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View all Tesla Model 3 reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

Ambitious electric car priced against some very capable executive saloons

Tesla Model 3 (16 on) - rated 4.5 out of 5
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PROS

  • Interior airiness and performance are very impressive
  • Entry-level price isn't much higher than a Nissan Leaf
  • Real-world electric range is very impressive

CONS

  • A long wait if you've not already reserved one
  • Minimalist interior design won't appeal to all
  • Podgy styling not as appealing as Model S

PROS

  • Interior airiness and performance are very impressive
  • Entry-level price isn't much higher than a Nissan Leaf
  • Real-world electric range is very impressive

CONS

  • A long wait if you've not already reserved one
  • Minimalist interior design won't appeal to all
  • Podgy styling not as appealing as Model S

Verdict

The first right-hand drive Tesla Model 3s are due to arrive in the UK during the summer of 2019 – and you can order one now. This is the car that's set to move this most famous of Californian start-ups into the automotive big time – it brings Tesla's amazing Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) technology to a more affordable end of the market – and in Europe it's already established itself as a success out of the blocks. 

The Model 3's UK pricing looks exciting. The entry-level point is £38,900, rising to £56,500 for the Performance model. It's clearly widening your options if it's a Tesla you're after – the Model S starts at £73,500 and that isn't small change by anyone’s standards. But Tesla is keen to emphasise that when taking fuelling costs into account, and the ease of the use of its Supercharger network of car chargers, the overall cost of ownership is actually very competitive.

Tesla isn't really looking at other electric cars as opposition for the Model 3, but more established medium-sized premium saloons such as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4. The question is – can this ambitious electric car, built by this most charismatic of start-up companies tempt you out of your conventional executive car? Or are you still undecided about the benefits and drawbacks that come part and parcel with electric car ownership?

Tesla Model 3: how much range does it have?

The Model 3 is part of Tesla's ‘secret master plan’ to bring sustainable energy-powered transport to the masses. A smaller price puts new customers in the manufacturer’s cars, not just those who could afford to justify the premium cost of the Model S.

Like that car though Tesla says the Model 3 will combine range, performance, safety and utility to make it the ideal family car. Depending on which model you choose, it will get up to 259-335 miles on a charge – which places it firmly at the top end of this crowded market sector.

Tesla Model 3 charging – as good as it gets

As well as costing less than rival petrol and diesel cars to fuel, the Tesla is as painless as it comes for a BEV to charge up. Like all of its rivals, charging using a three-point domestic plug is okay for emergencies, but it's slow and inefficient. Most owners will install their own fast charger at home and that will be sufficient for most needs.

There's also Tesla's Supercharger network, which takes about 40 minutes to replenish (from 20 to 80%), and is expanding all the time. Compared with other public chargers, the Supercharger offers a premium ownership experience – as long as you're not going out of your way to top up – although the free charging offered to Tesla customers following its launch has long since been dropped.

In use, a Tesla Model 3 shouldn't offer up too many anxieties around its range. When the battery runs low, the sat-nav automatically diverts the car to the nearest available charger. Travel information and advice are relayed exclusively by the big touchscreen, which is still a USP of a Tesla.

What's the Tesla Model 3 like to drive?

Like the larger Model S, the Model 3 is quick in all of its forms. Tesla claims a 0-60mph for all models between 3.5 and 5.6 seconds, which like the Model S dominates your initial impressions of the car. The lower figure is for the Premium model with four-wheel drive and a 90kWh battery pack. Maximum speed of this version is quoted as 141mph, but high-speed motorway cruising kills this car's range, as well as battery life.

As for handling, when pushed hard, the Model 3 has impressive directional stability, and is blessed with flat cornering and tenacious grip. The good news is that if you don't make use of all of that performance, you can expect a maximum of 335 miles between charges too.

The pay off is that the ride quality isn't exactly impressive. The Model 3 displays a jittery ride on some road surfaces that is felt through the wheel as well as the seats, no doubt a side-effect of not offering adjustable dampers or air suspension.

What else do you need to know about the Tesla Model 3?

Tesla Model 3 interior

The rear-seat accommodation isn't exactly generous, which is a disappointment, given the Model S's huge interior, and shared benefits of that compact electric drivetrain. Head- and legroom are acceptable, but the rear bench is also too narrow for three adults.

The steering has three modes: Comfort, Standard and Sport. Since the sole parameter affected is the weight of the system, Standard strikes the best compromise between input and feedback. Another driver option is the brake energy regeneration mode.

In the high setting you rarely need to touch the brake pedal. That’s acceptable for steep hills, but excessive resistance is actually counter-productive in normal driving as you keep reinvesting the energy saved to maintain a steady forward motion. Still, the braking system is powerful, even if the pedal feels a little numb.

Buying a Tesla Model 3 in the UK

Production of the Model 3 is underway and the car is on sale in the USA and Canada. You can now configure your car and place an order in the UK, and delivery for your right-hand drive Tesla Model 3 would be expected in the summer of 2019.

No manufacturer PCP deals have been announced as yet, although a company spokesperson told us they would be anounced within the next few weeks. As for personal leasing deals, we'll update this as soon as the figures are announced.

The Parkers VerdictShould you buy a Tesla Model 3?

Tesla needed to introduce a product that is more affordable and available in bigger numbers, and while the Model 3 is by no means a cheap option, it is definitely closer to the mark than what came before. It's also a whole lot more car-shaped than the more expensive Jaguar I-Pace, Mercedes-Benz EQ C and Audi E-Tron BEVs.

Progress with electric cars is really gathering momentum and this car is a good indicator of the state of the art. But due to its lengthy gestation and other delays, it may be very quickly overtaken by rivals in terms of equipment and performance, as the big premium players (Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar) muscle in. Having said that, none of them come close to matching the Model 3's all-round efficiency as well as the convenience of its Supercharger network.

But quirky styling and love-it or hate-it interior aside, the Model 3 is capable, likeable and is extremely good to drive. The quality and usability are also a step-change from the Teslas that came before. We'll wait for the right-hand drive UK models to arrive later in 2019 before calling a final verdict, but for now, based on drives of left-hand drive cars in the US, Europe and the UK, this is the best BEV on the market at this price point.

Tesla Model 3 rear view, cornering

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