Review: Tesla Model 3 (2019)
Spacious, minimalist interior. Relatively affordable. Range of up to 348 miles. Fun to drive.
Build quality lacking compared to mainstream rivals.
Tesla Model 3 (2019): At A Glance
Tesla describes its Model 3 as “the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle”. While Nissan will have something to say about that - the Leaf’s been on sale since 2011 - you don’t have to be an eager early-adopter to consider the Model 3. It’s a genuinely usable electric car with a relatively affordable price tag, generous range and minimalist cabin.
The Model 3 is available in three guises: the Standard Range Plus, the Long Range model and the range-topping Performance. The cheapest is the Standard Range Plus, which will make the most sense for the majority of buyers. It makes do with a single electric motor powering the wheels, providing impressive acceleration (0-60mph in 5.3 seconds) and an official WLTP range of 254 miles between charges.
While the Standard Range Plus is powered by an electric motor powering the rear axle, the Long Range and Performance versions have an extra electric motor driving the front wheels, making them both all-wheel drive. As their names suggest, the Long Range focuses on range, capable of covering 348 miles between charges (and accelerating to 60mph in 4.4 seconds), while the Performance is all about chasing supercars. This will reach 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds and cover 329 miles between charges.
Driving the Model 3 takes a little acclimatisation compared to other cars. Pretty much everything is operated through the large, tablet-like infotainment display that's situated at the centre of the dashboard. This seems excessive at first, but the truth is that the majority of features you’ll access when parked up, at which points it’s simple and intuitive to use. Once on the move, anything you do need is easy to access and no more confusing than infotainment systems used in rival vehicles.
There are a few quirks - the flashing indicator lights on the central screen, for example, and the lack of conventional dials above the steering wheel (again, information such as your current speed are shown on the infotainment display).
Once you’ve got your head around these features, the Model 3 is a wonderfully easy car to drive. Just the two pedals, obviously, and probably the best all-around visibility of any car on sale. Acceleration is instant thanks to its electric drive, and even the most affordable model feels ultra quick.
Is it entertaining? Yes. Even if you’re used to a BMW 3 Series - traditionally the driver’s car of this price point - you’ll enjoy driving the Model 3. Probably more so. The steering is direct and, with the electric motor driving the rear wheels on the standard model, you can feel the Model 3 being pushed rather than pulled through the bends.
One advantage of a Tesla over other electric cars is access to the firm's Supercharger network. This is a network of rapid chargers located at convenient locations across the country (usually motorway services) and only open to Teslas. Unlike other models, this isn't free to use with the Model 3 - but you're looking at about £15 to fully charge a Standard Range Plus.
Whether you're a Tesla fan or not, the Model 3 is objectively a very convincing electric car. It's priced right to make it a competitive alternative to other EVs, as well as mainstream petrol and diesel models. Not only will it travel far enough before charging to quash any range anxiety concerns, it's also fun to drive and has a trendy, minimalist cabin.
What does a Tesla Model 3 (2019) cost?
Tesla Model 3 (2019): What's It Like Inside?
- Euro NCAP rating of five stars
Alongside premium alternatives from Mercedes-Benz and Audi, interiors of other Tesla models have fallen short with poor build quality and brittle materials. But, while the Model 3 still isn't as cosseting as it could be, it feels well screwed together and we love the minimalist approach.
There's a huge 15-inch landscape media screen in the centre of the dash providing access to most of the car's features. Whether it's turning the lights on, adjusting the temperature or accessing your music, almost everything is done via this screen. Not everyone will appreciate this - some drivers still prefer a dash filled with knobs and buttons - but it's something you'll soon get used to.
Tesla likes to do things its own way, so it's no surprise that there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Fortunately, the Model's 3 navigation and entertainment system is easy to use, although the entry-level model doesn't come with live traffic updates. You can access features like Spotify, though, giving you access to your music on the move.
The Model 3's spacious enough, with the driver finding a comfortable seating position easy to find and plenty of space for adult passengers in the front and rear. While legroom is comparable to a 3 Series, it feels much less claustrophobic in the back thanks to the standard panoramic sunroof. The flat floor helps with legroom, too, while there are ISOFIX points on the outer rear seats for fitting child seats.
Up front, there's a generous amount of storage, including a large centre console with a surprising amount of space. There's a decently-sized cubby box, too - although only accessible via the touchscreen system.
As a saloon, access to the boot is a little tight, but there's loads of room in there. There's also a useful second boot in the front (another advantage of not having a conventional engine), while the rear seats can be dropped easily on all models should you need to carry bigger loads.
Standard equipment (February 2020):
The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, 12-way adjustable heated front seats, premium seat material and trim, premium audio system, Bluetooth music and media, tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection, power-folding heated door mirrors, custom driver profiles, centre console with storage, four USB ports, docking for two smartphones, Autopilot.
The Long Range model adds heated front and rear seats, premium audio (14 speakers, one subwoofer, two amps and immersive sound), premium connectivity for one year (including live traffic updates, in-car internet streaming music and media, internet brower, more frequent over-the-air updates), LED fog lights, interior floor mats.
The Model 3 Performance features 20-inch alloy wheels, performance brakes, carbon fibre spoiler, lowered suspension, aluminium alloy pedals, track mode.
Child seats that fit a Tesla Model 3 (2019)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Tesla Model 3 (2019) like to drive?
If you've never driven an electric car before, the Model 3 will be a revelation. It's easy to drive - just like a conventional automatic car, there are two pedals and steering wheel, but there's no need to start the engine or select a gear. You just select drive, press the accelerator and go.
Like any other electric vehicle, acceleration is instant thanks to the single-gear electric motor. Even the Standard Range Plus model is a lot of fun to drive, with more than enough performance for the majority of drivers. It'll very quickly build up speed on a motorway sliproad and overtaking is easy.
With one electric motor powering the rear axle, the entry-level car feels very agile - you can tell the car's being pushed through bends rather than pulled through them, allowing the steering to feel direct and sporty (if a little lifeless). The more expensive models add an extra electric motor to the front axle, providing extra traction and even faster acceleration.
The batteries are located under the floor, helping to lower the car's centre of gravity, although you're always aware that the Model 3 is a rather heavy car. As such, the ride is firm (we'd recommend the 18-inch wheels if you're concerned about ride quality), but it tackles bumpy roads fairly well despite this.
Around town, the Model 3 is a lot of fun, with its excellent visibility and instant acceleration giving you the confidence to drive assertively. Features like the standard reversing camera and light steering makes it an easy car to park, too.
One feature that Tesla regularly makes the news for is its Autopilot. In standard form, this is little more than adaptive cruise control, slowing down for other vehicles and nudging the steering to keep you in lane. You can opt for 'full self-driving capability', but it's an expensive option, and doesn't offer the driverless car experience you might expect. You'll still have to keep your hands on the steering wheel and it's autopark feature is no more impressive than similar parking features available in competitors.
In terms of charging, Tesla says its Supercharging network can provide up to 180 miles of range in 15 minutes, while a 7.4kW home charger will add around 30 miles of range per hour. We found that a conventional three-pin socket will add about 10 miles of range an hour, meaning it's worth investing in a dedicated home charger if possible.
It's worth noting that the Model 3 is rated for towing. With the factory-fitted tow hitch, the Standard Range Plus and Long Range models can tow up to 910kg. The Performance model is available with a towing capacity of up to 500kg.
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