Tesla Model 3 review
The Tesla Model 3 is Tesla’s cheapest electric car, but in many ways the best. That said, it’s still more expensive than many petrol and diesel alternatives
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Remember in the early-mid 2000s, when phones were getting ever smaller and discreet — until the chunky iPhone came along in 2007 to completely turn the industry on its head?
Well, that’s sort of what the Tesla Model 3 is here to do with the car. Not only does Elon Musk’s brainchild want to show the world that long-range electric cars are today and not the future, but also completely reinvent the idea of how we see the car altogether.
As it doesn’t have to cool a conventional engine like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, the Tesla Model 3 electric car does away with anything so vulgar as a grille on its bumper. Instead, there’s little more than a slim intake, a pair of fog lights and a number plate at the front. Things are a little more in line with ‘normal’ cars elsewhere, though, with a rather undramatic side profile and a simplistic rear end.
Opt for the range-topping Performance model and your Model 3 gets lowered suspension, a subtle carbon fibre boot spoiler and jazzily-named Uberturbine 20-inch alloy wheels to make the car look lower, meaner and much more sporty.
It’s inside the car where the Tesla Model 3 is a real revolution, though. You can forget the supposed minimalist cabins the Audi A4 or Jaguar XE, the Tesla Model 3’s interior is almost completely devoid of buttons, knobs or dials of any kind.
Instead, you control pretty much everything through a whopping 15-inch touchscreen. It’s a good thing, then, that the screen is easy to read, laid out rather sensibly and responds to your inputs just as quickly as a range-topping iPad does. The satellite navigation, based on Google Maps, it’s incredibly easy to use and follow.
The Tesla Model 3 isn’t just one of the most high-tech electric cars on sale, it’s also one of the best saloons you can buy – if only it wasn’t so expensive…
The rest of the Tesla Model 3’s cabin looks a bit plain by comparison, but at least it feels pretty solid now – which hasn’t always been the case with Tesla cars. It’s not quite as roomy as the likes of the new BMW 3 Series – particularly in the back – but the Tesla Model 3 comes with a vast panoramic glass roof that stretches all the way from the driver’s headrests to the bootlid. It’s a welcome addition, as it does a fantastic job of flooding the cabin with light.
It doesn’t do anything to boost the Tesla Model 3’s boot space, though. There’s room for about six suitcases and some soft bags, but plenty of petrol- and diesel-powered alternatives are roomier still. It does beat its key alternative in the all-electric Polestar 2 by 100 litres though, and also has a little bit of extra storage in the front where internal combustion cars would have an engine.
If you’ll be using your Tesla Model 3 for nipping to the shops you won’t be too worried about range, but it’s nice to know that the Long Range model can manage around 360 miles between charges if you’re being extra careful. Charging from empty takes around 12 hours using a dedicated wall-charger at home or you can boost the Model 3’s batteries from 10% to 80% full in as little as 35 minutes using Tesla’s 120kw public charging points.
Performance models lose out on a few miles of range, being able to cover 352 miles between chargers, but they’re much faster. Accelerating from 0-60mph takes as little as 3.1 seconds compared with the 4.2 seconds of the Long Range version — and the Standard Plus’ 5.3 seconds. This means it’s quicker than pretty much any other premium saloon on sale – and many much pricier sports cars for that matter.
It’s even easier to drive on motorways, where the optional Autopilot system lets the car pretty much drive itself – providing you keep your hands on the steering wheel. It’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you to maintain a safe distance to other cars and will even change lane when you indicate. As good as it sounds, though, it will set you back an additional £6,800.
In fact, the sheer number of passenger-impressing gizmos you get in the Model 3 makes the more expensive Model S seems a bit pointless to go for. It might be the baby of the Tesla range, but the Model 3’s stylish looks, futuristic-yet-practical cabin and sports-car-baiting performance make it one of the best electric cars on sale and a genuine alternative to the posh saloon mainstream.
Watch Mat race a Tesla Model 3 across the UK with the RS e-tron GT
If this sounds like the electric car for you, build your own Tesla Model 3.
Common Tesla Model 3 questions
How much does the Tesla Model 3 cost per month?
In carwow’s car lease deals section can find a range of Tesla Model 3 lease deals. Click the link to find out more.
How long will a Tesla Model 3 last?
Check out our video where we drove a Tesla Model 3, and a range of other electric cars, until their batteries died.
The Tesla Model 3 will seat four adults and carry a decent amount of luggage across its front and rear boots, but if space is a priority there are roomier posh saloons – although they have combustion engines.
If you need to carry four adult passengers fairly often then a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 will transport them in more comfort. However, that’s not to say the Tesla Model 3 is awful. A couple of adults will be more than comfortable sitting in the front seat, while the driver gets a generous amount of seat and wheel adjustment to ensure finding the best driving position is simple stuff.
In the back, things are pretty average. There’s unlikely to be any moaning about the legroom on offer, and tall adults with be grateful for the standard-fit glass roof which now gives a little more headroom. There is a third seat in the back, which is fine for transporting three adults on short journeys, but you wouldn’t want to be there for too long.
If you need to carry child seats, though, you’re in luck – the Model 3 has easy-to-find Isofix points on its outside rear seats.
The Tesla Model 3’s front door bins are a decent size, easily taking a 1.5-litre bottle, but you also get a big cubby with a tray and 12v socket under the central armrest, and a couple of generous cupholders just ahead of that. Then, just ahead of those is a deep cubby and just ahead again is another covered by a sliding piece of trim that houses a couple of USB-C charging ports. There’s even a nice, upholstered spot for your phone that features wireless charging.
The glovebox is also a good size, but if you’re fumbling around trying to find the button to open it, it’s embedded within the screen like everything else. As cool as the buttonless approach looks, this just seems a bit unnecessary.
In the back, the Model 3’s door bins are smaller but still good, its central armrest flips down to reveal another pair of cupholders (though they will get in the way if you actually want to use the armrest for its namesake purpose) and there are pockets on the back of both front seats.
The Tesla Model three comes with a total of 425 litres of boot space. There’s room for few suitcases and some soft bags, but plenty of petrol- and diesel-powered alternatives are roomier still in the back.
However, unlike in any other premium saloon, you get an extra storage area under the bonnet – where you’d normally find an engine. A recent update has seen Tesla do away with carpeting this section though and remove the hooks, which is a little frustrating. The Polestar 2 hatchback has a similar setup, but its rear boot is smaller at 405 litres.
The Tesla Model 3 offers massive performance coupled with silent running and grin-inducing cornering ability. It’s quicker than the high-performance versions of most alternative saloons and offers instantaneous torque, but the lack of any sound might take some getting used to.
There's no Ludicrous mode on the Model 3 like with other Teslas, but you don't need it. This thing is rapid, especially in Performance guise.
If you’ll be using your Tesla Model 3 for nipping to the shops you won’t be too worried about range, but it’s good to know that the Long Range model can manage around 360 miles between charges if you’re being extra careful. Charging from empty takes around 12 hours using a dedicated wall-charger at home or you can boost the Model 3’s batteries from 10% to 80% full in as little as 35 minutes using Tesla’s 120kw public charging points.
Performance models lose out on a few miles of range, but they’re much faster. Accelerating from 0-60mph in one of these sportier Model 3s takes as little as 3.1 seconds compared with the 4.2 seconds of the Long Range version. This means it’s faster than pretty much any other premium saloon on sale – and many sports cars for that matter.
There’s also the entry-level Standard Plus model, which will still crack 60mph in just 5.3 seconds – quick by any saloon standards. This has a much-reduced range, but again, at 278 miles it isn’t exactly stingy. It’s also the cheapest Model 3 to buy.
So, the Tesla Model 3 is either fast, faster or downright silly depending on which version you go for. But, if you don’t fancy launching away from every set of traffic lights like you’ve been possessed by Lewis Hamilton, you’ll be pleased to hear the Tesla Model 3 is very easy to drive.
Sure, the pillars beside the windscreen produce some quite large blind spots at junctions, but the Model 3’s light steering and comfortable suspension make it a doddle to drive in town.
It’s even easier to live with on motorways, where the optional Autopilot system lets the car pretty much drive itself – though you still need to keep your hands on the steering wheel. It’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you to maintain a safe distance to other cars and will even change lane itself when you indicate.
Tesla’s driver assistance systems don’t just work at motorways speed either – the Model 3 will automatically brake if it senses an obstacle ahead and can find its way into and out of a parking space while you stand outside. It’s ideal if you have a particularly narrow garage.
The Tesla Model 3 re-writes the rule book on saloon-car interiors. It’s uber-minimalist, with nearly every function controlled through its large central screen. It’s all good quality, too, although Audi and BMW still have the edge.
Tesla Model 3 colours
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