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Car Review

Tesla Model 3 review

£39,935 - £49,935
Published: 10 Nov 2023


What is it like on the inside?

The slashed back Tesla interior design makes most rivals look positively chintzy by comparison, with a minimalist vibe that might make you nervous at first. The dashboard in the Model 3 is nothing but a slab of wood, a full-width air vent and a newly portrait oriented 15.4-inch touchscreen. From the vantage of your slightly narrow (but otherwise comfortable) chair, the screen looks like it's hovering. 

Is the Model 3 easy to use? 

Aside from the window switches and door release on the door panel (another issue we weren’t keen on – the physical handle has now been disguised as part of the trim) and the hazard switch above the rearview mirror, all the buttons in the cabin are limited to the steering wheel.

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Because there are no stalks left in the Model 3 you’ve got indicator buttons on the left side of the wheel, two unmarked scroll wheels on either side of the hub (left blank so they can be used for different jobs) and buttons to flash the lights, wash the windscreen or access the surround camera view.

Driving the Model 3 can be needlessly complicated by having to deal with the touchscreen for even the most basic onboard functions – this isn’t a car you fully understand in the first five minutes. Like a new smartphone, you need to commit some time to learning the shortcuts, locating the settings you might need and ingraining them in your brain.

But where’s the instrument panel?

There isn't one. All your driving information is on the same panel as the radio and aircon controls. The car gets round this by having areas permanently assigned to stuff like speed, but it can’t possibly be safer than what everyone else does. A head-up display would redeem it, we reckon.

Then there's the drive controls: swipe up on the screen for forwards, down for reverse. Makes parking manoeuvres slower and fussier. You can set the car to decide for you when you want to be in drive or reverse, which - like all the other automation features - is mostly fine... while it works.

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Is it spacious?

The back seats are fine for anyone up to six foot, a bit cramped beyond that, but you can at least enjoy the endless view out through the full-length sunroof that wraps right around and behind your head. There's space for five, but three in the back won't be comfortable for very long. 

It’s because of that infinity roof that the 3 isn’t a hatchback, so you have to make do with a narrow, awkwardly designed saloon lid. Although split-folding rear seats means you can fit longer objects in – you've got 594 litres of space with the seats up and 977 litres with them knocked down. A nice bonus is the 88 litres of storage you'll find in the frunk under the bonnet.

How's the build quality?

This is the biggest weak point of all Teslas, but also an area that has challenged traditional carmakers on what people are willing to tolerate from their cars when they offer something novel.

The quality and materials are a step behind the established premium European players - if slightly improved by the car’s latest facelift - but by keeping things super simple, it’s not a dealbreaker. In fact, acres of plastic switchgear and multiple screens and sockets would have only highlighted Tesla's shortcomings.

Multiple test cars we’ve tried have suffered from bugbears like sticking windows and misaligned trim, so check your new Model 3 carefully before you accept delivery.

What about the Easter eggs?

Those wacky funsters at Tesla have included a number of modes in the infotainment that are there for no reason other than to make you and your passengers laugh. You can play games, mess with the satnav or use the whole car to provide a hilariously obnoxious 'light show' where the windows open and close and the lights flash to the pumping sound of Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy'.

You will either find this stuff fun or excruciatingly annoying. Especially when you discover the racing games, which employ the car’s actual steering wheel and pedals and will do your tyres no good whatsoever as they’re dry steered about in the name of your latest high score. There's a significant portion of a Tesla dedicated simply to showing off to friends: arguably the budget would've been more wisely spent on developing a better car. Still, it's a great way to build a brand.

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