Huge performance, strong real-world range, spacious, Supercharger peace of mind
Build quality woes, naff steering, you’ve got to be touchscreen-dextrous
What is it?
This is the Tesla Model 3, an American four-door saloon with rear- or four-wheel drive, seating for five people at a pinch, and a huge touchscreen inside. Sure, it’s electric, but it hardly sounds very impressive when it’s written down like that, does it. And yet the Model 3 is one of the most significant cars of the century so far.
This is Tesla’s affordable entry level car, designed to take on the bestselling likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes C-Class, not to mention their slightly slow off the mark electric cousins. And thanks to Tesla’s viral household name status and the ambition of the car’s features, the Model 3 has become something of a phenomenon.
But how affordable is a Model 3?
The 3 sits below the Model Y MPV in the range, and in standard rear-wheel drive guise is priced from £42,990. That gets you 5.8secs from 0–60mph, a 140mph top speed and a claimed 305 miles of WLTP range between visits to a public Supercharger, or your home wall box.
Above that in the 3 pecking order lie two all-wheel drive versions: the £51k Long Range (good for up to 374 miles), and the £58k Performance, which sacrifices 34 miles of range but will outrun a Lamborghini Huracán up to the national speed limit. Something for everyone, then…
Has Tesla stuck to its guns on pricing?
These model lines are correct at the time of writing (June 2023) but Tesla has a habit of creating and killing off trim levels seemingly at random and without warning – here today, gone tomorrow. The price has long since crept away from the mid-£30k target once vaunted. Not that it stopped the Model 3 becoming Britain’s best-selling electric car in 2020.
As per all Teslas – and most electric cars – the Model 3 is powered by a slab of lithium-ion battery cells mounted in the car’s floor (57kWh here in the RWD, 75kWh in the AWD models), where they’re best protected from a crash and helpfully low to keep the centre of gravity in check. That means you get a second boot (frunk or froot, choose your front-biased cargo bay term) in the nose, which is handy for stowing mucky charging cables.
That's all very practical. What about the fun stuff?
Chances are you’ll have heard fragments of what makes Teslas so interesting floating around the internet. Giant touchscreens, funny Easter egg content like games and built-in Netflix, and something about them being able to drive themselves while you take a nap or watch Tiger King. Let’s get on in the other tabs with saluting Tesla for the truth in that, and dispelling the myths the Californian brand’s cult-like following would have you believe.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Posed against po-faced competitors, Teslas are invariably the quick ones, the efficient ones, the fun ones with Fart Mode and the lucky ones least dependent on a haphazard charging ecosystem. Even a basic version with a single rear motor and only Chill/Sport acceleration settings develops 235bhp and punches to 60mph faster than a £55k Jaguar F-Type.
While the unsophisticated styling won’t be to all tastes, the interior is a real love/hate arrangement and the driving dynamics aren’t all that memorable once you’ve stopped swallowing your tongue every time you nail the throttle, it’s easy to see why the Model 3 has become a global standard setter for the EV experience.
This is the future we were promised – a car with sentience, a sense of humour, and a fresh take on the old norms. After trying this, your old repmobile will just feel a bit dull. The Model 3 has been in production since mid-2017, but even heading into old age, nothing on the market has yet managed to beat the Model 3 on all fronts. While not without flaws, it is quite simply one of the most interesting, compelling cars in the world right now. We might even look back on it as the car that changed the way we all drive.