Tesla Model 3 review - one car to rule them all?
“An extensive facelift means the Tesla Model 3 goes further on a charge and feels better built and more refined, all while undercutting most rivals”
- Excellent range
- Advanced features
- Competitive pricing
- Very minimalist design
- Frustrating controls
- Small boot aperture
Verdict – is the Tesla Model 3 a good car?
The Tesla Model 3 continues to prove a huge success for the brand, even becoming one of the top-selling cars in the UK. While the Model 3 has now been on the market for a number of years, the 2023 facelift improves the saloon in every area. It now looks better, feels more refined and has an improved range. The Model 3 has particularly low running costs for company-car buyers, and Tesla has cut its price tag significantly in recent years, making the Model 3 an even more attractive buy when compared with its growing list of rivals.
Tesla Model 3 models, specs and alternatives
When it made its debut, the Model 3 marked a big step for the brand as its first affordable model. It’s an electric car aimed at buyers of more mainstream models, in contrast with the premium image carved out by the Tesla Model S and Model X. It goes up against a wide range of rivals, including combustion-engined cars such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Alfa Romeo Giulia and others, along with a growing number of electric competitors like the Polestar 2, BMW i4, Hyundai Ioniq 6 and BYD Seal.
The Model 3’s original design was evocative of its larger sibling, the Model S, although it has a shorter bonnet and a saloon-car style boot, rather than a hatchback. In late 2023, the Model 3 was given its biggest refresh yet, codenamed ‘Project Highland’. The lozenge-shaped headlights are gone, replaced by much sharper and slimmer units with a new LED signature. It’s a similar story at the rear, with new lights integrated into the tailgate.
The lack of an engine means storage space in the front and back is generous. As is now synonymous with the Tesla brand, the Model 3 gets lots of gadgetry that many other manufacturers are only just catching up with, including features such as electronically adjustable air vents and the ability to use your phone as a key.
While gripes about Tesla quality have been an issue in the past, the facelifted car feels like a significant step up. While its cabin might still lose points to the BMW i4 in places, Tesla’s 15.4-inch touchscreen is amongst the best to use in its class and controls everything from media and navigation to the lights, wipers and even gear selection – a step too far for some, perhaps.
Thanks to a reduction in drag, even the entry-level Model 3 can now manage well over 300 miles on a single charge, with the Long Range version extending this to 421 miles – further than most of its rivals. 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 less than 30 minutes, while a full home charge takes just under 12 hours.
The Model 3 drives in near-silence at low speed but is also fast and exciting, with excellent grip and minimal body roll in the corners despite its heavy weight. It’s mostly comfortable over bumps – although the entry-level car is more comfortable than versions fitted with larger alloy wheels. Since the 2023 facelift, it’s also much quieter on the motorway.
While there have been some reliability and build quality issues, there are no such worries when it comes to safety. After crash-testing the pre-facelift Model 3, Euro NCAP awarded it the maximum five-star score, with the highest score of any car tested until that date in the safety assist category. Tesla also continues to impress customers, with the Model 3 coming a respectable 22nd out of the top 75 cars in our latest Driver Power satisfaction survey.
Tesla Model 3 alternatives
Electric family cars