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Tesla Model 3

Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review:Tesla Model 3


On the inside

Layout, finish and space

Staying true to the Model S maxi-minimalist interior design, the Model 3 is just as stark. The dash is nothing but a slab of wood running the full width (less appealing plastic on the base models, carbon if you start waving the cash), a full-width air vent and a 15-inch touchscreen, landscape orientated, rather than the larger portrait screen in the S.

Scour the cabin and the only physical buttons you’ll find are two unmarked scroll wheels on the steering wheel (left blank so Tesla can change their functions if needs be via software updates), buttons for the electric windows, a button for the hazard lights above your head and a button on the grab handle to open each door, although there’s a physical lever below that.

The seats are comfortable, electrically adjustable (if you go for the $5,000 Premium Pack that is, that adds heated seats all-round, that wood trim mentioned earlier, an upgraded stereo, tinted sunroof and folding wing mirrors) but could do with better lateral support. Oh, those seats are, according to Tesla, vegan friendly - they’re made from polyurethane.

On the subject of equipment, here’s what you get as standard on the Tesco Basics $35,000 model: 18-inch alloys, 15-inch screen, on-board wifi, sat nav, 60/40 split folding rear seats, LED headlights and taillights and a reversing camera. Not bad, but you’ll have to be a staunch penny-pincher to resist the allure of that $5,000 premium bundle.

Space in the back seats is fine for anyone up to six-foot tall, a bit cramped beyond that, but it’s worth it for the endless view out through the full-length sunroof that wraps right around and behind your head. It’s because of that infinity roof that the 3 isn’t a hatchback, so you have to make do with a notchback boot, although split folding rear seats mean you can fit longer objects in, too. Fallen on hard times? Drop the back seats and a double blow up mattress slots in perfectly – some companies make bespoke ones that pack up neatly in the boot.

Overall, the build quality and materials are a step behind the established premium European players, but by keeping things super-simple, it’s never really an issue. Acres of plastic switchgear and multiple screens and sockets would have only highlighted Tesla shortcomings. As it is, everything is dominated by that central screen.

The general idea is that the quarter closest to the driver is dedicated to information and controls you might need while driving. These include a visual representation of your autopilot situation and shortcuts to the trip computer, charge status etc. The rest is dominated by a map or whatever you want to overlay, such as your radio or music streaming, climate control settings and phone status. Alternatively, you can dive into the settings menu (best to do this when stationary) and have fun adjusting the wheel for reach and rake with the scroll wheels by your thumbs, or tweaking your steering weight, or… honestly, the list goes on.

Although the basic driving controls couldn’t be simpler, this isn’t a car you fully understand in the first five minutes. Like a new smart phone, you need to commit some time to learning the shortcuts, locating the settings you might need and engraining them in your brain.

Once that’s done, you can have fun exploring some of Tesla’s ‘easter eggs’ – modes that are there for no reason other than to make you and your passengers laugh. Modes like the Mars button that turns the map into the surface of the Red Planet, or the Santa setting (only available with Autopilot engaged) which turns your car into a sleigh, the road into a rainbow and other road users into reindeer, or the vast array of old arcade games you can play with the steering wheel scroll buttons in gridlock. You will either find this stuff fun or excruciatingly annoying.

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