Tesla Model Y Review 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Tesla Model Y

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Published: 15 Oct 2021
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Everything you liked (and most of what you didn’t) in the Model 3, in a more practical shape. But not a pretty one

Good stuff

Clever interior packaging, performance, range, charging infrastructure

Bad stuff

Bizarre looks, delayed seven-seat option, could be more comfortable-riding

Overview

What is it?

There are lots of new electric crossover SUVs around right now. But there’s only one Tesla Model Y. This car’s been out in the US for over a year and a half, but we have to wait a long longer to try one in Europe, like it’s a 1990s movie or PlayStation game.

Right around now, Tesla’s first European Gigafactory will be opening, in Germany, and Model Ys will be flooding the streets from 2022. This one’s an early car on Dutch numberplates, but we’ll revisit the Model Y once a British car is available. 

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Where does it fit in the Tesla range?

It’s Tesla’s fourth four-door, after the Model S big saloon, the Model X big SUV, and the Model 3 small saloon, which the Model Y is pretty closely based on.

In fact, the Y shares three quarters of its parts with the 3. It’s just a bit longer and taller. The Model 3 seats sit on huge plinths for a commanding driving position. Sooner or later, there’ll be a seven-seater option. Likely with rearward facing folding chairs. And while the Model Y doesn’t get the Model X’s ‘falcon doors’, it does inherit its 15-inch touchscreen interface from the 3. And a round steering wheel. Phew.

How big is the battery and how far will that get me?

Tesla does like to chop and change its specs quite often, but for now at least this is really simple: you get a 75kWh battery, which is rated on the European official test as good for 315 miles in this Long Range Dual Motor spec. It costs just under £55,000.

If you upgrade to the Model Y Performance then that drops down to about 298 miles, but in return power leaps from 434bhp to a massive 563bhp. And even then, a Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 AMG will be defeated by the Y’s instantaneous pace.

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How much will it cost?

For a Long Range Dual Motor spec, as seen here, you pay just under £55,000.

For the Model Y Performance, you pay a tenner shy of £65,000. So, expect to be paying around £6,500 more for a Y than a 3. 

What are the rivals?

They’re multiplying by the week. Chief fodder for the Model Y to chew up and dispatch is the VW ID.4, and its Audi Q4 e-tron, Q4 Sportback and Skoda Enyaq siblings, none of which can get close to the Tesla’s range. Then there’s the much more enduring Ford Mustang Mach-E, and the more design-led Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6.

Mercedes’ EQB will storm the EV segment with seven seats soon, which Tesla is tardy in offering in the Model Y, and BMW’s iX3 purports to offer a very straight-bat rival, though it’s compromised by not being based on a bespoke EV platform, which the Tesla of course is.

What's the verdict?

Everything you liked (and most of what you didn’t) in the Model 3, in a more practical shape. But not a pretty one

Let’s not pretend it’s a surprise that the Model Y is a good car. And it very much is. Not simply because lots of people in America have been driving around in one they’ve bought for a year and been smug on the internet. If you’re one of the masses of folks who’ve pre-ordered one of these in Europe, you’re going to like it.

What’s most interesting is this is the first Tesla we’ve driven where the standout impression isn’t necessarily the acceleration, or the driver assistance tech, or the world-class touchscreen, or even the built-in games and memes.

It’s the packaging. The Model Y is now the poster-car for ‘if you delete the engine, the gearbox, the exhaust and all that fuel tank plumbing, then look how roomy you can make the cabin, look how much storage you can offer in the boot'.

Obviously that’s not as sexy as Autopilot or Ludicrous Mode, but it’s going to make this a great car to live with, before you get to the foolproof charging, frugal real-world electrical consumption, and all the other stuff that makes Teslas genius electric all-rounders. Plus, if the build quality continues on this trajectory, one of Tesla’s real weaknesses against the European old guard will have been, at long last, kiboshed.

It would have been one of the shocks of 2021 if Tesla has heightened a Model 3 and spoiled it in the process. In short, it has not.

Photography: Lee Brimble

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