The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
To keep the dashboard on the Tesla Model 3 looking as minimalist as a Scandinavian studio apartment, 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; it's a real faff and not advisable while you’re driving.
The same screen also hosts the speedo but, thankfully, the MPH readout is positioned on the right-hand edge of the screen, so you only have to turn your head a little to read it. Still, we prefer the Polestar 2's more conventional layout, with buttons to operate the mirrors, and digital instruments sitting where you expect them – in front of the driver behind the steering wheel.
Aside from those questionable ergonomics, though, the Model 3's driving position is otherwise good. You sit perched relatively high up by conventional executive saloon standards (although still much lower than you do in the Polestar 2) and the seat, steering wheel and pedals all line up neatly. The seat could do with a bit more lower back support, though, even with the adjustable lumbar support in its most extreme setting. Side support is also lacking, especially considering the astonishing cornering forces the Model 3 (especially the Performance model) can generate.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The front windscreen pillars are exceedingly thick and are angled in such a way that they can badly hamper your view out at junctions. Just how badly will depend on how tall you are and your driving position, and it's fair to say that the Polestar 2 is no better.
More positively, the view out of the back is pretty good and all versions come with parking sensors on both the front and the rear of the car, along with a reversing camera. There's no birds-eye-view camera, though.
LED headlights are standard and illuminate very well, although they don't have the adaptive lighting that you can have with an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series, which allow you to leave the main beams on without dazzling other drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
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 portrait orientation. 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.
There are also loads of useful features (navigation and web browsing, for example), welcome additions (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 located below the infotainment screen along with a couple of high-powered USB-C ports for rapid device charging. Overall, it's a better infotainment system than the one you get in a Polestar 2.
There’s no Apple Carplay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring, though, and it’s worth noting that while the Long Range and Performance variants have a free data connection (for listening to music, watching films and browsing the internet) that lasts for 12 months, this is cut to just 30 days in the Standard Range Plus. Go for a Long Range or a Performance and you'll also get a more powerful sound system.
Build quality is definitely the best we’ve seen yet from the US brand, but it won't worry the likes of Audi or BMW, and it's one area where the Polestar 2 has the Model 3 licked.
Close the doors and you don’t get that soft ‘thud’ that you’d normally associate with the best German rivals, while the faux-leather on the seats and steering wheel lacks a truly premium feel.
That said, interior quality was improved quite significantly as part of the car’s mid-life facelift. For example, the gloss black finish on the lower central part of the dashboard (which marked too easily) has been replaced with a much harder wearing matt plastic, while the centre console has been redesigned to incorporate a sliding lid, which operates in a pleasingly slick fashion.
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