The Tesla Model 3 has been a breakthrough product for the brand, and it certainly lives up to the considerable hype. It’s as stupendously quick as Tesla’s other cars, has similarly outstanding battery range and is great to drive. It's packed with useful tech, while its cabin is a model of simplicity and very practical. Perhaps best of all, it's affordable enough to open up Tesla ownership to a whole new range of buyers. A game-changer.
“The Model 3 can use standard or fast-charge public chargers, as well as its own extensive network of rapid-charge ‘Superchargers’”
The Model 3 isn't cheap but it makes the prospect of owning a Tesla a realistic possibility for many more people. In fact, the Model 3 costs much the same as an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series with equivalent performance, and it’s not a huge stretch from a top-spec Nissan Leaf to the basic Model 3, though it gets considerably more expensive as you progress up the range. Whichever version you go for, running costs will be low. Charging will depend on where and when you top up but will be a fraction of what you’d pay in a petrol or diesel car. As a pure EV the Model 3 is exempt from emissions-based congestion zones and VED (road tax), while company car tax is zero for the 2020/21 tax year and rises to a negligible two per cent from 2022. The Model 3 can use standard or fast-charge public chargers, as well as its own extensive network of rapid-charge ‘Superchargers’. Residual values for the Model 3 should be nothing short of stellar, since it’s one of the most in-demand cars of recent times. That’s good news for finance and lease deals, which are largely based on the car’s retained value.
Expert rating: 4/5
Reliability of a Tesla Model 3
“The fact many upgrades can be applied through online software updates means some issues can be remedied quickly”
The Model 3 – along with all Tesla’s other cars – is too new for there to be much meaningful reliability data available. What’s more, the fact many upgrades can be applied through online software updates means some issues can be remedied quickly and without any inconvenience. The battery and drive unit are protected by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty (this is boosted to 120,000 miles for the higher capacity battery in the Long-Range and Performance models), while the rest of the car has a four-year/50,000-mile warranty. Tesla operates an ‘as-needed’ policy for servicing, and points out that its cars don’t need oil or air filter changes, while regenerative braking reduces brake wear.
Expert rating: 4/5
Safety for a Tesla Model 3
“Alongside the usual airbags and electronic driving aids, the Model 3 has the Autopilot semi-autonomous driving function”
The Model 3 comes with some very advanced safety kit and scored a ‘best-in-class’ award – as well as a maximum five-star rating – when tested by Euro NCAP in 2019. Alongside the usual airbags and electronic driving aids, the Model 3 has the Autopilot semi-autonomous driving function that Tesla is famous for. This includes the ability to steer, accelerate and brake the car automatically to help avoid a collision, while there are also collision warning and blind spot monitoring functions. Pay (quite a lot) more, and it’s possible to enhance the functionality of the Autopilot system even further. The car becomes able to navigate and drive itself on the motorway, change lanes automatically, and even park itself.
Expert rating: 5/5
How comfortable is the Tesla Model 3
“Thanks in part to its low-slung electric powertrain, the Model 3 is very well packaged”
The Model 3’s interior takes minimalism to a new level. There are no buttons (unless you count those legally required for the hazard lights and SOS system) and there aren’t any dials behind the steering wheel – instead, everything is controlled through a 15.0-inch touch-screen system in the centre of the dashboard. Is it easy to use? Well, considering everything it has to deal with the system is impressively intuitive, although it can still be a little distracting on the move. Otherwise the Model 3’s interior is rather plain, but feels of a good quality. The driving position is fine, although rear visibility isn’t great due to the small rear windows. Thanks in part to its low-slung electric powertrain, the Model 3 is very well packaged. Legroom in particular is very impressive, with more than you get in conventionally powered rivals. Four tall adults can stretch out and even a fifth will be reasonably comfortable because the rear middle seat is unusually soft and the floor is flat. The boot is a good size, too. Despite its ‘two-box’ shape the Model 3 is actually a saloon, which limits the space you can load things through, but the rear seats drop almost flat to provide a useful extended load space. For smaller items you can also use the ‘frunk’ under the bonnet – an extra storage area where you’d normally find an engine. So far, so unconventional. That applies to the driving experience, too, the balance of comfort and sharpness through steering and suspension meaning it really is a fabulous car to drive.
Expert rating: 4/5
Features of the Tesla Model 3
“There’s no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration but the Model 3’s advanced infotainment system allows you to sign in to apps”
The Model 3 comes with all the kit you’d expect of a premium saloon with a sizeable price tag. Other than the amount of power and range you get from your car, the only difference between the three versions available is whether they come with the ‘Partial Premium Interior’, or the ‘Premium Interior’. The Standard Range Plus gets the Partial one, which includes air-conditioning, power folding mirrors, a glass roof, heated and powered front seats in cloth upholstery, sat-nav, a 360-degree camera, four USB ports, docking for two smartphones and internet connectivity The other two versions get the Premium set-up, which gains a more powerful audio system, swankier sat-nav mapping and heated rear seats. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration but the Model 3’s advanced infotainment system allows you to sign in to apps such as Spotify directly, rather than through your phone.
Expert rating: 4/5
Power for a Tesla Model 3
“The other two versions have an extra motor and all-wheel drive, the extra power and traction meaning they are even faster still”
It might look like a fairly ordinary saloon, but the Model 3’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary. The entry-level Standard Plus has one electric motor – and rear-wheel drive – and has acceleration off the line to match proper sports cars. The other two versions have an extra motor and all-wheel drive, the extra power and traction meaning they are even faster still, with the Performance hitting 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds even if Tesla slightly cheekily subtracts what it calls ‘rollout’ before the clock starts. Whatever, there’s very little noise as you’re hurled towards the horizon,– just a purposeful whirr from the motors and a crinkle from the upholstery as you’re pushed back in your seat. Official range figures stand at 305 miles for the Standard Plus, 360 miles for the Long-Range and 340 miles for the Performance, all significantly better those of most other electric cars.