Tesla Model 3 Review
The Tesla Model 3 is unique.
On paper, it’s a 5-seat, all-electric saloon. In reality, it’s a sublime mix of instant power, science-fiction styling, and super-computer features.
On the outside, its sleek shape slips elegantly through the air. On the inside, you relax in an oasis of calm that can only have been designed by a Buddhist monk.
It’s safe, very fast, and future-proof. What are you waiting for?
Tesla Model 3 Review Sections
- At a Glance
- Key Features
- Performance, Batteries & Range
- Running Costs
- Design & Practicality
- Rival Cars
- Verdict & Next Steps
Select's rating score* - 4.3 / 5
The Tesla Model 3 UK version is a fully electric, 5-seat, 4-door saloon. There are three variants: Standard Range Plus, Long Range, and Performance.
How do you choose between them? The key factors that differentiate them are:
- Range: The entry-level Standard Range Plus already has excellent range on a single charge at 254 miles (WLTP), but the top two specs are market-leading: the Long Range gives you 348 miles and the Performance model a little less at 329 miles.
- Drive-train: The Standard Range Plus comes with rear-wheel-drive, whereas both higher spec versions enjoy all-wheel-drive. The Performance variant has a larger electric motor on the rear axle and delivers astounding acceleration.
- Maximum DC charging rate: All versions can be charged at very fast speeds if you need to charge on a long trip. The Standard Range Plus at up to 170 kW at compatible charging stations, and the Long Range and Performance versions at up to a lightning fast 250 kW with ‘Version 3’ Superchargers that Tesla is just beginning to roll out.
|Model||Standard Range Plus||Long Range||Performance|
|Battery size||50 kWh||75 kWh||75 kWh|
|Official range||254 miles||348 miles||329 miles|
|0-60 mph||5.3 seconds||4.4 seconds||3.2 seconds|
|Top speed||140 mph||145 mph||162 mph|
|AC charging max.||11 kW||11 kW||11 kW|
|DC charging max.||170 kW||250 kW||250 kW|
Most cars are a combination of positives and negatives. Not so with a Tesla Model 3 lease. You’ll be hard pressed to find much you don’t like. Here we list a few of its strengths:
Class-leading Range & Performance: All versions of the Model 3 have excellent range – especially the Long Range and Performance – and acceleration is phenomenal.
Autopilot: The Tesla Model 3 is a high-tech computer on wheels. It’s so advanced, it can steer, accelerate and brake by itself. Just engage the Autopilot function.
Safety: The Model 3 achieved one of the highest NCAP scores ever recorded. A combination of clever structural design and sensors will keep you and your family safe.
Wake up to a new car: Tesla has pioneered over-the-air software updates. Don’t underestimate this. Every few weeks, your car is upgraded with new features – for free.
Supercharger network: Tesla’s world-wide rapid charging network is the icing on the cake. It’s like being a member of an exclusive club. Turn up, plug in, and charge super fast.
Teslas are famous for advanced battery technology. Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, has set up Gigafactories around the world where they make their own ‘high density’ battery cells. The result? Tesla Model 3 range is fantastic, as is performance.
Let’s look at the entry Standard Range Plus Model 3 first. It has a 50 kWh battery, giving it an official range of 254 miles. The power from the single electric motor is delivered to the rear axle, providing 349 bhp (260 kW). This translates into a top speed of 140 mph and a punchy 5.3 seconds from 0-60 mph.
The Long Range version introduces four-wheel-drive, with an electric motor on each axle (443 bhp = 330 kW). It has a larger 75 kWh battery and will go a remarkable 348 miles on a single charge of the battery in ideal conditions. Having two electric motors gives it a performance boost: 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 145 mph.
The Performance Model 3 Tesla is just something else. It really is an amazing feat of engineering. It’s also four-wheel-drive and has a 75 kWh battery capacity, but has a larger electric motor on the rear axle. The power rating is 577 bhp (430 kW). What does that give you? A top of speed of 162 mph, but, more to the point: 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds. For reference, the Ferrari 488 Spider is 3.0 seconds. Say no more.
What does all this mean for the driving experience? All three versions of the Tesla Model 3 feel very fast. Electric motors have no gears and deliver instant torque at all speeds – there’s no delay as you put your foot down. That quick acceleration on tap gives you a strong sense of security when over-taking.
The ride is very comfortable, especially on the 18-inch aero wheels found on the Standard Range Plus and Long Range variants. The Performance model – with its 20-inch alloys and lowered suspension – feels the bumps a little more, but goes round corners beautifully.
All three versions grip the road amazingly well. It’s not just the Michelin tyres, but also Tesla’s advanced traction control technology. The car’s computers are constantly monitoring the wheels and making adjustments in as little as 10 milliseconds to avoid wheel spin and keep you safely on the road, even in very wet conditions.
Range alert: In the real world, your electric car won’t always go the exact number of miles stated in the official 'WLTP' figures. For an analysis of how range can vary in different situations, please refer to our Range Guide.
When you need to charge the Model 3, you benefit from some of the best charging technology available. Compare below charging at home, work, and in public.
The Model 3 comes with a 'CCS Combo Type 2' charging port. This means you use a standard Type 2 plug for home/work AC charging, and a larger combined CCS/Type 2 plug at rapid DC chargers.
Read our Charging Guide for a complete overview of how electric vehicle charging works.
- Maximum charging rate: 7.4 kW
- Electricity supply type: AC
The Tesla Model 3 enjoys excellent range, so, depending on your driving habits, you will probably only need to charge up a couple of times a week. Every hour of charging adds roughly 30 miles of range.
In the unlikely event of having to charge your battery from 0% to 100%, it would take 6 hours 45 minutes in the Standard Range Plus version, and 10 hours 8 minutes in the Long Range and Performance models.
- Maximum charging rate: 11 kW
- Electricity supply type: AC
If you have a 3-phase electricity supply at work, and the right type of charging point installed, the Model 3 can be charged at 11 kW. This means you can add about 45 miles’ range in an hour.
Public rapid charging
- Maximum charging rate: 170 to 250 kW
- Electricity supply type: DC
For longer trips, Tesla owners – whether Model S, Model X or Model 3 – are blessed with the exclusive Supercharger network, allowing ultra-fast charging up to 170 kW for the Standard Range Plus, and 250 kW for Long Range and Performance.
There are two versions of the Supercharger, each with its own maximum charging rate, although only Version 2 is currently available in the UK.
Here are charging times for both the Long Range and Performance variants:
|Supercharger||Battery state of charge||Time to charge|
|Version 2: 150 kW||from 20% to 80%||18 minutes|
|Version 3: 250 kW||from 20% to 80%||11 minutes|
In reality, charging times will be a little longer, as electric car batteries cannot sustain peak charging rates for very long. The rate gradually decreases in order to protect the battery cells. The theoretical 20% to 80% charging time for the smaller battery Standard Range Plus is 12 minutes on the 150 kW charger, though again it will take longer in the real world.
One of the great attractions of a purely electric car is a vastly lower annual 'fuel' bill.
Most EV drivers do the majority of their charging at home. Your exact fuel savings in a Tesla Model 3 therefore depend on what your electricity tariff is while you are plugged in and charging. There are two main types of electricity tariff:
- Flat rate tariff: the same rate applies for the whole 24 hours, and
- Dual rate tariff: one rate during the day; and another low, off-peak rate at night.
With a cheap night rate, you can achieve spectacular fuel savings. If you currently spend £1,000 a year on petrol / diesel, you could be spending £100 on electricity in a Tesla 3 with home charging. Our Electricity Tariff guide has further details.
Although the headline Tesla Model 3 price can seem quite high, the very low running costs – combined with a low monthly lease payment – make it far more accessible.
The Tesla Model 3 is a Battery Electric Vehicle or 'BEV'. As such, it's powered just by a battery – no petrol or diesel engine in sight.
When you drive the car, there are no harmful emissions. No CO2, no dirty particulates, nothing.
However, to be completely environmentally friendly in a BEV, you need to charge it with electricity that comes from a renewable generation source like wind turbines or solar panels.
Fortunately there are now several energy providers that can supply 100% renewable energy to charge your car with.
The Tesla Model 3 has a distinctive presence on the road and you’ll need to get used to people turning their heads to get a closer look.
On the outside
The Model 3 UK has been designed from the ground up to be extremely aerodynamic. Every bit of drag taken away = more miles on a single charge of the battery. You especially notice the sleek design at the front over the bonnet, and at the back as the all-glass roof glides away gracefully towards the rear.
As you would expect, the lights – front and back – are highly efficient LEDs to preserve precious battery charge.
If you choose the Standard Range Plus or Long Range versions, the 18-inch wheels come with an ‘aero’ cover. This aids air flow over the wheels leading to greater range.
The Performance model looks slightly different: it has slick 20-inch wheels, higher spec, red brake callipers, and a carbon fibre spoiler. Together with lowered suspension, it creates a mean “I’m gonna leave you in the dust at the lights” look.
Tesla Model 3 Interior
In the front seats, Tesla has achieved an automotive first, just as Apple did when it brought out the iPhone. Tesla has completely rethought how a car should be laid out. Gone are all the buttons, knobs, vents, dials, etc., you are used to. The only items you are presented with in a Model 3 are the steering wheel and a 15-inch touchscreen. That’s it.
Pretty much all of the car’s functions are controlled by the touchscreen, plus the stalks and two mini ‘joysticks’ on the steering wheel itself. For the first few days it’s bewildering as you try to remember where everything is. After a week, it becomes second nature. After a month, if you get into a conventional car, you are overwhelmed by all the unnecessary, distracting clutter.
The next striking feature is the all-glass, panoramic sunroof that forms the entire roof of the car. It’s bold, glorious engineering, bringing light and a feeling of openness to the whole cabin.
In both the front and the back there are: cup holders, side storage, USB slots, and air vents. In the front, you also have a deep central storage bin and space for two mobile phones.
Tesla is head and shoulders above all the other car manufacturers when it comes to software. It offers advanced, in-house designed hardware and software working together seamlessly. Every few weeks, the Model 3 receives over-the-air software updates and – hey presto – your car suddenly has new and improved features.
These features are controlled from the central touchscreen and include:
- Satellite navigation and maps
- Autopilot self-driving
- Media and audio including Spotify and Netflix
- Smartphone integration for calendar, contacts, calling, etc.
- Voice commands
- Driving modes: Sport and Chill
- Safety aspects, such as collision avoidance assist, traffic-aware cruise control, autosteer, and so on
- Cameras: the Model 3 has a multitude of external cameras and radars which are constantly monitoring and recording to keep you and the car safe while driving
Other functions can be controlled by a Tesla app on your smartphone. For example, the app allows:
- Keyless entry
- Pre-warm the car on cold, winter mornings
- Manage charging times
- Enable ‘sentry mode’ to watch over your car when parked
- Open the rear and front boots
The Tesla Model 3 is a spacious saloon car. In the front, there is plenty of leg- and head-room.
In the back, there is space for three adults, though the middle seat would be a bit cramped. Either two adults, or three kids would be fine. Leg room is very generous. Head room is good, though just be careful as you get in if you are tall, as the doorway arch is quite low.
The boot is very big: 542 litres. You can also fold down the rear seats (60:40 split) to create a large cargo space. However, the Model 3 is not a hatchback, so you are restricted if you need to transport very bulky items.
There is even a front boot, also known as a ‘frunk’. Handy for smaller items like a carry-on bag or shopping.
The Model 3 Tesla has a Euro NCAP rating of 5 stars. It scored 96% for adult occupancy safety and 94% for safety assist.
It’s so safe that it was awarded ‘best in class’ status in the Large Family Car category by the Euro NCAP assessors.
This high safety achievement is partly due to the structural integrity of the car, but also down to advanced monitoring via cameras and sensors. The Tesla 3 is constantly on the look out for anything that might put you in danger, and ready to take evasive action automatically if required.
Tesla takes a very simple approach when it comes to trim levels:
- For the base Standard Range Plus model, there is only one trim available: Partial Premium. That gives you 12-way power adjustable heated front seats, premium seat material and trim, online connectivity for 30 days, a centre console with storage, 4 x USB ports and docking for 2 smartphones, a tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection, power folding heated side mirrors, music and media over Bluetooth, and custom driver profiles.
- If you go for the Long Range or Performance variants, you get a Premium interior. This upgrades you to: 12-way power adjustable front and rear heated seats, premium audio (14 speakers, 1 subwoofer, 2 amps, and immersive sound), online connectivity for 12 months, LED fog lamps, and interior floor mats.
Regarding exterior colours, there are five to choose from: Pearl White Multi-Coat, Solid Black, Midnight Silver Metallic, Deep Blue Metallic, and Red Multi-Coat.
The Standard Range Plus and Long Range versions come with 18-inch Aero wheels, with an upgrade to 19-inch Sport wheels available. The top of the range Performance model has 20-inch Gray Performance wheels.
Both the Standard Range Plus and Long Range variants can also be configured with a high-strength steel tow bar with a removable adapter, capable of towing up to 1,000 kg.
On the inside, the base Standard Range Plus has an 'All Black' interior (no upgrade option). With Long Range and Performance, on the other hand, you can also choose 'Black and White' if you wish, for an extra fee.
In the fully electric world, the Model 3 has been in a class of its own since it was first launched.
There were cheaper EVs out there, but none with the Tesla Model 3's performance, battery range, advanced tech, and market-leading supercharger network.
Now, finally, there is a real competitor in the shape of the Polestar 2. It has great looks, is a hatchback, has a more luxurious interior than the Model 3, and on paper should rival the Tesla 3 in many areas. Whether it can compete with Tesla in terms of battery efficiency, only time will tell.
In the non-electric sphere, the Model 3 competes directly with the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4, and the Mercedes C-Class. These are all excellent, mature cars from first-class manufacturers. Is the Model 3 better? We recommend you take the Model 3 out for a test drive to compare. Get ready for a big surprise, especially if you have never driven an electric vehicle before.
It’s genuinely hard to find much wrong with the Tesla Model 3.
Some people won't like the fact it's a saloon, rather than a hatchback. Having nearly all the controls accessed via the touchscreen won't be to everyone's liking either.
However, a Tesla Model 3 lease is already a very attractive option for various segments of the UK car market:
If you are a family of 3, 4 or 5, the Model 3 is ideal:
- Space inside for up to 5 people
- One of the highest NCAP safety scores ever achieved
- Fantastic in-car entertainment including Netflix and advanced audio
- USB slots, front and back
- Large rear boot (plus front boot) for transporting all your stuff
- A wonderfully peaceful, silent ride
- Instant acceleration – better for safe over-taking and pulling onto motorways
- Decimate your annual running costs by charging overnight on a cheap, off-peak rate
The Model 3 is already proving to be a very popular business lease for fleets and company cars:
- 0% Benefit in Kind (BiK) for the 2020/21 tax year
- With a company salary sacrifice scheme, save up to a staggering 40% off your monthly electric car lease payment
- Ideal for staff members who use the car a lot during the day – recharge quickly at Supercharger stations and be on your way again
If you are wondering which model to lease, we would advise:
- If you want the Tesla experience, but are not made of money, choose the Standard Range Plus.
- If you want incredible range on a single charge throughout the year, you should pick the Model 3 Long Range.
- If you’re a thrill-seeker and like having your adrenal glands work overtime, it’s the Model 3 Performance.
Where to next?
- Model 3 car leasing available from just £407.99** per month.
- Looking for a great car lease deal? Check out our incredible range of Special Offers.
- Want to know more about leasing? Take a look at our comprehensive Leasing Guides.
- Interested in everything electric? Why not catch up on all the latest Electric News.
* Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top six leading independent car website reviews of the Tesla Model 3.
** Correct as of 22/10/2020. Standard Range Plus, based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,671.89. Ts & Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.