Tesla Model 3 saloon review
"The Tesla Model 3 brings world-beating performance, range and tech to the mainstream executive class"
- Excellent range
- Huge performance
- Impressive features
- Build quality concerns
- Can get expensive
- Supply issues
The Tesla Model 3 is the first affordable, mass-produced model in the American manufacturer's all-electric range, offering customers something very different from conventional rivals such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia.
The Model 3 didn’t have any direct electric rivals when it launched; it was more expensive than the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona Electric but smaller and cheaper than the Jaguar I-Pace, but now the Polestar 2 has arrived. Both have a minimalist but luxurious high-tech interior, desirability and incredible performance.
The newest Tesla is a clear evolution from the design of the Model S but with extra emphasis on the amount of interior space that can be gained owing to the absence of a conventional combustion engine. This has resulted in a bonnet that is much shorter and a rear window that stretches almost to the tail, maximising room for passengers and their luggage. There are myriad clever features, from the key that's actually your smartphone to a single-slot air-vent that can somehow adjust airflow and its direction as if by magic.
An update for 2021 saw some of the car's exterior trim switched from chrome to a black finish, while the centre console has also been given a makeover inside. The fiddly lid beneath the dashboard has been replaced with a smartphone charging tray and piano black has been swapped for a more robust grey finish. The boot lid is now powered too for added convenience.
Three versions are available, starting with the rear-wheel drive Standard Range Plus that's capable of 267 miles from a full charge and 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds. Long Range AWD and Performance versions gain an extra motor and four-wheel drive, giving the Performance almost supernatural acceleration - 0-60mph takes 3.1 seconds. These more expensive versions have 360 and 352 miles of range respectively.
The Model 3 Long Range AWD feels addictively fast and relaxing, thanks to near-silence from its electric motors. The car’s handling belies its weight, with excellent grip and minimal body roll in the corners, and on British roads the suspension is comfortable enough to allay our fears that the Model 3 would feel too stiff.
On long trips, the Model 3 can be topped up using Tesla's well established Supercharger network (although you will have to pay) or - for the first time in a Tesla - via any other charging network that's compatible with its CCS charging port. Fast-charging to 80% can take as little as 30 minutes, while a full home charge takes just under 12 hours.
While there have been some build quality issues, there are no such worries when it comes to safety. Having crash-tested the Model 3, Euro NCAP awarded it the maximum five-star score, with the highest score so far in the safety assist category.
The Tesla Model 3 has garnered more attention than any other car in recent history, and it seems the hype was worth it. With an excellent driving range, stunning performance and lots of clever features, the Model 3 is in a prime position to steal customers, and not just from direct rivals like the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid. Even the Polestar 2 is slightly slower and can't match its range, although some may prefer its styling and build quality.