Since launching the Model S luxury car in 2012, Tesla has made a name for itself as a producer of luxurious and sporty electric cars.
The company is credited, along with staple choices such as the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, with helping electric cars to become more mainstream choices for buyers, but despite that, its high prices mean that Tesla's products remain out of reach for many. That's why the company is launching the new Model 3.
The first production-ready Model 3 was revealed over the weekend, and the first customer cars will be handed over to US buyers later this month.
What is it?
The Model 3 is Tesla’s most affordable model yet, and will sit below the current Model S luxury car and Model X SUV.
As its name suggests, it’s the third car of Tesla’s current line-up, and its fourth since the company opened for business in 2008 – the first being the Tesla Roadster, sold from 2008 to 2012.
Priced from $35,000 in the US (about £28,000) the four-door, five-seat Model 3 is powered by an all-electric powertrain that produces zero emissions and could offer unprecedented levels of efficiency in its class. So far, Tesla says it has already received around 500,000 orders for the Model 3.
What equipment does it come with?
The Model 3 has a touchscreen infotainment system integrated into its dashboard, and commands for the car’s multimedia and settings are accessed through it. This removes the need for physical buttons on the dashboard. Given our experiences in the Model S and Model X, the system is likely to be user-friendly and easy to get along with.
Thanks to the compact size of its electric motor, the Model 3’s interior has been extended as much as possible to offer maximum passenger and storage space. Tesla’s not quoting any numbers yet, but with two boots – one in the front and one in the back – the car maker says no other car in this category can offer as much space.
What engines can I choose from?
Tesla is yet to confirm exact specifications for the Model 3, but even in its most basic form the Model 3 will be capable of accelerating from 0-60mph in less than 6.0sec, while still offering as much as 215 miles of driving range per charge.
Faster models will also be available, but they’ll all likely use the same basic electric system. With the Model S, Tesla offers four variants: the rear-wheel drive 75, the four-wheel drive 75D, the range-focused 100D and the performance-focused P100D.
How much will it cost?
We’re yet to learn what British buyers will have to pay, but we're expecting an entry-level price of around £35,000. This would place the Model 3 in competition with cars such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. UK deliveries are expected early next year.
Tesla wants owning a Model 3 to be a highly practical and convenient experience. To ensure this, it’s investing heavily into charging technology in all major markets, including the UK.
Like any Tesla, the Model 3 can be charged at one of the brand's Superchargers, or plugged into a slower end-of-destination chargers that can be installed at places such as your home or work.
The top 10 electric cars currently on sale
Tesla is well acquainted with the UK's electric car market, so it knows both the breadth and quality of competition that the new Model 3 will be facing. Here are our current favourites, and the electric cars to avoid.
10. Volkswagen e-Up
The regular Volkswagen Up is one of our favourite city cars, and this electric version is just as practical and good to drive; it feels almost entirely uncompromised by its conversion to electric power. It's just that unfortunately, it costs twice as much as the petrol models.
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9. Nissan Leaf
One of the more affordable electric models on sale, the Leaf is about the same size as a Vauxhall Astra and similarly easy to drive. There are two battery options to choose from: a 24kWh that allows a theoretical range between charges of 124 miles, and a 30kWh that extends this to 155 miles. The latter is only available on the more expensive trim levels, though.
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8. Toyota Mirai
The Mirai is a hydrogen-fuelled car, which means that you'll need to fill it up with hydrogen at specially chosen filling stations, of which there are currently very few. It's powered by a single 152bhp electric motor and can travel for up to 400 miles between refills. We found it to be quiet and well controlled, but at around £66,000 it's certainly pricey, and with limited volumes coming to the UK it's likely to be a very rare sight.
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