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Tesla Model 3 2020 review

Find out more about the Tesla Model 3 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

£52,104
Average Price
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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Cutting edge technology
  • Excellent cabin space
  • Good performance and range

Cons

  • Long waiting list
  • Firm ride
  • Build quality not as strong as rivals
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Tesla is still one of the newest car manufacturers in the business. It burst onto the scene in 2008 with the Roaster, a two-seater, fully electric sports car based on the Lotus Elise. But Elon Musk – the man behind the brand – wasn’t about to stop there. Since then we’ve seen a range of fully electric cars launched and more on the way. 

The Tesla Model 3 was launched in 2017 and was initially launched in small numbers. Fast forward three years and it’s now become the world’s best-selling electric car, with more than 500,000 units delivered – smashing records across the US and Europe. 

At the time of launch, it had the market pretty much to itself. Yes, there were other eco offerings, like the electric Nissan Leaf and hybrid Toyota Prius, but at the upper end of the market there wasn’t anything to rival the Tesla’s premium looks or eco-credentials. 

For many motorists though, electric cars still raise concerns especially when it comes to range anxiety and charging time, but the Model 3 is better than your average electric car. There are no real compromises either. It’s practical, crammed with hi-tech equipment as well as driver safety aids and is designed to slot into your life with ease.

Latest Model

When the Tesla Model 3 first launched it had the premium electric car sector all to itself, but while other manufacturers were focussing on more eco-friendly combustion engines, they’ve now turned their attention to electric power. 

Cars like the Audi e-tron, Polestar 2 and Jaguar I-Pace all now do a similar job but have brought with it years of automotive experience, meaning high production values and an established dealer network.

However, Tesla still has the upper hand with the Model 3 when it comes to range and charging time. According to Tesla, it will return a claimed 254 miles from a full charge, with the long-range version managing 348 miles, and, with using one of the firm’s dedicated ‘Supercharger’ electric chargers, it will give 200 miles of range per half an hour.  

Value for money

Whichever way you look at it, the Model 3 isn’t cheap, especially when you compare it to equivalent petrol or diesels. Prices start at £40,490 – making it significantly cheaper than the Jaguar i-Pace, but it’s still more expensive than the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf.   

Prices rise to £56,490 for the top-spec ‘Performance’ model, which is similar to the Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-Pace – meaning it’s far from cheap.

For many the whole process of charging and worrying about running out of electricity – known as range anxiety – can be off putting, but with batteries capable of longer ranges and quicker charging times, this is becoming less of an issue. 

Looks and image

The biggest giveaway that the Model 3 is an electric car is the lack of a grille at the front. It definitely looks distinctively different to what would be deemed traditional rivals in this class – cars like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4

By not having a traditional combustion engine up front has meant it gets a lower front end, which is good for styling and also for aerodynamics. And, as you’ll see when we look at the interior, it’s all very minimalist both inside and out. It’s certainly distinctive, but not what you’d call a beautiful car, Tesla still has some ground to make in this department.

Inside, the cabin is set up for the modern generation. Like the outside it’s clutter free and minimalist. In fact, apart from the steering wheel and 15-inch touchscreen, there’s few other controls. While the cabin materials are good, they’re not quite in the same league as some of its European rivals. 

The 15-inch touchscreen dominates the centre console and it controls virtually everything, so if you’re a bit of a technophobe who likes buttons and dials, then you might want to look elsewhere. 

As you might expect for a car that’s so tech heavy, the screen is one of the best in the business with its pin-sharp graphics and super responsive interface. It’s also been designed to make the transition from phone to infotainment system a natural one. Some of the buttons are a little small which can make use on the move a little tricky but overall, it’s a fantastic system.

Space and practicality

There won’t be too many complaints from any of the occupants when it comes to cabin space. The batteries have been well placed meaning it doesn’t impact head or leg room. There’s also plenty of spaces for storing bits and pieces with a usable storage cubby between the front seats and good-sized door bins.

The boot is a good size but because it’s a saloon you do get a smaller boot opening than if it was a hatchback. It offers 425 litres with the rear seats up, which is smaller than rivals like the BMW 3 Series, though it can be extended by folding down the 60:40 split fold seats. 

Powertrains

There are three options to choose from being on what you want from your electric car. Power for the Standard Range model drives through the rear wheels, which means it can do the 0-60mph dash in 5.3 seconds, while the Long Range and Performance models both have four-wheel drive and sprint to 60mph in 4.4 seconds and 3.2 seconds respectively – the latter certainly living up to its ‘Performance’ name.  

One of the drawbacks with electric cars is the additional weight added by the batteries and how this can affect the car’s handling ability. You might be surprised to hear then that the Model 3 isn’t bad through the corners, especially the range-topping Performance version which has sports suspension and larger alloy wheels as standard. The lighter Standard Range version does feel a little less inspiring with less grip from the two-wheel drive and a bit more body lean.

The ride is also a little firm, which means potholes and other imperfections in the road are fed into the cabin. The 3 SeriesM Sport trim aside – is a better alternative if you want a car that’s comfortable and capable. 

Running Costs

Once you’ve paid the initial ownership fee, you’ll be really impressed with how cheap it is to run. The Model 3 is the cheapest way into Tesla ownership and the running costs are extremely low, thanks to low benefit in kind tax bills – meaning it makes a lot of sense for company car drivers. 

According to Tesla, the Standard Range model will do 254 miles on a full charge. The Long range and Performance models have bigger batteries meaning a range of 348 miles and 329 miles respectively. 

Buying a Tesla also means you can use Tesla’s Supercharger network – allowing it to charge from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes, and the price is fairly reasonable too. If you want to charge from home, then it will take around 11 hours using a 7kW charger. 

Things to look out for

All Tesla batteries come with an eight-year, unlimited mileage warranty, while the car itself comes with a four-year 50,000-mile warranty, which indicates that Tesla drivers tend to do less miles each year than other manufacturers.

Regular software updates can also solve minor problems with cars, too, and are useful for both the manufacturer and customers. Owners are usually incredibly positive about their cars, with the firm being seen as a hero brand by many Model 3 drivers. The only slight gripe from owners can be the fit and finish, which can be a hit and miss, so it’s worth thoroughly inspecting a vehicle before taking delivery. 

Rivals

When the Model 3 was first launched it had the electrified executive market pretty much all to itself, now the competition is starting to catch up. The most direct competition is the Polestar 2 which, like the Tesla, is fully electric and incredibly rapid. However, the Model 3 outperforms it in most departments including performance, range, charging network and practicality.

 Alternatively, there are regular petrol and diesel rivals like the BMW 3 Series or the Audi A4, Jaguar XE, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volvo S60. All but the Audi and Jaguar are both available with plug-in hybrid powertrains, too. 

Depreciation

Strong demand for Teslas mean residual values are strong. Even 12-month-old models that have 10,000 miles on the clock have only dropped their value by a few hundred pounds, such is its desirability and popularity. If you want a new model, the waiting time is about two months, depending on the spec.

Which Model 3 to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

Standard Plus 4dr Auto

Most MPG

Standard Plus 4dr Auto

Fastest Model (0-60)

Performance AWD 4dr [Performance Upgrade] Auto

Trims Explained

Trims explained Three trims as such are available on the Model 3 – Standard Range Plus, Long Range and Performance. Highlights and prices of each are as follows.

Standard Range Plus

Standard equipment includes 12-way power adjustable heated seats, and 30-day premium connectivity which features satellite maps, In-car internet streaming music and media, video streaming, karaoke and internet browser.

From £40,490

Long Range

Going for the Long Range model increases the range to 348 miles and adds all-wheel drive and improved performance with 0-60mph now 5.3 seconds. It also includes premium audio, LED fog lamps and interior floor mats.

From £46,990

Performance

The range-topping Performance model will manage 329 miles as well as a top speed of 162mph and 0-60mph in an impressive 3.2 seconds. It also includes 20-inch alloy wheels, carbon fibre spoiler, lowered suspension and performance brakes.

From £56,490

Summary

  1. Low running costs
  2. Stylish design
  3. Clutter-free cabin
  4. Strong performance
  5. Good range
  6. Firm ride
  7. Excellent levels of safety equipment
  8. Fun to drive
  9. Strong value for money
  10. Cabin build quality off pace of rivals

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