A few niggles
The cabin certainly has a modern vibe, but it doesn’t feel particularly premium. The steering-wheel and seat materials look and feel cheap, but the untreated wood panels lift the ambience. We heard a few rattles in the cabin but couldn’t determine where they were coming from. There were a couple of other quirks in the quality – the rubber seals on the rear door frames look hastily fitted, and the lever on the rear seat fold-back mechanism is flimsy.
Also on the downside, visibility is compromised by massive A and C-pillars, and the high-set rear windscreen impedes rear vision. Luckily cameras and sensors are standard to aid parking and other manoeuvres. The Model 3 also has a surprisingly large turning circle for a smallish car.
There’s plenty of leg room and storage in the second row, but anyone over six foot will scrape their head on the roof liner because of the sloping roofline and full-length sunroof.
Much has been said about the performance of Tesla models, and we can happily report that the Model 3 does not disappoint. There are two dual-motor all-wheel-drive variants that are more powerful and offer better acceleration than the Standard Plus we tested, but the entry-level Model 3’s dynamic abilities are seriously impressive.
Acceleration from a standing start is brisk and effortless – as expected of an EV with instant torque – without reaching the ‘ludicrous’ levels of other Tesla variants. The car-maker says it can dash from zero to 100kmh in 5.6 seconds. You can switch between ‘Chill’ or ‘Standard’ modes. We used the latter which offers more than enough performance.
The Model 3 exhibits real dynamic prowess on twisty roads, which we tested on a lovely stretch of winding road in the Yarra Valley. It has serious levels of grip, holding the road flawlessly when pushed into tight bends. It turns in sharply and there is nothing vague about the steering. There is a confidence with the way the car performs that makes it one of the most enjoyable vehicles we have driven in the past year.
The suspension appears to be tuned for performance over comfort as it can be a little crashy over ruts and bumps, without being jarring.
The Model 3’s regenerative braking system is more subtle than the Hyundai Kona Electric and Nissan Leaf systems, and it has a ‘Creep’ mode that lets the car slowly move forward if you take your foot off the brake. This is standard practice in cars with an internal-combustion engine, but a novelty in an EV. An emergency braking manoeuvre proved just how strong the Tesla’s brakes are.
Although the Model 3 is virtually silent on the road from the outside, some road noise penetrates the cabin.
Tesla’s autopilot advanced driver-assistance system has received a lot of attention in recent years, but in practice it is one of the better self-steering systems we have experienced. To engage autopilot you flick the right steering-wheel stalk down twice, and to turn it off, you can give the steering wheel a shake. The car stayed perfectly centred in the lane the whole time the autopilot was engaged, better than similar systems from some premium European manufacturers.