While we wait patiently for an official UK drive, here is a gathering of thoughts on the most pre-ordered car of all time – and a potential world-changer – that make up our Tesla Model 3 review round-up.
If there is one car right now we would love to drive, it is the Tesla Model 3. Though it lacks the gullwing doors of a supercar, the elegance of a luxury cruiser and the performance of a hypercar, it offers something considerably more interesting. That is, the ability to change the world.
With electric car sales representing two per cent of all new car sales in the UK, based on figures from the first three months of 2018, it is clear that consumers are starting to embrace a change of habit and ditch combustion fuels partly or altogether.
But the progress is slow and the state of the market is still fragile. Electric cars need to be attractive because even the most range-friendly Tesla is a little more hassle than a petrol or diesel car to run in certain situations, not to mention more expensive on a like for like basis.
That brings me on to the Tesla Model 3. Not only is it around the same price as a BMW 3 Series (think £30,000-ish though this is yet to be confirmed in the UK), it offers a usable 220-mile range (or 310, if you pay extra for the long range option) and most of the trimmings you get on a Tesla Model S saloon and Model X SUV. For those wanting to go electric, it should be a no-brainer.
No wonder, then, more than 400,000 cars have been pre-ordered and now Tesla is facing its biggest challenge yet, manufacturing them fast enough to help Tesla ride out the current financial storm.
With the UK now likely to see the Model 3 in 2019, potentially later if previous setbacks are an indication, we have to wonder whether the wait is going to be worth it? We delved into various reviews of a UK focus to get some indication.
Tesla Model 3 review – Top Gear
Top Gear magazine and website boss man, Charlie Turner, was the first UK journalist to drive the Tesla Model 3. He admits the route was short, but came away thinking: “The overall impression was that it delivers a very similar driving experience to the Model S or X and stays true to previous product dynamics.” Given that the Model S and, to a lesser degree, the Model X drive rather well, this is a good thing.
As for performance, it appears there is plenty of it. Turner continued: “Our short foray highlighted that the Model 3’s quoted 0–60mph time of 5.1 seconds in this Long Range spec might be underplaying its performance a bit: it’s rapid, and the acceleration is delivered with that lovely linearity and unwavering torque that EVs deliver.”
He also hit talked about the fact the Tesla Model 3 and Model S share the same quiet road manners. “The overall feeling of peace and quiet is helped by the minimalist interior but by impressive sound deadening and insulation – the road noise is minimal.”
Tesla Model 3 review – Auto Express
Auto Express’s Jordan Golson was similarly impressed by the Model 3. “This is the Tesla to buy, full of electric vehicle pep and at a more affordable price,” he said in the verdict. “It competes well with other sports saloons around the same price point and looks future-proofed when it comes to self-driving tech.”
But as Golson pointed out, timing could hamper its success in the UK. “The wait for delivery is by far the biggest drawback – and the knowledge that there will be lots of fresh rivals by the time your Model 3 turns up.”
The current competitor list is admittedly thin on the ground, with really only the Hyundai Kona Electric and 2018 Nissan Leaf able to get close to the Model 3’s range, but two years is a long time in the car world – especially during what appears to be a seismic moment of change.
Tesla Model 3 review – Car magazine
Rather than pootle around near Tesla’s Fremont factory in California, Car Magazine went and had a go in a private owner’s Model 3 in America, racking up 500 miles in the process.
Sam Smith, who had the pleasure of two solid days of driving, said it is an easy car to “nitpick”. “If you’re not going to nitpick,” he continued, “this is arguably one of the most impressive machines in history.”
Highlights he mentions include the interior, which he says is “simple and staggeringly clean”, and that the handling is superior to the Model S. “So you lean on it, and then you lean on it more, because it’s fun and pretty talkative and seems to want it.”
Overall, the review was largely positive. Decent interior, decent drive, decent practicality (except the front boot), decent refinement and decent looks – for all of its criticisms, the good stuff outweighs the bad. “It works remarkably well as a car. It works even better as a stylish, usable piece of tech that makes most current EVs feel stuck in the Dark Ages,” he added.
Tesla Model 3 review – GQ magazine
Conrad Quilty-Harper’s review of the Tesla Model 3, made possible by asking to drive an owner’s car, is much more reserved. Perhaps the most reserved we have seen, in fact. “While this might not be optimal for my sporty style of driving, it should be well embraced by the general public,” he said.
Emphasising the lack of sportiness, he continued: “We switched off after a few miles and as I jumped in for my drive, the first thing I noticed was that acceleration was swift, but without much drama.” He added that the steering was “responsive” but “missing some feedback”.
A point that has lead other reviewers to suggest Tesla should add a head-up display in the absence of dials was also made. “Not having a cluster behind the steering wheel was an odd feeling at first, but I did not find myself being too distracted when I occasionally peeked at the speed display on the centre screen.”
Tesla Model 3 review – The Drive
Moving away from UK-centric writers, Alex Roy of the Drive gets a mention because of his thoroughness and because he racked up a 2,860 miles before his review was published.
In the opening, he praised the Model 3 but said its Autopilot user-interface was in dire need of fixing. “For those gambling on the 3’s failure and Tesla’s collapse, don’t count on it. The Model 3 is delightful, odd, and brilliant – but there is one big, crackling bolt of a caveat.”
On the dreaded build quality issues, which are said to stem from early production techniques (too many robots, too few humans as Tesla CEO Elon Musk put it), Roy suggested it had been overblown. “What I do know is that the infamous panel gaps sticklers obsess over are there, but I wouldn’t have noticed them if I wasn’t bombarded by Seeking Alpha articles suggesting these are indicative of deeper production flaws, none of which I found.”
Roy was also a fan of the Model 3’s minimal interior. “Starting with a clean sheet, Tesla has out-Volvo’ed Volvo, delivering the purest interpretation of Scandinavian design in automotive history. I felt liberated from the tyranny of traditional car dashboards full of knobs and buttons.”
But he admitted the over-simplification has its downsides, mainly that some features such as Autopilot are now much harder to use and less intuitive, particularly for anyone coming from a Model S or Model X. “Instead of tapping the left stalk down all the way a couple of times to drop 10 or 20 mph within the system, one has to repeatedly stab at the 3’s screen to achieve the same outcome. The other option is to tap the 3’s right stalk up, or tap the brakes, to disengage Autopilot, then reengage it at the desired speed. A decidedly inelegant solution,” he explained.
“Love him or hate him, we have Elon to thank, because the Model 3 is evidence that our automotive future is brighter than ever,” Roy concluded.
It seems, then, that getting production up to speed and fulfilling orders is more important than ever because largely positive reviews are only going to create more of a thirst for an affordable Tesla.