Tesla Model Y Review
If you’ve ever looked at a Tesla Model 3 and thought, "it's a bit too saloony and not quite enough of an SUV for my liking”, then you’re in luck.
With its curved roof, the shape of the Model 3 has often given some people the wrong impression it’s an SUV.
Nevertheless, in an attempt to clear up any confusion, Tesla has jacked it up, stuck a 'Y' on it, and now we have an actual SUV.
Select's rating score* - 4.3 / 5
At a Glance
Indeed, Tesla says that 95 per cent of the Model Y is the same as the Model 3. So while it's easy to criticise the company for being unoriginal, it’s a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The Model 3 is already an excellent car, so this is more a case of Tesla picking up where it left off.
Besides, in terms of physical stature, the Y sits neatly in the range between the Model 3 and the larger Model X. And it's aimed at road users who want a higher driving position than the former without the meatiness of the latter. And that’s a lot of people.
By now, Tesla’s design signature is well-known, so the front looks like any other Tesla in the range. Again, minimalism reigns supreme, with no main grille (and no attempt at a fake one either) and a smooth, rounded all-body-coloured front end.
Towards the bottom, the fog lights, which sprout out of two modest air intakes on either side of the number plate, and a small lower grille, give the car some personality. Meanwhile, the front headlights look like rounded triangles when viewed head-on.
Around the side, creases beneath the windows and at the bottom of the doors add definition to the shape. At the same time, the curved profile of the roofline becomes ever more apparent, swooping towards the rear in a form that's reminiscent of BMW’s 5 Series Gran Turismo.
There’s little doubt that the Model Y looks better from some angles than others – and Tesla’s aesthetics have not always been to everyone’s tastes. But it retains the quirky, simplistic yet credible appearance that has helped catapult Tesla from a plucky, hopeful new start-up to a serious rival to just about anything else on the road.
So far, so very Tesla.
In keeping with the simplicity we alluded to, the variants of the Model Y follow a similar tone. This is Tesla, after all – there’s nothing as ordinary as trims here.
You simply choose between ‘Long-Range’ and ‘Performance’. That’s it.
Regardless of what you select, you'll get all-wheel drive and two electric motors.
Long-Range comes with 384hp, 19-inch alloys as standard, an all-black interior, adjustable rear seats with electronic fold-flat releases and basic Autopilot.
Performance ups the power to 456hp with 21-inch alloys, performance brakes, a carbon fibre spoiler and performance pedals.
The rear seats can fold flat independently, which is great if you need to transport longer objects and passengers simultaneously. And, despite being a small SUV configured to seat five in the UK at the moment, the Y has the distinction of potentially carrying seven people with an optional third row in the future.
Range & Batteries
A 75kWh battery is used in the Model Y.
The Long-Range version can achieve a claimed 315-miles on a single charge, while the Performance version claims slightly less at 298-miles.
The real-life range is likely to be less than this, with the actual achievable range affected by the road conditions, weather and temperature, not to mention driving style.
Performance & Drive
Tesla has a reputation for making lightning-quick vehicles, and the Model Y is the latest car in its line-up that doesn’t disappoint.
The Long-Range variant will get from 0-60mph in 4.8-seconds, which is very impressive. The Performance variant, on the other hand, manages it in a staggering 3.5-seconds.
To be blunt, we’d have been sufficiently impressed if it was the Performance variant that did it in 4.8-seconds, let alone the ‘slower’ of the two.
The Long-Range version can get up to 135mph, while the Performance variant tops out at 150mph.
Getting from 0-60 isn’t a problem, then – and accelerating from speeds of around 30mph up to 70mph is just as impressive.
All-wheel drive is provided thanks to two independent electric motors, which control torque to the front and rear wheels. Tesla says this makes for far better handling, traction, and stability control. The firm isn't wrong.
There’s lots of grip and, despite being taller than the average car, it holds very well in the corners. However, it is on the heavy side, so Tesla has stiffened the suspension compared with the Model 3 to compensate and stop it from rolling about. As a result, it isn't as agile as you might want, but it handles admirably nevertheless.
The downside to the stiffened suspension is that it does make for a very firm ride. Although the Long-Range version we’re driving comes with 19-inch wheels as standard, 20-inch rims are offered as an optional extra, which are fitted to our test car.
Driving along a newly-tarmacked dual-carriageway on our test route wasn't a problem, but travelling along surfaces that had seen better days prevented a relaxing, comfortable journey.
If you want excellent handling, you'd go for a Model 3 (or even a Model S). If you need comfort, go for the Model Y with the smaller wheels. A Model Y with larger wheels doesn't make much sense other than possibly making it look slightly nicer.
When you lift your size-nine off the brake pedal, the Model Y goes into regeneration mode, using its deceleration to put some charge back into the batteries.
The steering is light and fast, but there isn't much feedback or feel through the wheel.
An excellent job has been done with the soundproofing, and the journey is quiet and relaxing (on the smoother roads) while wind and road noise is minimal.
Front visibility is good, but there's very little visibility through the rear window, which looks small in the rear-view mirror due to the swooping roofline.
Overall, bumpiness aside, even the Long-Range version feels performance-oriented and fun to drive.
Tesla also says that it’s more than capable in rain, snow, mud and even off-road. We've not tested it in these conditions, but we have no reason to doubt its claims given the amount of grip.
You can add 150-miles of charge to your Model Y in 15 minutes if you use Tesla’s own Supercharger network.
It’ll get from about 10 to 80 per cent charge in around 25 minutes.
Charging it at home on an 11kW charger will take just over eight hours.
Running Costs & Emissions
Tesla and emissions are not two words that go together.
If you look up a list of vehicle CO2 emissions, you will find there’s a big fat zero (or ‘Not Applicable’) next to all Teslas, of course.
The highest cost is going to be your electricity bill to charge it. And, if you're regularly giving it a full charge on an 11kW charger at home, you'll want to ensure you're on the cheapest energy tariff available.
As for running costs, Teslas are desirable cars, but, as a result, they aren't cheap to maintain. And, despite their perceived premium standards and role as status symbols, Teslas don't have the best reputation for build quality, although they are getting better.
Interior & Technology
Describing the interior of a Tesla is quite tricky because there isn’t one.
Well, there is. It’s just that, as we’ve already seen, simplicity and minimalism are very much key to Tesla’s philosophy, so there isn’t much to explain.
You'll find hardly any buttons inside. Instead, there's a steering wheel and a giant 15.4-inch touchscreen through which just about everything is controlled. The windscreen wipers, the indicators and the gear selector are the only things it doesn’t control.
While previous touchscreens on Teslas have been built into the dashboard, in the Model Y, the screen sits separately as a tablet in front of the dashboard in landscape form rather than portrait.
The system itself is very user-friendly and responsive with no lag. It's far more like messing around with the settings of a tablet than a conventional infotainment system you'd find in most cars. So, if you're good at customising your smartphone, then you'll have no problem getting to grips with the Tesla.
Technophobes shouldn’t despair, though. Everything is clearly labelled and explained, so you really can’t go wrong. Remembering what is where might take a bit more effort, but you don’t need to be a computer whizz to find your way around.
Tesla has never been one for physical controls, though it’s far easier to reach for a switch to adjust the air conditioning, whereas you’ll find you need to take your eyes off the road to locate it on a screen.
While you can connect your phone via Bluetooth, the big downside is there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Tesla may feel its own system is sufficient enough that you don’t need to rely on Apple or Google, but we suspect plenty of drivers will disagree purely out of preference. This may be a deal-breaker for some who’ve come to rely on it in the last few years.
The Model Y gets over-the-air updates to upgrade itself. There’s no key, though – you unlock the car with your smartphone, but you do get a credit card to open it in case your phone battery empties itself.
Practicality & Boot Space
In the front, there’s quite a lot of room in the centre console, which includes two cupholders.
At the back, the boot looks massive. The boot lid opens hatchback style to reveal an impressively sized cargo hold, with an 854-litre capacity. It increases to 1,869-litres with all the seats down (there are 117-litres of storage under the bonnet, too).
There’s a small boot-lip and, underneath the floor, there’s a decent-sized compartment that you can store reasonably large objects in.
The rear seats drop down in 60/40 configuration at the pull of a lever in the boot. You push them back up manually, and they are surprisingly heavy, but it's not especially inconvenient to do so.
There's oodles of legroom in the rear, and the front seats have a distinct curve in the back of them to give you even more room for your knees.
There are two USB-C ports in the back, too.
The seats are comfortable, if a little upright, in the rear - and they’re heated.
Furthermore, despite what looks like a drastically sloping roofline in the back, the amount of headroom on offer is surprisingly impressive.
Euro NCAP hasn't yet tested a Model Y. However; it has assessed other Teslas in the past.
The Model 3, which shares its DNA with the Model Y, was put to the test in 2019 and earned a five-star safety rating.
It scored 96 per cent for adult occupants, 86 per cent for child occupants, 74 per cent for pedestrians and a thoroughly impressive 94 per cent for safety assists.
The larger Model X also scored a five-star rating in 2019, earning 98 per cent for adults, 81 per cent for children, 72 per cent for pedestrians and 94 per cent for safety assists.
It stands to reason the Model Y will perform just as well, especially as Tesla claims that it’s the safest vehicle in its class thanks to its low centre of gravity, rigid body structure and large crumple zones.
It also comes with blind-spot assist, emergency braking and a collision warning system as standard.
The Model Y has several options available.
It comes by default with solid white paint. However, even solid black (non-metallic) will cost you more, as will silver or blue metallic colours. Red will set you back a whole lot further.
If you choose the Long-Range version and want the 20-inch wheels, then they will cost an additional amount, too.
On the inside, the default interior colour is all-black. But, you can choose to have the 'black and white' option. Essentially, the seats are white, and some of the trim décor is slightly brighter.
The Model Y includes basic Autopilot as standard, but if you want 'enhanced autopilot', this costs a fair whack more.
With it, you get Auto Lane Change, which positions your car in the optimal lane to prepare for traffic joining and exiting a motorway. It automatically manages to overtake slower cars, too.
It also includes Navigate On Autopilot, which essentially means the car drives itself on the motorway from the moment you head on to the entry slip road to the moment it’s time to exit. This includes slowing down and stopping in queues if necessary, combining itself with the Auto Lane Change to steer itself along the route.
The system also encompasses Autopark, which will automatically pull into parking spaces for you, even alerting you to an available space by monitoring your surroundings.
Finally, the system includes Smart Summon, which is controlled via the Tesla App on your smartphone. Like an obedient dog, your car will ‘unpark’ itself and drive slowly to wherever you are. This means you can leave it at the far end of the car park, go shopping, then summon it to drive to you at the supermarket exit, so you don't need to carry all your shopping to where you parked.
If that isn't enough, you can opt for the four-figure mega-option of Full Self-Driving Capability. This includes all the above, plus traffic light and stop sign control.
However, Tesla is eager to point out that this is not the same as a completely autonomous vehicle. Instead, drivers are required to maintain the same level of attention that they would if they were in complete control of the car – and must be ready to take back control at any given moment.
There have been some high-profile incidents, mainly in the USA, where drivers have failed to heed this warning.
It's crucial, then, to think of all the above as a comprehensive cruise control system, not a full-beans self-driving car.
Volkswagen’s ID.4 is also a worthy contender, as is the Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid – especially if the Tesla's high cost puts you off.
Jaguar’s I-PACE, meanwhile, has a level of luxury that’s hard to compete with.
Verdict & Next Steps
If you think this is essentially a bigger, taller, more powerful version of the Model 3, you'd be exactly right.
We suspect the demand for this vehicle will be very high, though.
If you're leasing one of these, it's likely because you value comfort and practicality more than performance and handling. So, with the smaller 19-inch wheels, the ride comfort should suffice.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is the only glaring omission. And, while it's bold of Tesla to omit it, we can't help but think that, in a world that's increasingly lived through our phones, it's cocky of Tesla to believe its own system will win.
But, if you can live without it, there are very few reasons not to consider a Model Y.
It’s spacious, practical, stylish, handles very well and goes like hell when you put your foot down.
The sound of silence just got even more enjoyable.
Where to next?
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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Tesla Model Y
**Correct as of 28/10/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £4,865.58 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.