The Tesla Model 3 has been a phenomenal success. The UK’s best-selling electric car of 2021 (its first full year on sale), it follows the premium Model S and Model X.
A premium four-door saloon about the size of a BMW 3 Series, it’s become a common sight on our roads in a remarkably short period of time.
It might well be popular, but the Model 3’s looks are divisive (especially the front end), which means that many buyers have opted for the stunning Polestar 2 instead. Let’s just say that the Model 3 is best viewed in profile or from the rear.
Anyway, there are three variants on sale – the regular, rear-wheel drive model, plus two all-wheel-drive Dual Motor versions, called the Long Range and the Performance.
Tesla prices change regularly, but at the beginning of 2023, they ranged from £42,990 – £57,990. So, the Model 3 isn’t exactly “affordable” at all, but there you go.
The Performance is the fastest version (0-60mph in 3.1 seconds), while range varies between 305 miles for the rear-wheel drive, to 374 miles for the all-wheel drive Long Range.
The Model 3 will charge overnight at home using a 7kW wallbox. The battery pack can also be replenished to around 80% in as little as 30 minutes using Tesla’s Supercharger network or a 150kW rapid public connection.
Inside, it’s futuristic and minimalistic. Apart from the uncluttered steering wheel (there are just two small scroll wheels on either side), the cabin is dominated by a massive 15-inch central touchscreen which integrates navigation, communications, entertainment, cabin control and vehicle data into one slick interface.
The downside is that everything, even including wing mirror adjustment and opening the glovebox, is accessed via the tablet. There’s not even a display ahead of the driver with essential info such as speed.
Still, using the central touchscreen does become more intuitive after a while, but a halfway house with short cut keys would help, because there is a safety issue if you have to keep taking your eyes off the road.
The huge, curved windscreen merges with the full-length panoramic sunroof, bathing the cabin with light. Visibility is excellent except for the narrow rear window which is a victim of the swooping roof design.
There’s plenty of space inside for five people, while the combination of the boot and under bonnet (known as the ‘frunk’ or front trunk) provides a useful 425 litres for luggage. Build quality has been a bugbear for Tesla, and it’s certainly no Audi. That said, most owners find it acceptable, even if the interior isn’t as plush as some rivals.
On the road the Tesla Model 3 is ferociously fast. Just put your foot down and it flies. In fact, it’s supercar quick and makes overtaking a doddle, but as with all EVs, you can have as much fun as you like, but you also must keep an eye on your range and/or battery charge level.
That said, it’s good to know that when you’re coasting or braking it’s regenerating power and charging the batteries, because every little bit helps. Naturally, the brake regeneration system is also adjustable.
The Model 3 is easy to drive and whisper quiet, while the steering is light and precise, if a little remote.
It’s agile and there’s decent grip and traction, but it’s not supercar light so it can become a little unsettled in more challenging corners, even if body lean is well controlled.
It’s safe too, with the full suite of driver assistance aids and safety features you’d expect in an EV in this price range. There’s also Autopilot, which enables the car to steer itself and adjust its speed on motorways for instance. While it’s not fully autonomous, it’s a joy on long stretches of a journey.