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Tesla Model 3 driving impressions – What its like to drive and why you should buy one

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 has now landed in the UK (Image: EXPRESS ONLINE)

Electric cars are the ones I’ve been most excited about since I started writing about cars. Growing up I was never a kid to have the poster of a car on the wall and I couldn’t tell you what transmission a 1987 Toyota Corolla had.  The EV industry is the one that’s pricked my interest and sustained it. A lot of petrol and diesel cars may be great but it is the EV market which holds my attention.

It’s a tech product as much as it is a car and is an area where the most exciting changes are occurring and will continue to do so.

One company, more than any other by a long margin, has been key to that and that is Tesla. Tesla has changed not just the electric car industry but the car industry on a whole. They don’t just make great electric cars they make fantastic cars which happen to be electric.

Driving a Model 3 for me felt like the most complete Tesla experience to date. I’ve tested Model S and Model X a bit in Austria but this felt like the most accomplished car – and it’s also the cheapest. 

Everything good about the Model S and Model X has bled into the Model 3, and it’s not a comprising derivative due to the lower price tag, it’s an awesome car in its own right. 

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 (Image: TESLA)

Here is what you need to know about it and what we thought about the car

Design, how does it look in the metal?

Personally, I like the look of the Model 3. It looks like a Model S and a Porsche Panamera merged together from the outside and it is a clean and modern design. Early Model 3s were criticised for their build quality and panel gaps but this seems to be an issue Tesla has rectified as the exterior was flawless. 

It’s noticeably a little bit smaller and more compact compared to the Model S, being around 10inches shorter, from the outside and looks a bit more sporty and compact. 

Before using those unusual door handles I thought the design was awkward and unnecessarily complex but when using them, they actually work quite well. Getting into the car you just walk up to it with the mobile app and it will sense that you’re near or you can use a hotel style key fob on the B-Pillar.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 (Image: TESLA)

What is that interior really like? 

Inside the car is where the Model S and Model 3 differ the most. The interior cabin on the Model 3 is completely spartan with just a steering wheel and infotainment screen on the dashboard. 

There are soft-touch materials across the cabin and everything feels sturdy and well built. The flush centre console storage bins are really nice to look at but the magnetised system to open and close them takes a bit of getting used to and requires you to be really gentle. 

There is amazing visibility out of the front due to the minimal dashboard and good room overhead from the panoramic glass roof but out the back visibility wasn’t amazing, but not too bad. The A-pillars are a little chunky which means you sometimes have to crane around them to see at a junction.

The touchscreen is the main hub of the car and is light years ahead of its rivals. Nobody is making tech like this in a car. There were some concerns that it would require you to take your eyes off the road to see your speed etc but it is actually fine and not having so much in front of you is a nice thing.

I do, however, wish that the vehicle has a Head-Up Display (HUD) because personally, I believe they are really useful and I don’t really like any distractions on the road. The graphics are clear, bright and responsive and everything is intuitive and easy to understand.

Things like the visual air vent control is great and the fact you can adjust your mirrors and steering wheel from the scroller wheels on the steering wheel is a cool feature. Apps like Spotify are built in and the supercharger network is built in to the navigation meaning that your routes will be planned to incorporate the charging points. 

One criticism of this system could be that it controls too many things such as the fog lights and the glove box but it’s hard to deny what an awesome bit of tech it is. 

Also the stalks behind the steering wheel took a while to get used to. The right stalk allows you to change from park to reverse and to drive and also controls Autopilot. The stalk has a nice damp feeling and it feels like a handy integration allowing you to change from drive to reverse quickly and also trigger Autopilot.

The left hand stalk potentially has too much going on. I accidentally turned the full beams on while trying to get the windscreen wipers to activate – which requires a push of the end of the stalk. Once you get to grips with the lights, windscreen wipers and indicators all being on the one stalk it is fine, but it did take me a minute to figure it out.

The seats are comfortable and there is plenty of room in the front and back for passengers. Due to the flat floor in the back there is good legroom and even with a taller driver and passenger there will be ample room in the rear. The glass roof also allows for a little more headroom which will help with this. One issue is that because the battery pack is fit into the floor of the car your legs don’t get as much support as they would in a petrol car, which could potentially be an issue long distance. 

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 (Image: TESLA)

What’s it like to drive? 

The car grips well in a corner and the steering is precise and accurate and doesn’t feel quite as lumbering as other electric cars. You only begin to feel its weight over some bumps because the suspension is quite firm on the Performance variant.

The car has two levels of regenerative braking – which are low and standard – offering different levels of braking. In the Standard mode, it is a bit more grabby and can almost let you drive the car with just one pedal, which is a feature I personally love on electric cars.

It’s also extremely quiet at low speeds due to the omission of the engine but at higher speeds, you’ll hear more road and wind noise. The vehicle is also seriously speedy, but more on that later.

Ultimately, the car is extremely fun to drive and it’s also really easy to drive. 

A quick note on Autopilot: News headlines are dominated by driver’s falling asleep while using Autopilot, which perhaps could be as a result in how it was initially marked as a piece of self-driving tech or driver confidence in it.

When you first put it on, there is something a little unnerving about the technology. The way it centres up in the lane and accelerates and decelerates to meet your target speed.

After a few minutes though you get used to it and it feels like a sensible way to drive on the motorway. The inbuilt safety system also requires you to keep your hands on the wheel, so you’re less likely to fall asleep using it. 

How quick is it?

The Performance car we tested accelerated from 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds. This is supercar speeds in a family car. It’s a really hard sensation to describe when you put your foot down in a Performance Tesla because of the instant torque. You’re pushed back into your seat and before you can fathom how quick it is you’ve hit 70mph.

It’s very addictive and is the party piece of the car but it is also incredibly useful. It comes in handy at junctions, when overtaking and to avoid any potential dangerous scenario. 

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 (Image: GETTY)

Should I buy it?

Tesla says that this is their mass market ‘affordable’ car and while it is cheaper than its siblings, it’s not exactly ‘cheap’. Its BMW 5 Series money and nobody has ever said that is cheap, but it is good value for money.

You get so much range, power, and features for the money all wrapped up in a vehicle which looks great.

Arguably it’s the best electric car on the road, only perhaps bested by its older siblings.

It’s really hard to find many faults with Model 3 and there isn’t really any significant to get annoyed about. The problem with driving the Model 3, even for a short while, is that you’ll immediately want to own one. This is now the new car to beat, electric, petrol or otherwise.

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