Tesla Model 3 Review
The Tesla Model 3 is a family-friendly electric saloon with an excellent battery range and a spacious, high-tech interior.
Published: 04 October 2022
The Model 3 is Tesla’s smallest, most affordable car and it’s one the best electric cars you can get. With an impressive battery range and lots of interior space, it ticks the essential boxes as a family car. But it’s also quick, fun to drive and packed with clever extras to keep you informed and entertained.
- Very fast acceleration
- Great battery range
- Feels great to drive
- Some rivals feel more premium
- Saloon boot isn’t the most practical
- Can be expensive to buy
Dashboard & tech
Tesla has a very unusual infotainment setup compared to that of its rivals. Just about all of the car’s features are controlled through a large, 15-inch central touchscreen on the dashboard. From adjusting your side-mirrors and air-con to using the windscreen wipers, it’s all done through the screen. Even the speedometer is on the central screen and only the headlights and indicators are controlled using stalks behind the steering wheel. There are times when you find yourself thinking ‘couldn’t this just be a button?’ but the payoff is a stylish, minimalist interior, and the touchscreen is both large and quick to respond.
In addition to features that you’ll find on rival cars, such as sat nav, there are lots of elements that might surprise you. Netflix and YouTube apps are included so you can watch a show while you wait for the car to charge, as are numerous games, including driving games that you control with the car’s steering wheel.
There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for seamless smartphone connectivity, but you can still hook up your phone via Bluetooth, and Tesla’s interface with your music and podcast apps is pretty simple to use.
Seat comfort is generally very good in the Model 3. You sit higher up than in some rivals, but there’s plenty of adjustment for both reach and height in the steering wheel and in the seats, using buttons on their bases. That said, you can’t adjust the headrest, so taller drivers in particular may want to ensure they can get comfy. If you take full advantage of the Model 3’s impressive cornering ability, you might wish you had a bit more support at the side of the seats, but for most people they’ll be absolutely fine.
Sitting inside the Model 3 feels like being in a premium lounge, and with the car’s big windows it’s light and airy. The quality of materials doesn’t feel quite as premium as cars from the likes of Mercedes or BMW, but it’s still a very nice environment. Some of the plastics used in cars from 2021 onwards feel of a slightly higher quality than earlier Model 3s, but overall this car is a pleasant place to spend a few hours.
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Practicality & boot space
There’s enough space for four adults inside the Model 3, and even six-footers shouldn’t have any issues with headroom and legroom in the back. You could squeeze in a fifth grown-up for short journeys, although it’ll be a cosy fit. There should be more than enough room for two child seats. The Model 3’s interior is comparable in size to that in electric rivals like the Polestar 2, but if you want extra space, check out the Kia EV6.
The main interior storage area is a large box between the front seats, which can cope with lots of odds and ends. There are also good-size front-door pockets and another cubby hole under the centre armrest. You can keep your drink in one of two cupholders between the front seats. Cars made after 2020 have wireless charging pads for mobile phones just underneath the dashboard.
Passengers in the back get a door pocket large enough for a drinks bottle, and there are pockets on the back of the front seats. If you don’t have a third passenger in the back seat, you can fold down the middle seatback to find two cupholders. There’s also a reasonable glovebox – opened via the touchscreen, of course.
The Model 3 is a saloon, which means the boot lid is hinged at the bottom of the rear window, rather than at the top like a hatchback or estate car. This means there are other cars that have larger boot openings, but the boot space itself is generous, with more than enough room for a pushchair, golf clubs or the results of a large shopping expedition. Although its maximum capacity of 425 litres is less than the 480 litres you get with a petrol-powered BMW 3 Series, there’s useful extra storage space under the bonnet in what Tesla calls a ‘frunk’ (short for front trunk), which could be useful for storing charging cables or a weekend bag. Models made before 2020 have a slightly larger frunk, but the difference isn’t huge.
Fold down the Model 3’s back seats and you’ll have even more load space for larger items. The back seats fold in a 60/40 split, meaning you can fold one section down and leave another in place for a passenger. That’s useful, although some rivals have a 40/20/40 split, giving you more flexibility when loading long items and carrying passengers. To fold down the seats, pull the handles next to the outer headrests. Unlike some rivals, you can’t lower the seats from inside the boot – you’ll have to open the back doors on each side of the car if you want to fold down both parts.
The Model 3 feels comfortable around town – not quite as smooth as some other executive cars such as the Audi A4, but more than acceptable. It feels confident in the corners, staying stable and level around bends with very little body lean. The steering is nicely weighted – light enough for around-town manoeuvring but heavy enough to feel confident at higher speeds.
It doesn’t feel particularly sporty, despite its very impressive acceleration (more on that in a moment). That’s in part because, as an electric car with large batteries, it’s heavy compared with, say, a petrol-powered BMW. Yet it drives very well on a country road and never feels cumbersome. The absence of engine noise means it’s almost silent around town and, despite a bit of noise from the tyres and the wind rustling over the car, it’s a very quiet motorway cruiser.
There are several versions of the Model 3 to choose from, each giving you a different balance of performance or battery range, but all of them can accelerate very quickly when you want them to. Even the entry-level model has acceleration to rival that of some sports cars, and it’s much quicker than a lot of the Model 3’s rivals. Move up to the top-spec Performance model and you’ll find acceleration that will equal or beat sports cars from Lamborghini, Porsche or Ferrari.
Supercar performance is there if you want it, but if you don’t the Model 3 feels the same to drive sedately around town as any other electric car. All but the entry-level models have two electric motors – one at the front, one at the back – which give you four-wheel drive for extra reassurance in bad weather. As with most electric vehicles, the Model 3 has no gearbox as such, so you don’t need to worry about shifting gears.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
Thanks to the Model 3’s zero-emissions electric power, there’s no Vehicle Excise Duty (car tax) to pay.
While recharging an electric car battery tends to be much more affordable than filling up with fuel, not every electric car uses electricity at the same rate. Just like petrol or diesel cars, some are more efficient than others. The Model 3 is one of the most efficient electric cars available, averaging around 4.5 miles per kWh.
As with all Teslas, the Model 3 can use the company’s ‘Supercharger’ network, which makes for fast, reliable battery charging around the country and abroad. You can find more information about the Supercharger network here. Charging times will vary depending on model, but as a rough guide, expect between 20 and 35 minutes to fill a battery from 10% to 80% at a Supercharger, and between eight and 12 hours to fully recharge from empty using a home wallbox charger.
Value for money
Teslas tend to hold their value very well. While that means there are more affordable rival cars if you’re buying a used one, the Model 3’s value probably won’t erode much when you come to sell. While you’re likely to pay a higher up-front cost, the Model 3 is well equipped and looks like good value for money overall.
Reliability & Warranty
Electric cars can be more reliable than petrol or diesel models, because their electric motors have fewer moving parts that could go wrong compared to a combustion engine. While some Tesla owners have reported a few issues with paint and build quality, reports of major issues have been very few, and the Model 3 has performed reasonably well in a number of independent reliability and owner-satisfaction studies.
All Model 3s come with a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty from new, which is generous in length but lags behind some other makes when it comes to mileage. The batteries are covered by a separate eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty (or 120,000 miles on Long Range and Performance models).
Unlike traditional petrol or diesel cars, the Model 3 doesn’t have rigid service intervals. Instead, the car will let you know when it needs attention, and many updates and diagnostics can be carried out remotely using ‘over the air’ updates. Some Tesla owners will have paid for fixed-price maintenance plans for their Model 3s, which can be transferred to new owners when the car is sold.
The Model 3 has a great reputation for safety and is packed with features that are included as standard. Safety organisation Euro NCAP gave it a maximum five-star rating in 2019.
The safety systems you get as standard in the Model 3 have been particularly praised. These include advanced driver assistance systems similar to those you’ll find in rival cars, including lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking.
Trims & Engines
Every version of the Model 3 is very well equipped. The main differences between the four versions you can buy – the standard car, Standard Range Plus, Long Range and Performance – are in performance and battery range.
The standard Model 3 and the Standard Range Plus are broadly the same, but Tesla is fond of tweaking and changing the names and specs a bit. When the Model 3 first arrived in the UK in 2019, the entry-level model was called the Standard Range Plus, but at the start of 2022, that first step on the ladder was just called Model 3.
Even the most cost-effective versions have lots of features bundled in as standard, including satellite navigation and a panoramic glass roof. Go for the Long Range model and you’ll have 19-inch alloy wheels rather than 18-inch ones, an upgraded sound system with 14 speakers, as well as heated seats in the back to match the heated front seats included in all versions. The Performance model has 20-inch wheels as standard, a carbon fibre spoiler on the boot lid and upgraded brakes.
Entry-level Model 3s – the standard cars – have a single electric motor and rear-wheel drive. Even these most affordable Model 3s are quick – with 241bhp, they have fast acceleration, so getting up to speed on the motorway will be an absolute breeze.
The Long Range and Performance models both use two electric motors – one at the front to drive the front wheels and one at the back to drive the back wheels – which means you get four-wheel drive for extra grip in slippery conditions. It also means even more power, with 346bhp in the Long Range and 449bhp in the Performance. Both are very quick indeed, rivalling top sports cars with their acceleration.
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