Tesla Model 3 review

Category: Electric car

The Model 3 is well-equipped, good to drive and has a competitive range

Tesla Model 3 front cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 front cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 rear cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 interior dashboard
  • Tesla Model 3 boot open
  • Tesla Model 3 interior infotainment
  • Tesla Model 3 right driving
  • Tesla Model 3 front cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 left driving
  • Tesla Model 3 rear right driving
  • Tesla Model 3 rear cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 headlights detail
  • Tesla Model 3 alloy wheel detail
  • Tesla Model 3 rear badge detail
  • Tesla Model 3 rear lights detail
  • Tesla Model 3 interior front seats
  • Tesla Model 3 interior back seats
  • Tesla Model 3 interior steering wheel detail
  • Tesla Model 3 rear screen detail
  • Tesla Model 3 front cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 rear cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 interior dashboard
  • Tesla Model 3 boot open
  • Tesla Model 3 interior infotainment
  • Tesla Model 3 right driving
  • Tesla Model 3 front cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 left driving
  • Tesla Model 3 rear right driving
  • Tesla Model 3 rear cornering
  • Tesla Model 3 headlights detail
  • Tesla Model 3 alloy wheel detail
  • Tesla Model 3 rear badge detail
  • Tesla Model 3 rear lights detail
  • Tesla Model 3 interior front seats
  • Tesla Model 3 interior back seats
  • Tesla Model 3 interior steering wheel detail
  • Tesla Model 3 rear screen detail
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by
Dan Jones
Published15 February 2024

Introduction

What Car? says...

What with owner Elon Musk’s space ambitions and X/Twitter purchase, there’s so much noise around Tesla that you could almost forget that the company makes cars. Well, it does – and its best-known model is the Tesla Model 3.

The Model 3 is a fully electric car, and is also the US brand’s smallest and cheapest model. It sits below the Tesla Model S luxury saloon, and the Tesla Model X and Model Y SUVs in the car maker's (all-electric) line-up.

It's roughly the same size as a BMW 3 Series and there are two versions to choose from: an entry-level, rear-wheel drive, and a Long Range version designed to (yep, you guessed it) maximise the range between charges.

In the ever-expanding world of electric cars, the Model 3's closest rivals are the BMW i4, BYD Seal and Polestar 2. You might also find yourself considering the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and VW ID 7, or possibly higher-riding options, such as the Genesis GV60 and Kia EV6.

So, is the Tesla Model 3 better than those rival electric cars? Read on to find out...

Overview

The Tesla Model 3 is good to drive, packed full of tech, fast and even reasonably practical. It’s also competitively priced and well equipped, and when you factor in its long range and Tesla's world-beating charging infrastructure, it's a brilliant choice. We reckon the RWD version is the best buy.

  • Fast and reliable charging via Tesla's Supercharger network
  • Long range between charges
  • Surprisingly practical
  • Fiddly interior controls
  • Handling not as entertaining as the best petrol-powered rivals
  • Windscreen pillars hamper visibility
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

Even the entry-level Tesla Model 3 – called the Rear-wheel Drive (RWD) – can officially sprint from 0-60mph in a rapid 5.8 seconds. That's much quicker than the equivalent Hyundai Ioniq 6 and on par with an entry-level BMW i4 or BYD Seal.

The four-wheel-drive Long Range version benefits from two electric motors rather than one, so it's even quicker. It’ll officially accelerate from 0-60mph in just 4.2 seconds, making it just as quick as a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and slightly faster than the Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor. A VW ID 7 would be left way behind.

On standard 18in wheels, the RWD has an official range of 318 miles, rising to 390 miles for the Long Range. It's worth taking these figures with a pinch of salt, though – in our 2024 winter real range test, a Long Range running on standard 18in aero alloys covered 293 miles before running out of charge. Expect a real-world range of around 340 miles in the summer months.

Suspension and ride comfort

The ride is firmer than in an adaptive suspension-equipped ID 7, but the upside is that the Model 3 has impressive body control on undulating country roads and it never thumps or crashes over urban imperfections.

If you want the best ride possible we would suggest sticking with the 18in wheels rather than stepping up to the optional 19s because having a thicker, spongier sidewall helps to take the sting out of sharp-edged abrasions.

Tesla MODEL 3 image
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Tesla Model 3 rear cornering

Handling

Compared with its rivals, the Model 3 is relatively light, and that allows it to stay remarkably upright through turns while also generating plenty of grip.

It feels even more keen to change direction than the ID 7 and the Seal, plus its steering is super-accurate – although some drivers might prefer it to have a bit more heft when turning in to a corner.

The Model 3 is not the most expressive car in the bends, with a neutral handling balance that inspires confidence but doesn't thrill. If you want something a little more playful, you might prefer the Seal.

Noise and vibration

The Model 3 is, like many electric cars, whisper-quiet at town speeds, but as speeds increase you do start to hear some wind noise from around the double-glazed but pillarless side windows.

You don’t, however, get much road or suspension noise, which makes the Model 3 a relaxing long-distance companion. Indeed, when we got our decibel meter out it showed that at motorway speeds there's nothing in it between the i4, the Seal and the Model 3. Only the pricier ID 7 is noticeably quieter.

The brakes deserve a special mention for being far less grabby than those in many electric cars. They make it easy to slow down smoothly without your passengers thinking you’ve only just passed your driving test.

“Sharp steering in the Tesla Model 3 gave me a good sense of connection to the front wheels, and its body movements are well controlled. Even more impressive, the ride is never uncomfortable.” – Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor

Driving overview

Strengths Rapid acceleration; agile handling; great range between charges; true one-pedal driving

Weaknesses BYD Seal is more fun in the bends

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

To keep the Tesla Model 3's dashboard looking as minimalist as a Scandinavian studio apartment, everything from the door mirrors to the height and reach of the steering wheel must be adjusted using a combination of the big central touchscreen and scroll buttons on the steering wheel. It’s a frustrating process and not advisable while driving.

We also don’t like that the Model 3 doesn’t have stalks on its steering column. Instead, there are haptic buttons on the steering to control the indicators, windscreen wipers and cruise control. You do eventually get used to it, but it seems like a solution to a problem that didn't exist.

Aside from the questionable ergonomics, the Model 3's driving position is good. You sit relatively high up by executive saloon standards (although still lower than in the Polestar 2), and the seat, steering wheel and pedals line up neatly.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The front windscreen pillars are exceedingly thick and angled in such a way that they can badly hamper your view out at junctions. How badly will depend on your height and your general driving position, but it's fair to say that the BYD Seal and the Polestar 2 are no better in this regard.

More positively, the view out of the back is pretty good and all versions come with front and rear parking sensors, along with a surround-view camera.

LED headlights are standard and illuminate very well, although you can't have the matrix headlights available on some executive cars, including the BMW i4 and VW ID 7, which shape their beams to avoid dazzling other drivers.

Tesla Model 3 interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

The Model 3 gets a big, bright 15.4in central infotainment touchscreen that is pretty intuitive to use and quick to respond once you’ve made your selection.

There are loads of useful features (navigation, web browsing and so on), apps (such as Netflix and Spotify) and some purely fun applications (driving games controlled using the steering wheel and the ability to make whoopee cushion noises to amuse your passengers).

You also get two easily accessible wireless phone-charging mats below the infotainment screen and a couple of high-powered USB-C ports for rapid device charging. Overall, it's a better system than you'll find in the Seal and Polestar 2, if not quite as easy to use as the iDrive system in the i4. 

It's a bit disappointing that no Model 3 has Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. You get a free data connection (for watching films, browsing the internet etc) for 30 days, but after that you have to sign up to a subscription or use your phone's data allowance.

Quality

The Model 3's build quality is definitely the best we’ve seen from Tesla and it's more than a match for the Seal, and roughly on a par with the pricier ID 7.

There are soft-touch materials everywhere you touch, and while the faux leather on the seats and steering wheel doesn’t feel quite as premium as the leather you can have in an i4, everything else feels tactile and pleasant.

“While the Tesla Model 3's steering wheel controls – which you use for the likes of the indicators and windscreen wipers – look slick, I found that they weren't very intuitive to use, especially when I was turning a corner at the same time.” – Lawrence Cheung, New Cars Editor

Interior overview

Strengths Minimalist interior feels upmarket; infotainment system is quick and packed with features; plenty of parking aids come as standard

Weaknesses Windscreen pillars hamper visibility at junctions; lack of stalks can be fiddly; speedo is on the central touchscreen

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

No one sitting in the front of a Tesla Model 3 is going to complain about space – no matter how tall they are. There’s also loads of room for odds and ends, with a couple of lidded cubbies between the front seats, as well as front door bins that can each take a big bottle of water.

The front seat area feels remarkably light and airy, with a combination of tall side windows and a standard panoramic glass roof.

Rear space

Not only does the Model 3 have plenty of rear head and legroom, but thanks to tall side windows and a broad glass roof it also feels pleasingly airy – something you can't say about the i4. Middle rear passengers also have plenty of space for their knees and feet, with no central hump in the floor to straddle.

However, if you want a car with limo-like space in the rear, we'd point you in the direction of the VW ID 7. In that car, six-footers are able to stretch out behind a driver of a similar height, something that isn't possible in the Model 3. The ID 7's rear bench also has the best under-thigh support of any car in the class, making it comfortable on long journeys.

Tesla Model 3 boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

The Model 3’s rear seatback splits in a 60/40 arrangement and can be folded down when you need to carry long loads. 

Some electric rivals, including the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and the Polestar 2, have 60/40 split-folding rear seats too, but the BMW i4 and the iD 7 offer a more flexible 40/20/40 split as standard.

There are no clever features, such as sliding or reclining rear seats in the Model 3, but then there aren't in any traditional executive car rivals either.

Boot space

The Model 3 is a saloon, so its boot aperture isn’t huge. However, there’s more space for luggage than you’ll find in conventional executive rivals (the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series for example) as well as many electric alternatives, including the i4, BYD Seal, Ioniq 6, Polestar 2 and VW ID 7.

That’s thanks partly to a huge well under the main boot floor, but also the extra storage in the "frunk" under the bonnet. In total, we managed to squeeze in an impressive total of nine carry-on suitcases into the Model 3's two boots. A buggy or a couple of sets of golf clubs shouldn't prove a problem.

All versions have an electric tailgate that can be opened and closed using the touchscreen, from the Tesla app on your phone or by pressing a button on the boot lid itself.

“The Model 3 is spacious in the rear, but I found that its knees-up seating position took some getting used to. At least the boot is big – there's a separate under-floor storage area for your cables, and the frunk can take a couple of soft bags.” – Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Practicality overview

Strengths Big boot with lots of underfloor storage; good read head and leg room; plenty of storage in the front

Weaknesses Saloon boot hinders practicality; and ID 7 is even roomier in the back

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Model 3 is the least expensive car Tesla makes, and our favourite entry-level RWD version undercuts pretty much every rival, including the BMW i4, BYD Seal, Hyundai Ioniq 6, Polestar 2 and VW ID 7.

Like all pure electric cars, the Model 3 makes a huge amount of sense for company car drivers because of the enormous benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax savings on offer. Plus, if you can charge your car at home, you’ll spend less on electricity than you would on petrol or diesel.

Buying a Model 3 gives you access to Tesla’s Supercharger network and impressive maximum charging speeds (up to 170kW for the RWD and 250kW for the Long Range), allowing you to charge the battery (from 10-80%) in less than 30 minutes. You have to pay each time, but the price is reasonable, and the network is more extensive and reliable than any other. That's a big reason to buy the Model 3 over, for example, the Polestar 2.

Of course, you can still charge up at any CCS public charging point if you need to, but it will take longer. A full 0-100% charge at home using a 7kW charger takes around 12 hours in a Model 3 Long Range, and roughly nine hours in the entry-level RWD model.

Equipment, options and extras

All versions of the Model 3 come with plenty of luxuries, including climate control, adaptive cruise control, faux-leather seats (heated and ventilated in the front and heated in the rear), a heated steering wheel and keyless entry using an app on your smartphone.

Other than an upgraded stereo system with 17 speakers instead of the standard 14, there’s no equipment difference between the Long Range and the entry-level RWD. That's one of the reasons why the RWD is our recommended version.

It’s a good thing the Model 3 is so well equipped as standard, because there isn’t much on the options list. Indeed, apart from metallic paint, different alloy wheel designs and white (instead of black) seats, the only options are Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self Driving Capability.

Those last two features allow the Model 3 to make lane changes on its own (just hit the indicator), steer itself into a parking space and even be "summoned" with a smartphone app at very low speeds. So, if someone parks too close in a car park for you to open the doors, you can drive it out of the space using your phone.

Tesla Model 3 interior infotainment

Reliability

The Model 3 comes with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty. The battery and drive unit are covered separately for eight years and 100,000 miles on the entry-level (RWD) model, or eight years and 120,000 miles on the Long Range version. That covers the electrical bits against faults and guarantees a minimum 70% retention of battery capacity.

Tesla finished in a respectable tenth place out of 32 car makers in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. Meanwhile, the pre-facelift Model 3 did quite well too, coming eighth out of 20 models in the electric car category.

Safety and security

The Model 3 is one of the safest cars ever tested by Euro NCAP – it scored exceptionally well for its ability to protect occupants in an accident and help you avoid a crash in the first place. The suite of standard safety aids includes blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking (AEB).

As for security, as well as the usual kit, there’s something called Sentry mode. When enabled, it uses the car’s external cameras to start recording when the car is approached after it’s locked, saving the footage to a USB drive. If anyone tries to break in or if someone drives into your Model 3 when it's parked up, the cameras will record it.

“When we pitched the Tesla Model 3 against its Volkswagen ID 7 rival, we found that the Model 3 would be costlier to own over three years – though only by a small margin. The ID 7 is expected to be worth more after three years of ownership, too, but again, not by a large amount.” – Claire Evans, Consumer Editor

Buying & owning overview

Strengths Attractively priced; access to Tesla Supercharger network; all versions are well equipped; excellent Euro NCAP safety score

Weaknesses Huge price jump from RWD to the Long Range model

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FAQs

  • Tesla cut its prices in early 2023, and the Model 3 now undercuts rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and Polestar 2. You can find out the latest prices using our New Car Deals pages.

  • The Model 3's battery is covered for eight years and 100,000 miles on the entry-level RWD model, or eight years and 120,000 miles on Long Range and Performance versions. During the term, Tesla guarantees a minimum 70% retention of the original battery capacity.

  • The Model 3 is usually more expensive to insure than rival electric cars because Thatcham has given the car a relatively high insurance group rating.

  • Tesla came a respectable tenth (out of 32 brands) in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. The pre-facelifted Model 3 (2019-2023) did quite well too, coming eighth out of 20 models in the electric car category.

At a glance
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Target Price from £39,990
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From £53,500
RRP price range £39,990 - £59,990
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)electric
Available doors options 4
Warranty 4 years / 50000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £80 / £120
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £160 / £240
Available colours