Model 3 is the latest addition to the Tesla stable. The name enjoys cult-like status not only in the minds of owners, but in the minds of punters not able to afford one.

Is the Handsome or Homely?

The genius of Tesla is to design a car, then leave it that way for as long as possible. Take the Model S for example, it has hardly changed since it was launched, and is the better for it. The Model 3 body is a hybrid mix of steel and aluminium with a drag coefficient of 0.23. This is the only time when drag isn’f fun.

“Model 3 is a foot and a half shorter than a Model S” according to Tesla. How delightfully American of them.

We drove the pov-model “Standard Range Plus”, and was left wondering what the “Plus” meant, but I digress.

In tesla terms, pov doesn’t mean cheap and nasty, far from it. Tesla claims this entry level car is the first entry level mass market car. I don’t call 70k, entry level, and clearly, they’ve forgotten the world’s top selling EV, the 50k Nissan Leaf. Tisk Tisk.

The look is unmistakably Tesla. It’s a look that shouldn’t offend anyone, and I happen to think it is dead sexy. It is distinctive enough to give it that smug air about it. You know the one?

A low front scowls as it approaches. A swooping side profile, and a hatchback-like rear end, make Model 3 look just different enough to be distinctive without being frightening. Model 3 has a boot like a regular car, but it looks like a hatch because of the nifty (yet polarising)  roof.

THE VIDEOS IN PARTS BELOW, OR ONE GLORIOUS FULL LENGTH REVIEW, YOUR CHOICE

Part 1 Exterior Tour

Part 2 Interior and FARTING

Part 3 Instrument and Controls

Part 4 Drive, Dog Mode, Zero Emissions Charging

Part 5 What’s it like to drive. The FULL DRIVE experience

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I think the design is handsome and timeless. Other disagree, but luckily for me, they’re wrong.

More TESLA REVIEWS:

Model X

Model S

Does the Roof Let too much Heat in?

The roof looks tickety-boo, but is 100% glass. On a 45c Australian summer day, what could go wrong? The day we picked out car up, you could fry an egg on the roof.

The front piece goes from the huge windscreen, to just behind the front seats. The second piece goes from there, and slopes to the bootlid in one graceful arc. The shape is hard to get in automotive glass because it must be free of faults.

Tinting stops about 2/3 of the way along to give the driver a clear view backwards. We found even on a warmish day, the glass got too hot to touch, just like in any other car. And that is the problem. That heat transmits into the cabin, making the climate control work hard. You can feel it on your face, and not in a good way.

On a 28c afternoon, the inside of the roof was too hot to touch and it radiated the heat downwards. In case you’re wondering, there is no internal shade.

Lighting all round is shiny new LED, of course. Subtle chrome trim hides cameras. There are 8 cameras and 13 sensors, as well as radar, all of which are secreted in and around the bodywork. Mr. Demille would be proud. The B pillar has a camera in a little hidey hole about 15cms down from the roof.

Below that is where you place your card key to lock and unlock the car. There is walk-away locking as well as an app-based system, but more about that later.

Our car had 18” Aero wheels, but 19” and 20” are also available depending on the depth of your pockets. You may think the plastic cowls on the wheel look hideous, and they are, but they allegedly increase range by reducing drag. That’ll drive the queens crazy I’ll wager. You remove them if it is something you can’t live with, the cowls, not the queens.

It comes in under 70 grand, but that is still a truckload of enchiladas for a smallish car. The body is festooned with cameras (8) and sensors (13) as well as a radar, and is set up for full self-driving.

  • Length: 184.8”
  • Width: 82.2” (76.1” with mirrors folded)
  • Height: 56.8”
  • Wheelbase: 113.2”
  • Track (wheel center): 62.2” front and rear
  • Ground clearance: 5.5”

Price:

Standard Range Plus – $67,900 – 5.6 seconds

Long Range – $85,900 – 4.6 seconds

Standard Range Plus Model 3 Long Range Model 3 Performance
0-100 km/h 5.6 seconds 4.6 seconds 3.4 seconds
Top Speed (km/h) 225 km/h 233 km/h 261 km/h
NEDC km 460 km 620 km 560 km
Starting Price $67,900 $85,900 $93,900
Wheel Options 18”Aero 18” Aero 20” Performance
Drive Rear-Wheel Drive Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
Vehicle Warranty 4 year / 80,000 km 4 year / 80,000 km 4 year / 80,000 km
Battery / Drive Unit Warranty 8 year / 160,000 km 8 year / 192,000 km 8 year / 160,000 km
Interior Cargo Volume 542 Litres including front trunk, rear boot and underfloor storage
Length 4.69 metres
Wheelbase 2.88 metres
Width 2.08 metres (1.93 metres with mirrors folded)

What’s Model 3 like Inside?

The cabin looks like the love child of a 70’s Swedish porn star, and an 80’s I.T. geek.

There is little reflection on the ghastly American tendency to overdo things. In fact, the cabin is so minimalist, they’ve left out almost all knobs and buttons. Everything requires power to operate, with most controls being on the centre tablet.

Doors open by flick-out handles operated by you thumbs outside, and a single discrete button on the armrest inside. The only other buttons are the hazard flasher and PARK selector. What could possibly go wrong?

What at first looks like leather, is in fact, vegan leather, AKA vinyl. The wood on the dashboard is also plastic.

Seats are comfortable for the short distances we travelled. Seats are heated, which Tesla says is the best way to warm occupants. Support, thanks to decent height and tilt, gives the driver a perfect position. In fact, you can raise the seat so high, you head will just about touch the glass roof.

I mentioned the heat radiating from the roof on a hot day is a real problem. Tesla MUST invest in some kind of interior blind or shade treatment. A 45c day would be utterly hideous. Clearly, Elon didn’t take a Model 3 down to Death Valley or he’d have sorted that out lickety-split.

While front seat space is decent, those sitting on the pauper pews will feel a trifle snug. Not only that, the glass roof is even less kind to them. It is meant to convey space, and it does, but it also like being about 3 feet from a roaring fire.

Why is the dash completely control-free?

Remember, Tesla is designed by smart Alecs who have a hate-on for buttons.

Unlike Model S and Model X, the large centre tablet is in landscape mode rather than sitting upright.

It allows the righthand side to be used as driver readouts. There are no other displays for the driver, who has to look slightly left to see speed etc.

The steering wheel has a gear selector that doubles as a cruise control and Auto Pilot switch. A button on the end is the PARK switch. A button on the indicator stalk gives the wipers a quick blat.

The left lever is for indicators, which make farting sounds if you ever find the Easter Egg menu. The absence of buttons leaves the dash looking like an ultra modern art gallery.

There is no “Start” button. Once you enter the cabin, the car is ready for a command. Many of these commands can also be made remotely from anywhere in the world with mobile phone access. The Model 3 has its own mobile phone access and is constantly in touch with the outside world. It does updates while you sleep.

What at first looks slightly freaky, quickly becomes second nature, including the driver instruments.

What’s on the centre tablet?

This is the first stroke of genius.

The tablet is exactly what you’re used to if you have a smart phone. Menus are clearly laid out with fixed buttons along the bottom, and virtual menus down the left-hand side. Beware dirty fingers or there’ll be schmears everywhere.

All functions can be found, eventually. You can tailor doors, lights, locks and climate controls, just by flicking through a couple of menus.

An air of fun is added by controlling the air conditioning by graphic rather than simple buttons. Your finger wanders over the tablet, and the airflow follows. Air is directed by flow inside the vent rather than the veins on the outside face as in most other cars.

You can deactivate all other vents but the driver’s side if your passengers make you feel a biit narky. I can’t think why you’d want to, especially on a warm day (unless you’re feeling particularly malicious). On a cold day though, it’s a different story. You can waft warm air at your face and feet, while warming your nether regions with toasty seat heating.

Once you customise your settings, you rarely need to touch them.

Navigation will plot a course via Super Chargers too. Currently, you can drive from Sydney to either Brisbane or Melbourne, putting a stop to that “it’s a city car only” nonsense.

How long Does Charging Take?

There are 33 supercharger locations. The phone app and centre tablet show you where the chargers are, and how many are available. It also shows Destination Charger locations too.

Tesla once had free charging, but no more. Price of a full charge is under $30, at a super charger. Destination chargers can be found at shopping centres etc. Most of those are free but are low flow chargers.

ChargeFox is a new player, and is currently rolling out fast charging, but you’d be better off using their bespoke phone app to find them.

Model 3 can use both Tesla branded, and most other charging facilities.

  • Supercharging: Up to 180 miles of range in 15 minutes
  • Home charging: Up to 44 miles of range per hour (48A wall connector)

Charge Types available:

  • 20 foot mobile connector with storage bag
  • 120 volt NEMA 5-15 adapter
  • J1772 public charging adapter

What is Tesla Model 3 Like to Drive?

460km allows the average driver to charge little more than once a week. Our drive took us out of the city, and along the highway.

The first thing you notice is it is ghostly quiet.

At low speeds there is a faint tyre hum which spirits away into the ether once you pack on the speed. Outside noise is kept outside where it belongs. Much of what you normally hear is from engines and gearboxes, and Tesla has neither.

Acceleration is brisk. The sweet spot is the long range model at 4.6 seconds to 100kph. Our base grade Model 3 does the dash in 5.6 seconds which is nothing to be sniffed at.

Cornering is fairly flat but you can feel the weight of batteries below the floor. The motors are also low down. The top 2 models have AWD with dual motors, the base grade is rear wheel drive with a single motor.

Standard Range Plus – $67,900 – 5.6 seconds

Long Range – $85,900 – 4.6 seconds

Performance – $93,900 – 3.4 seconds

What Gadgets does the Model 3 have?

Model 3 is the apex of niftiness.

The car takes care of the passengers without them being aware of it.

Inside, the temperature is kept just so and everything is displayed on the centre screen.

The PHONE APP allows the owner to unlock the car, turn on the climate control, and will even let someone drive the car without the key.

The system finds charging stations and tells you how many chargers are free so you don’t waste time getting there to find them all full.

Smart cruise control keeps a set distance from the car in front, but smart lane control only works with Auto Pilot engaged. The latter can be a frightening experience. It gets spookily close to cars and trucks nearby. Tesla says this is currently a driver aid only. You must always keep hands on the wheel.

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Standard Range Plus – $67,900 – 5.6 seconds

Long Range – $85,900 – 4.6 seconds

Performance – $93,900 – 3.4 seconds