The Polestones 01 Is Perhaps Better Than The Defender It Copies

A Chinese Defender copy it may be, but the Polestones does one-up its British original in some ways. 

Despite the auto industry in China having come a long, long way since its initial blossoming back in the early naughties, it would seem that their understanding of copyright infringement is still rather lacking. That is because even in 2023, Chinese start-up Polestones still has the bare-faced cheek to debut what is essentially a rather convincing clone of the Land Rover Defender.  

Sure, the Chinese automaker might have claimed that its latest offering was actually designed by Pininfarina. And granted, the LED headlight design of the 01 looks more like a Range Rover’s instead of a Defender’s. But you’d have to really be blind as a bat to not see the rather inseparable likeness between the British original and its Chinese copy. 

From the slab-sided body to the two-tone roof and even the tailgate-mounted spare tyre, it wouldn’t really be a surprise if the 01 name does really refer to the 1% that was not borrowed from the Defender. In fact, the dimensions of this Chinese clone is near as damn it identical to the off-roader that it copied too. 

Having said that though, there is perhaps also the argument that the 01 to instead stand for this Chinese Defender clone to be 1% better than its British counterpart. This Polestones for instance does appear to have a nicer interior than the car it copied after all. 

Highlights within the plush cabin of the 01 include a sizeable central infotainment touchscreen, as well as a digital instrument cluster tucked behind a two-spoke steering wheel. This Chinese off-roader also brings with it some rather kingly airline-style reclining heated and massaging thrones if the six-seater option is selected, with the overall cabin experience for these lucky passengers further elevated by the availability of a full panoramic glass roof, not to mention a massive television screen that flips down from the roof panel above the first-row seatbacks.

What more too is that the 01 also trounces the Defender on safety tech. Standard with this Polestones SUV are six cameras, five millimetre-wave radars and 12 ultrasonic sensors, while three LiDARs and six additional cameras can be added as an option to unlock Level 2 autonomous driving capabilities. 

Moreover, the 01 is likely a better on-road performer than the Land Rover too. Powering the large Chinese SUV is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which acts as a range extender to the 56 kWh battery pack that feeds the pair of electric motors on each axle. Total power and torque output for this setup is 469 hp and 740 Nm respectively, which is almost Defender V8 territory. 

Though perhaps more impressive is the stat for the 01 to achieve the century sprint in just 5.5 seconds. A figure that is admittedly 0.3 seconds shy of what the supercharged V8 Defender could muster, but do note that the Polestones range-extending EV powertrain also apparently enables it to travel up to 1,115 km between fuel stops on a fully charged battery pack and brimmed tank. 

And for those who really wishes to fulfil their overloading fantasies, the 01 may actually be the better choice over the Defender. Such is because this Chinese SUV could be specced from the factory with way more than just a roof ladder and roof rack as per the Defender, with Polestones instead being even able to offer a tailgate-integrated kitchenette (complete with induction hob and sink) and even an integrated gazebo with its new off-road offering. 

Now admittedly, the Defender does one-up the 01 on pure off-road ability. While Polestones has yet to release any concrete figures, it is clear as day that its massive overhangs front and rear does not really bode well for its approach and departure angles relative to the Land Rover’s. 

Saying you drive a Polestones is also perhaps not as cool as saying you drive a Defender. But then again, with its starting price of ¥399,900 (RM 255,000) in China being less than half that of the Land Rover, it will actually come as no surprise for this Chinese clone to even be outselling the British original in the UK. If it can get through the tiny issue of being a copyright infringement lawsuit in waiting if it ever arrives in Britain that is…

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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