Tesla’s goal has been to ensure the Model 3 is “smaller, simpler and more affordable” than the Model S that preceded it, so the new car doesn’t use air springs or adaptive dampers. Instead, you’ll find a passively damped coil spring at each corner, although the suspension itself is of a double-wishbone design at the front axle and five-link rear – the expensive, favoured set-up of traditional sporting saloons.
Meanwhile, in contrast to the almost entirely aluminium Model S, the Model 3’s body-in-white consists of mainly high-strength steel. Several exterior panels – notably the bonnet, boot, doors and roof – are made of aluminium, though, and this contributes to a reasonably low kerb weight of 1645kg.
‘Reasonably’ low because, as a purely electric car, the Model 3 needs to carry a substantial battery pack. In the case of our entry-level Standard Range Plus test car, Tesla mounts its own 2976-cell pack, with a 50kWh usable capacity, in the skateboard style we’ve seen before – that is, spread over the floorpan but within the car’s unusually long wheelbase. It feeds a rear-mounted transaxle electric motor that drives the wheels through a single-speed gearbox.
Long Range and Performance versions of the Model 3 both use a 75kWh battery, which pushes the car’s WLTP driving range to 348 and 329 miles respectively. Each of those models also gets four-wheel drive courtesy of a second electric motor that sits within the front subframe. Attached via two mounts, it’s designed to pivot backwards into a vacant space during a collision.
As it stands, our car’s 254-mile range makes it competitive against rivals at price points both below and far in excess of its £40,000 asking price although it’s far from the exceptional showing that Tesla’s wares have often seemed in the past.
Aesthetically, the Tesla sidesteps the predictable machismo almost always present in cars of this size and price, but it’s hardly devoid of presence. Its footprint is not only marginally larger than that of the new BMW 3 Series but the high roofline also means you’re unlikely to lose it in a busy car park.
There’s some good old-fashioned aggression provided by the frowning headlights, too, and with a grille-less front bumper, the nose has something of a grimace about it. Note how low the nose is. Without an engine, Tesla has been able to capitalise on packaging and nowhere is this more apparent than the cabin.