What's the used Tesla Model 3 hatchback like?
Initially, the quirky American firm served up the very large Model S and the even larger Model X, but the true statement of Tesla’s intent to democratise electric motoring was eventually realised in this executive car-sized Model 3, launched in 2019. It’s perhaps not surprisingly been a runaway worldwide sales success, offering all the high-tech and drama and range and modernism of the larger cars in a smaller and more affordable package.
Three flavours of Model 3 are available in the UK: Standard Range Plus; the Long Range and the slightly more insane, flagship Performance version. The Standard Range Plus is WLTP-certified for 254 miles of claimed range and the Long Range steps that up to 348 miles. The Performance, meanwhile, has a claimed range of 329 miles. Indeed such is the alacrity with which Tesla works, the Model 3 has already been the beneficiary of a mild 2020 facelift.
All versions of the Model 3 come with plenty of luxuries, including climate control, adaptive cruise control, faux-leather seats (heated in the front), an electric tailgate and keyless entry via an app on your smartphone. Go for the Long Range or Performance version and you’ll get heated seats in the back.
Indeed, apart from metallic paint and different alloy wheel designs, the only option you could have added from new was the Full Self Driving Capability. This is potentially misleading, because it doesn't allow you to sit in the back and read a paper while the car takes you to your destination by itself. However, it does allow the car to make lane changes on its own (just hit the indicator), steer itself into a parking space and even be 'summoned' via a smartphone app at very low speeds; for example, if someone parks too close to you in a car park for you to open the doors and get in, you can simply drive the Model 3 out of the space using your phone. Note, though, that full self-driving capabilities are still illegal on UK roads.
On the road, even the entry-level, rear-wheel-drive Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus managed 0-60mph in 6.1sec. That's much faster than the Kia e-Niro or, indeed, a similarly priced petrol or diesel rival, such as the BMW 3 Series. However, the Long Range and Performance models have four-wheel drive, and not one but two electric motors, so they're even quicker. Indeed, we've timed the Performance, which is our pick of the range, pinging from 0-60mph in just 3.3sec.
As for how far you'll really get between charges, the pre-facelift Standard Range Plus model we tested managed a respectable 181 miles in our Real Range tests. The Long Range and Performance models both have bigger batteries, and the latter (also a pre-facelift model) achieved 239 miles – one of the longest ranges of any electric car we've ever tested, beaten only by rivals that include the Kia e-Niro and Jaguar I-Pace.
Tesla claims the facelifted cars should go quite a bit further on a charge: the Standard Range Plus has an official range of 267 miles; the Long Range 360 miles and the Performance 352 miles.
At low speeds, the entry-level Standard Range Plus and the Long Range jostle you around quite a bit. The range-topping Performance version of the Model 3 has sports suspension and massive 20in wheels as standard. Despite this, it’s a more comfortable alternative to the Polestar 2 and, perhaps surprisingly, the most comfortable Model 3 on motorways.
The Model 3 handles really well in its Performance guise. The Long Range version handles tidily, too, just with a bit more body lean and a little less grip. However, the Standard Range Plus feels altogether less balanced and less confidence-inspiring than the pricier versions of the Model 3 – despite being lighter.
Being a pure electric car, the Model 3 is, unsurprisingly, whisper-quiet at town speeds. However, there’s quite a lot of tyre noise on faster roads when you can also hear the wind whistling around its frameless doors – despite the double-glazed side windows.
To keep the dashboard on the Tesla Model 3 looking as minimalist as possible, everything from the wipers to the headlights is controlled via the central touchscreen. The downside of this is that even adjusting the door mirrors requires you to delve into the touchscreen and then fiddle around with buttons on the steering wheel.
You get essentially the same touchscreen infotainment system that features in Tesla’s larger models, although the Model 3’s screen is slightly smaller (15in) and is in landscape rather than the portrait orientation usual in those cars. The layout of the screen is intuitive, and while some of the smaller icons can be distracting to hit accurately while you’re driving, at least the system is quick and responsive once you’ve made your selection.
Front-seat passengers are unlikely to have any complaints about space, no matter how tall they are. There’s similar leg and head room in the back of the Model 3 to the BMW 3 Series – comfortably enough for a six-footer to sit behind a driver of a similar height, in other words.
The Tesla Model 3 is a saloon, so its boot aperture isn’t huge. However, there’s actually more space for luggage than you’ll find in conventional executive rivals, That’s thanks partly to a huge well under its main boot floor, but also the extra storage under the bonnet ('frunk' is Tesla speak). In total, we managed to squeeze in an impressive total of 10 carry-on suitcases into the Model 3's two boots.
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