the ride is where Polestar shines more – it’s smoother at lower speeds and just as comfortable on the motorway.
You sit a bit higher up and the cabin is more cocoon like with more of the dashboard and infotainment system geared around you as the driver. If you prefer that feeling of endless space, you’d be better off in the Model 3. Don’t mistake that for being cramped, though!
Standard Range models can charge up to 136kW adding 150 miles in 26 minutes with Long Range coming in at 149kW, or 180 miles in 31 minutes. So, the Tesla charges a touch quicker, but the Polestar is a touch more comfortable… food for thought!
This is where it’s a little clearer cut: the Tesla Model 3 is a saloon (meaning the boot lid doesn’t include the rear windscreen) so the opening to the boot is a touch small. The Polestar 2, however, is a hatchback despite its shape – meaning the opening to the boot is much bigger. The Model 3 is longer and does have a very deep-set boot (it’s somewhat cavernous!), but the Polestar 2 has the more useable space. Its boxier shape means it’s a more practical option if you’re regularly putting chunk-in-the-trunk.
Don’t forget the frunks though! And the Tesla’s, surprisingly possibly, is a touch bigger – you could easily get a weekend bag in there. That said, the Polestar’s is enough for some light shopping. Both cars have underfloor storage in the boot too to hide the charge cables, which is a welcome addition.
In terms of passenger space, the sloping roofline of the Tesla mean taller passengers may struggle for headroom, and the slightly raised floor means your knees sit at the same height as your belly button if you’re tall (which could make longer journeys a bit uncomfortable). That said, it manages not to feel too cramped as such as the awesome glass roof which is standard across the range really lights up the cabin.
So, if you’re carrying people in the back a lot, the Polestar 2 might be the better option. Headroom is more generous and a cutaway in the floor means rear passengers have somewhere to put their feet. The seats are supportive and it’s easy to get comfortable no matter your height. The glass roof in the Tesla is more impressive though.
Which should you choose?
It’s a tough one this as they’re both great in their own right.
The Model 3 is the better driving car, if driving is what you enjoy and you’re partial to a B road blast every now and then. It’s faster to charge, has a more impressive infotainment system/tech list and is arguably more iconic with its design. But it can take a while to get used to its quirks and not everyone will be onboard with its touchscreen-heavy controls.
The Polestar 2 is the more comfortable cruiser, with a relaxing more familiar cabin that’s arguably more useable, and ultimately more practical interior and boot. If you’re likely to carry people and things with you a lot more, then this is the one to choose really. But it charges a touch slower and isn’t as fun to drive, which for some may be the deal breaker.
What would I choose? Polestar, probably. I really like the interior; there’s something about the minimalist Scandi-vibes that’s got me hooked and I love the chunky styling. Plus, I like a more left-field choice… everyone has a Tesla nowadays!!!
At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Cars mean different things to different people; but whatever you choose here, you’re sure to quickly fall in love with it and ask…
Why didn’t I try one sooner?