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Used test: Jaguar I-Pace vs Tesla Model 3
You can save between £7000 and £21,000 on these desirable electric cars if you buy them at a year old, but which is the better option?...
Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S
List price when new £64,495
Price today £43,000*
Available from 2018-present
The hugely desirable, all-electric I-Pace embodies the traditional Jaguar qualities of grace, space and pace
Tesla Model 3 Performance with Performance Upgrade
List price when new £56,640
Price today £49,000*
Available from 2019-present
The immensely popular and best-selling Model 3 offers a huge range and monster performance
*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
We may be in the midst of an electric vehicle revolution that will eventually engulf all the world’s car manufacturers, but history will always record Tesla as one of the pioneers. It may have started life as a curious, cultish brand producing expensive and seemingly unobtainable cars, all of which displayed, like the firm’s owner, more than a hint of the unorthodox about them, but there’s no denying that it has become a household name.
If the Model S saloon and Model X SUV were large and expensive, the world waited with bated breath for the smaller, more affordable Model 3 executive saloon. Not surprisingly, it’s been a runaway sales success since its 2019 launch.
In fact, if you were to seek one out on the used car market, you might be disappointed to find out how much value the Model 3 retains. Here, we’re pitching a one-year-old, top-spec Performance model against a luxurious Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV of the same age. More expensive than the Model 3 when it was new, the I-Pace is one of our favourite electric vehicles.
So, which one makes more sense as a used buy?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Our four-wheel-drive Model 3 Performance test car was fitted with the Performance Upgrade kit that was optional from new. This added 20in wheels, lowered suspension and upgraded brakes while raising the car’s top speed from 145mph to 162mph. So it’s not surprising that if you bury your right foot, the Model 3 really shifts. You’ll be trying to work out how it delivers performance that’s usually the preserve of high-end sports cars. In torrential rain, for example, we managed 0-60mph in 3.7sec and 0-100mph in 9.3sec.
The I-Pace may be slower, but you certainly wouldn’t call it slow, because it recorded a 0-60mph time of 4.6sec – just a few fractions behind Jaguar’s snarling petrol V8-engined F-Pace SVR.
Don’t think of the Model 3 as just a one-trick pony, though; it really shines on twisty, bumpy B-roads, too. The Performance Upgrade’s lowered suspension helps the car stay incredibly flat through corners, with hardly any body lean. On its 20in wheels with sticky Michelin tyres, grip is fierce and traction out of corners is such that you can deploy plenty of power with minimal drama.
The I-Pace, by comparison, struggles to keep its considerable weight in check at times (understandable, since it’s higher riding), so it feels less composed in corners. It still handles better than most electric cars, though.
The Model 3 has better steering as well. This is a real strength compared with others in the class, even if it doesn’t quite match that of the best conventional executive saloons, such as the BMW 3 Series. It’s nicely weighted and precise, even if it doesn’t offer much feel through the rim. It’s much quicker than the I-Pace’s, too, helping the car to feel relatively agile.
The I-Pace’s steering is also accurate, but it returns to centre quite aggressively, so you end up wrestling with it a bit more while navigating bends. Even so, it’s a lot better than that of contemporaries such as the Audi E-tron.
At urban speeds, the firmness of the Model 3’s suspension means the I-Pace is more cosseting. Get into a steady motorway cruise, however, and the Model 3 becomes pleasingly composed, riding smoothly and being disturbed only by larger imperfections.
The I-Pace is a little less settled at higher cruising speeds and rocks you about more on bumpy B-roads. However, our test car did come on the optional-from-new 20in wheels and air suspension; wider experience tells us you’re not missing out if the car you find has the standard suspension and standard 18in wheels, because cars thus equipped ride much better.
The ride on our test car may not be perfect, but the worst thing about the driving experience of the I-Pace is the feel of its brakes. It’s no surprise that the lighter Model 3, with its upgraded brakes, stopped from 70mph in a shorter distance, but also the resistance in the I-Pace’s pedal is inconsistent, making it tricky to slow down smoothly. This is because pressing the pedal increases the regeneration effect that harvests energy to feed back into the battery. It’s a problem faced by all electric cars, but the Model 3 does a much better job of responding consistently to inputs.
How far you can drive before running out of juice is of vital importance to potential buyers of electric cars, and in our Real Range test, the I-Pace (on standard 18in wheels) did an impressive 253 miles. The Model 3 recorded a still-respectable 239 miles, and we have no doubt it would have achieved an even greater distance if fitted with its smaller, drag-reducing standard wheels and regular tyres.
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