Polestar has a history...
Originally a performance tuning company focused on racing Volvo vehicles, Polestar Racing (acquired officially by Volvo in 2015), now Polestar, has a history of performance and a dedication to the passion of automotive excellence. While the company says it has no heritage, we disagree entirely. They have a unique story that has lead to the creation of one of the fastest and more powerful vehicles we've ever tested: the Polestar 2.
The first all-electric offering from the company is no slouch, especially the AWD model we had the pleasure of spending time with for an entire month. As you might expect, spending that much time with a car allows for impressions one might not get after only a few hours. And we developed plenty of thoughts on the model, some good, and naturally, some not so good.
Initial impressions of the Polestar 2 were all glowing. One of the first things you notice is the aggressive exterior styling, especially the front grill area. We found the lighting assembly and fenders hold your attention on the front end. The side profile of the vehicle is a little more mundane and nondescript. The rear of the Polestar 2, however, has a LED light bar that extends from one side of the car all the way to the other that we found to be unique and attractive. This also makes the Polestar very easily identifiable at nighttime.
Moving to the interior our impressions are more mixed. The materials that comprise the dashboard, door trim, and seats were all premium in nature. Soft where you want, firm where necessary. The interior design is pleasing and easy on the eyes. A center display allows for many vehicle settings to be changed including steering feel, regenerative braking strength, and charging limits.
However, we found that the Polestar 2 sacrificed interior width in exchange for side crash-worthiness. We wished for an extra 4 inches of space in between the driver and passenger that would allow for an additional cup holder. As it is, the second cup holder can only be accessed by lifting the arm rest forcing you to lose a place to rest your elbow if you wanted a second place to store a drink.
The Polestar 2 doesn't exactly charge very quickly either. On a 150 kW DC fast charger, we were able to charge from 0-90% in about an hour... but according to the car's estimates, that last 10% would have taken an additional hour. If the Polestar 2 were $5k-$10k less expensive we might be more willing to look past these shortcomings, but the dual motor AWD model has a MSRP of $51,900, which is asking a bit too much considering the alternatives in the marketplace. As tested, our vehicle would cost $58,750.
Oh... but the performance!
Overall, we did find the Polestar 2 AWD to be an excellent competitor to the Tesla Model 3 for people who really don't want a Tesla Model 3. It's premium without being too extra. Refined, sporty, and powerful.
We find the Nissan Leaf SL Plus is just too little, too late, and too expensive.
When the Nissan Leaf was first introduced to the world in 2011, it came equipped with a 24 kWh battery providing an EPA estimated range of only 73 miles. That isn’t much for today’s EVs, but it was enough to get the job done at the time. While the first generation Leaf was loved by owners and enthusiasts alike, the redesign in 2017 was a welcome refresh for the model. Nissan added the top trim "SL Plus", offering a 62 kWh battery with 215 miles of range in 2019... a late arrival to the 200-mile club for the company that provided the world with one of the first mass produced electric vehicles.
What we like:
What we dislike:
The Nissan Leaf SL Plus is a good car if looked at in a vacuum, but with so many competitors to chose from we find that it falls well short of our expectations of what a $42,000 car should be.
The Nissan Leaf is a car we want to like more. After all, its legacy deserves respect similar to the way you should respect your elders. And perhaps that’s the problem. Even with the recent refresh and updates to the model's styling, we find the car is just not appealing compared to its competition. It’s quietly fading away into the ever growing field of other electric vehicle choices.
Let’s start by examining what we do like. We found the overall ride and experience with the Leaf SL Plus to be quite comfortable compared to other EVs we’ve tested. The build quality is solid and the ride smooth. Nissan has certainly demonstrated they have experience bringing quality vehicles to the marketplace. If you were looking for a spacious family vehicle to take on road trips, we feel like this EV would be perfectly capable of handling the job. Space for luggage in the rear is bountiful and doesn’t encroach on the legroom for rear passengers. With 215 miles of range (according to the Monroney Sticker) you have more than enough battery to get you between cities. It’s styling is a lot less controversial this time around and shouldn’t alienate potential buyers like the first generation Leaf.
When it comes to technology, the Leaf SL Plus doesn’t surprise us, which is a good thing. The 8-inch infotainment system included with the Plus makes it very easy to pair your mobile device and even includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The HD radio and a seven speaker Bose premium audio system provide your ears with a quality listening experience. The model we test drove also included heated seats and steering wheel although in the heat of summer we didn’t verify how well they worked.
We were delighted with both Nissan’s e-Pedal (one pedal driving) and their ProPILOT driver assist feature, but found that the latter was sometimes unpredictable and when left to its own devices could be hazardous. Even still, we love that Nissan is making an effort to offer semi-autonomous features in their vehicles and applaud them for the progress they have made so far. Very few manufacturers outside the luxury brands have even attempted to include these features.
However, for all that we liked about the Nissan Leaf, we found as much that we didn’t like. Nissan STILL hasn’t included active thermal management on their battery pack, leading to increased degradation. This means a decreasing of real world range more quickly than its competitors, and when the vehicle already falls short on range compared to that of other vehicles in the segment, this is an issue we simply can’t overlook.
The Nissan Leaf SL Plus that we tested was $42,550 MSRP, and after dealer installed extras was being offered for $44,395.
Even after a tax incentive of $7,500 (for those who would qualify for it) this car simply doesn’t live up to the expectations we would have for a car of that price. When the Leaf was one of the very few electric vehicles on the market (in its early days) Nissan could get away with this unbalanced value proposition. But now with so many other models available from its competitors we feel that the Leaf is overpriced by $10,000.
Because of the smooth power delivery, it lacks the gut-punch of instant torque that we’ve grown to love about so many EVs, and we might even go as far to say that it lacks that automotive “soul” that causes you to fall in love with your car. The motor does put out 215 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque which allowed it to sprint to 60 mph in 6.97 seconds, but it took advantage of a slight downhill. Completing the 1/4 mi in 15.27s at 91.71 mph puts it in line with our time for the Chevy Bolt.
We do have to keep in mind that the Nissan Leaf was not designed to be a performance vehicle, but even so, we were left wanting more from it. The suspension is soft, handling can be described as mediocre at best, and the steering just doesn’t provide the connection with the road that we were hoping to feel.
Our feeling about the Leaf is that it is mediocre and generally just not special enough to capture our interest. There are definitely people with an interest for this EV but it’s likely a shrinking group as even Nissan seems to be focusing their energy on the upcoming Ariya crossover.
With that said, maybe it is time to retire the Leaf and remember it for what it really is, a relic of the past that just hasn’t been able to keep up with the ever changing EV landscape.
We find the Nissan Leaf SL Plus is just too little, too late, and too expensive.
Since its 2017 model year, the Chevy Bolt EV has been a flagship for General Motors' electrification progress. While the Bolt EV wasn't GM's first all electric offering (that was the EV-1 in the 90s), the 2016 release marked a milestone for the company being that it was the first year a vehicle with more than 200 miles of range had been offered by any non-Tesla automotive brands. Additionally, even though sales have declined from its initial 2017 offering, it has been the best selling non-Tesla EV (full battery electric vehicle) every year since. In 2019, more Bolt EVs were sold than even the Tesla Model S. This year, Chevrolet has offered significant discounting and incentives on the Bolt EV making sure it stays an attractive EV option to potential buyers.
The design and styling for the Chevy Bolt EV originally started in 2012 by GM's Korea design studio. Even though it is officially classified as a "small station wagon" by the EPA, the Bolt EV has been called a crossover as well as a sedan because of its mid-size profile. Bright color choices from "shock" yellow to "oasis blue" give buyers plenty of choice for "can't miss" aesthetics. For others, traditional colors like black, white, grey, and silver are also available.
Battery, Efficiency, Range, and Charging
The 2017-2019 model year Bolt EVs came with a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery and provided an EPA estimated range of 238 miles. More than enough for the average consumer's daily commute, and enough for longer trips as well. The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV comes with a slightly larger 66 kWh battery pack providing a 21 mile bump in range to 259 total miles on a full charge. The official combined city/highway EPA rating for the Chevy Bolt EV 119 MPGe, however, many Bolt EV owners report to be able to drive the vehicle more efficiently without significant or unusual effort to do so. Charging at home on a 110/120 volt AC plug will recharge the Bolt EV at approximately four miles per hour charging. Using 220/240 volt AC will recharge the Bolt EV in ten hours or so. The 2017-2019 Bolt EVs had a maximum charge rate of 50 kWh while the 2020 model year was increased slightly to 55 kWh on a DC fast charger.
Interior Styling and Features
The interior of the Bolt EV has bold styling. Asymmetrical seats and splashes of textured plastic give the car a futuristic feel while providing familiar features and controls in the places you would expect to find them in most traditional vehicles. Generous interior space allows for plenty of room for up to five occupants comfortably. Two digital displays provide feedback to the driver on all aspects of vehicle settings and statuses, from climate control and digital media, to the HD Surround Vision that comes included with the Premier trim level package. Heated seats and steering wheel are optional on the lower LT trim and standard on the Premier trim level where you would also have included heated rear seats. One standard feature we like is called "Teen driver." According to Chevy, this feature lets you activate customizable vehicle settings to help encourage better driving behavior, limit certain vehicle features, and even give you an in-vehicle report card on driving habits to help you to continue to coach your new driver.
Performance Specs and Acceleration
The electric motor in the Bolt EV doesn't disappoint when it comes to power. The 150 kW AC motor provides just over 200 hp, and 266 lb-ft of instantly available tire-spinning torque. In a test by Car and Driver, they were able to get the Bolt EV to accelerate from 0-60 in 6.3 seconds on a prepared track while Chevy reports this time to be 6.5 seconds. Bolt EV owners who have taken their vehicle to the track have reported that it completed the 1/4 mile in 15.1 seconds. That being said, we performed our own tests using our Dragy (GPS Performance Box) and got some real world numbers from unprepared surfaces like what you would experience out and about driving on normal roads. The Bolt EV we tested was a 2019 Premier model with 215/50R17 Michelin Energy fuel-saving tires.
Two things to note. First, regular roads are not designed for performance testing of automobiles. Second, neither are fuel-saving tires. The nearly instant torque of the electric motor on the Chevy Bolt is enough to spin the hard Michelin tires on the best of surfaces and traction was an issue even with the traction control left on. The Bolt EV had about a 50% state-of-charge, so the numbers you see above would likely be improved if we had the opportunity to have a full battery. Acceleration was smooth and linear from the start, which made for a comfortable test. Not surprisingly, our results do not compare with the numbers that have been achieved with the Bolt EV on the test track or drag strip. Our best 0-60 time was 7.18 seconds (or 6.8 seconds with a 1ft rollout), and best 1/4 mile time was 15.32 seconds. When the drag strip opens back up after the COVID-19 illness subsides, we definitely want to perform a new test.
While the Chevy Bolt EV is easily one of the most important electric vehicles to ever be made, we find that it falls just short of what it could be. It's a good car, but it's not great. We like the regenerative braking and one pedal driving. We also like the styling both of the exterior and interior however we wish the Chevy would have used less hard plastic on the interior. The seats were also too hard and while we didn't take a long trip in the Bolt EV, we could imagine that you could easily be sore after a few hours. On the highway, we liked the "passing power" of the Bolt EV and found that it was more than enough for any normal situation. However, we found that if you want to have the drivers window down, it would be best to prepare for significant buffeting even with the rear window rolled down as well. The last thing, and maybe we should have focused on this more: DCFC provision should be STANDARD... and it's not. All said, the Bolt EV is a good car. We aren't surprised that it has sold as well as it has, and look forward to seeing more on the road.
Chevy's Spark EV... the "hot hatch" you didn't know about.
While the mainstream news about electric cars seem to be centered around Tesla and other newer models, it seems that people have forgotten about the little EV sleeper hot hatch: The Chevy Spark EV. After GM crushed most of the EV1 models in the early 2000's, they seemed like they wanted to redeem themselves with their next offering, and redeem themselves they did. The 2014 model year Spark EV had some impressive numbers packing 140hp and a tire smoking 400lb.-ft. of torque. In 2015, they made some small changes to the gearing and also reduced the torque rating to just 327lb.-ft... however that is still more than a 2020 V6 Camaro!
Considering that the Spark EV weighs less than 3000lbs, when you can put the power to the ground, it will move. From 15-55mph this car is a blast to drive! Unfortunately, choosing to focus on the Bolt EV, GM made the decision to cut the Spark EV from it's lineup after completing the 2016 model. Which in ways is a big shame because this car had a lot of potential. However, there is a fairly significant benefit too: Price. Even the 2016 Spark EVs can be had for less than $12,000 on models with under 30,000 miles. And you don't have to worry about the usual concerns of buying a used car either. The Spark EV came with an eight year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery and major components. Sure, for around the same money you could buy any number of used gas powered cars, but then you'd have all the expense and maintenance to worry about. So if you really want a "hot hatch," for very little money, you can't beat the Chevy Spark EV. So what are you waiting for? Go get one!