Tesla Model 3 review
"2020's hottest electric car is a cracking choice on every level"
Tesla Model 3 UK prices from £40k

Tesla Model 3 review: electric cars come no finer than this

  • Published 22 April 2020
  • 7 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

Do you remember that really cool kid at school? The one who was popular with everyone, excelled at sport, got top marks in all subjects and helped save a drowning dog from a raging river? That kid could do no wrong.

In automotive terms, the Tesla Model 3 is that kid. It's electric, which makes it the most woke vehicle you can buy right now. It's packed with the latest kit, it looks cool, and given the chance, it could save a drowning dog. Probably...

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Tesla Model 3: a four-door electric saloonTesla Model 3 electric car Available to lease Lease Now

Try as they might, the established members of the car industry can't hold a candle to Tesla. Which is why the Model 3 is the must-have electric car of 2020. It's Tesla's most affordable model to date, with leasing deals starting from less than £450 a month. For that, you get a realistic electric range of around 300 miles, sports car levels of performance and more tech than a prize bundle on The Gadget Show.


Looks, tech and design

For such a simple design, it's amazing how much the Tesla Model 3 stands out. On a recent 150-mile journey, I counted no fewer than four of them on the roads, which suggests two things. First, the Model 3 is growing in popularity. Second, it's really distinctive.

Part of this is down to the absence of a radiator grille, but the full-length glass roof, which sweeps uninterrupted from the base of the windscreen to the boot, simply adds to the effect, bathing the cabin with soft, diffuse daylight. It's really bright and airy in here. The Model 3 is hardly an outlandish piece of design, but it's as cool as the latest smartphone and just as on-trend.

Despite appearances, the Model 3 is a traditional four-door saloon, which means it doesn't offer the outright practicality of a hatchback's lift-up bootlid. That said, thanks to a neat hinge arrangement, you're presented with a wide opening to the luggage compartment, which makes loading bags, buggies and shopping easier.

Pop-out door handles lie flush when closedTesla Model 3 review: extraordinary from the moment you first open a door handle Available to lease Lease Now

You know the Tesla is a little bit different when you first unlock the doors, using a slimline credit-card sized key or your smartphone, before the door is released by tapping one end of the handle.

Once inside, you're greeted with a cabin that's as minimalist as a Scandinavian living room, with a dashboard dominated by a gigantic 15-inch touchscreen display. It takes a while to get used to it, but the familiarisation process is no longer than for, say, a new mobile phone come upgrade time. The screen is pin-sharp, logical and loaded with more digital tricks and Easter Eggs than a branch of Thorntons.

It's not all good news. The steering wheel looks and feels cheap, while the quality of some interior plastics leaves a lot to be desired. It's just not as well finished in here as an equivalent Audi or BMW. It's better than the larger Tesla Model S, but the Model 3 still lags behind the quality and materials of other cars at this price point.

A stark, minimalist interior free of clutterTesla Model 3 interiorAvailable to lease Lease Now

The cabin feels incredibly spacious, though, helped in no small part by the full-length sunroof. Other contributing factors include the entirely flat floor and clutter-free centre console. There's room for five adults in the Model 3, which is no mean feat, so you'll be able to transport your mates on weekends away or trips back from the pub.

Standard kit includes four USB ports, docking for two smartphones, heated front and rear seats, sat-nav with live traffic updates, custom driver profiles, a premium sound system and over-the-air updates for the car's software. You'll also find an array of features hidden within the depths of the touchscreen, which controls the majority of the Tesla's functions (including niceties such as Tesla's infamous 'Fart mode... yes, really).

I should point out that the internet is filled with stories of paint, trim and hardware issues on early Teslas; some Model 3s appear to be built better than others, so you might have to accept a few foibles and niggles along the way.


Driving

It speaks volumes about the Model 3 that I've reached this point without mentioning the driving range. The Standard Range Plus Model 3 offers a range of 254 miles. Upgrading to the Long Range version increases this to 348 miles, while the Performance model offers 329 miles.

Much is made about the Model 3's explosive off-the-line pace, with the all-wheel-drive Performance version hitting 60mph in just 3.2 seconds before reaching a top speed of 162mph. Ask yourself: do you really need Ferrari-challenging poke?

One of the best EVs you can buy todayTesla Model 3 review 2020 UK Available to lease Lease Now

The all-wheel-drive Long Range model is no slouch, sprinting to 60mph in a Porsche-baiting 4.4 seconds. Given the additional range, the reassurance of all-wheel drive and the pace, it's arguably the Model 3 range sweet-spot.

The Model 3 is a delightful car to drive. The steering is sharp and accurate, the handling is composed and the ride quality is acceptable, even on the optional large 20-inch alloy wheels. The Performance model even comes with a Track mode, so you can terrorise traditional cars on a circuit - if that's your bag.

Of greater relevance is the much-publicised Autopilot technology. It enables the Tesla Model 3 to steer, accelerate and brake for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane. Thankfully, it doesn't quite live up to its name - a fair degree of human involvement is still required.

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Cost and economy

The Model 3 Standard Range Plus costs a whisker over £40,000 if you buy outright, which makes it more expensive than a traditional compact executive saloon if you're buying outright. But then the Model 3 is so much more than a traditional executive saloon.

Let's look at it another way. A Tesla Model 3 could cost as little as £440 a month to lease, which is less than the cost of the cheapest Audi A4. For that, you get zero-emissions motoring, plentiful tax breaks, the kudos of driving an electric car, and all the equipment.

Charging port: plug in hereTesla Model 3 charging port and running costsAvailable to leaseLease Now

You'll have to pay to use the Tesla Supercharger network, but that works out at 24p per kilowatt hour if you need to top up when out and about. You can rapid-charge up to a peak speed of 250kW, which makes the Model 3 one of the fastest-charging cars in the world.

Alternatively, you can charge the Model 3 at home or one of 500 destination chargers at clubs, hotels and other venues. The reality is, most of us will complete all charging at home, with public charging reserved for occasional long trips.

Although it produces 0g/km of CO2, all except a basic Model 3 with no options will fall into the premium rate for VED (road tax). This means there's a £320 supplement to pay from the second time the vehicle is taxed, as most fall above the £40k threshold.

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Verdict

In its simplest form, the Tesla Model 3 is little more than a battery pack, an electric motor and a large touchscreen wrapped inside a rather conventional metal body. Yet it adds up to so much more than the sum of its parts.

It's as cool as Zack Morris, as attractive as Kelly Kapowski, as powerful as A.C. Slater and as satisfyingly nerdy as Samuel 'Screech' Powers. What's not to like?

Well, the simple truth is that the industry is catching up. Tesla is facing a fight for electric vehicle supremacy from all sides, with the likes of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Volvo and BMW lining up to take a shot at the Californian upstart.

For now at least, the Tesla Model 3 is the coolest and most relevant electric car you can buy. It's one of the most highly recommended cars to lease in 2020.

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