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Excellent EV that's the 2020 Parkers Car of The Year

Tesla Model 3 Review Video
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At a glance

New price £43,545 - £56,545
Lease from new From £481 p/m View lease deals
Used price £31,575 - £53,885
Fuel Economy 3.7 - 4.2 miles/kWh
Insurance group 48 - 50 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Good to drive, easy to operate via the central touchscreen
  • Entry-level price isn't much higher than a Nissan Leaf
  • Real-world electric range is very impressive
  • Currently state of the electric-car art and our favourite

CONS

  • Build quality akin to a Star Wars prop in places
  • Simple, three-model range available in the UK
  • Many would prefer the adaptability of an SUV
  • Some issues with reliability and customer services

Tesla Model 3 rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

The Tesla Model 3 has made quite an impact in the UK following its long anticipated launch, and it's the car that's moving this most famous of Californian start-ups into the automotive big time. It brings Tesla's amazing Electric Vehicle (EV) technology to a more affordable end of the market, even topping the UK Top 10 bestseller's list in April 2020.

The Model 3's UK pricing certainly looks exciting. The entry-level point is £39,000 for the Standard Range Plus, rising to £52,000 for the Performance model via the £47,000 Long Range version. It's clearly widening your options if it's a Tesla you're after – the Model S starts at £77,700 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?

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 couldn't afford to justify the premium cost of the Model S – although it's not quite a mass-market car.

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 254-348 miles on a charge – which places it firmly at the top end of this crowded market sector.

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 only extends to Model S and Model X cars.

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 it 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 3.2 and 5.3 seconds, which like the Model S dominates your initial impressions of the car. Maximum speed 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 decent range that's not far off the official WLTP claims for this car.

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

What else do you need to know?

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 too narrow for three adults. The good news is that the floor is flat, as there's no exhaust or propshaft to accommodate under the car.

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.

Easy to buy online, competitive on finance

Tesla is pricing the Model 3 quite aggressively and selling it online with a number of contact-free options. You can configure your car, take advice and place an order, with many users choosing to complete the process online and never actually visit a dealer. Tesla is offering the car via Personal Contract Purchase and Hire Purchase deals.

Via Tesla, a Standard Range Plus version will cost £395 per month on a PCP deal, or £513 per month on Hire Purchase. Long Range models will set you back £602 per month via PCP, or £682 per month on a Hire Purchase deal. Performance models start from £590 per month with PCP, or £751 per month with Hire Purchase.

Our leasing partner, ZenAuto offers the Model 3 from £481 with the usual terms and conditions. That places it right in the heart of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class market.

Read: Electric cars on Parkers
Read: Best electric cars to buy in 2020
Read: Electric cars now attract zero-rated BIK

Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the Tesla Model 3 including its practicality, how much it costs to run, what it's like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one.

*Deals are correct at time of publication. Everyone’s financial circumstances are different and credit is not always available – Parkers cannot recommend a deal for you specifically. These deals are indicative examples of some packages available this week. Bauer Consumer Media Limited is an appointed representative of ZenAuto Limited for the broking of regulated hire agreements. ZenAuto Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. ZenAuto Limited's registered office is Number One, Great Exhibition Way, Kirkstall Forge, Leeds LS5 3BF. ZenAuto Limited's company registration number is 10967345. ZenAuto is the trading name of ZenAuto Limited. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.

Tesla Model 3 rivals