Such is the fame of the Model 3 that its design already feels familiar, despite it being relatively new to the UK. It’s not exactly the prettiest of designs, but it’s certainly distinctive.
In terms of view from the driver’s seat, there’s nothing else currently on the market quite like a Tesla – and the Model 3 distills its distinctive approach further.
The dashboard is dominated by a massive touchscreen, used for virtually all of the car’s controls, with physical controls and other screens kept to an absolute minimum. It’s a design that Tesla’s many fans likely claim showcases the future, while the firm’s many critics would likely cite as an exercise in form over function. The truth, as is often the case with Tesla, is somewhere in between.
Certainly, even a Tesla fan might grudgingly admit having to plough through touchscreen menus to adjust the steering wheel rake and reach is needlessly complicated. Likewise, Tesla critics might, if pushed, accept that the stripped-back, spacious interior does feel a little bit special and, once you’ve adjusted, works quite well. That said, critics might also find it easy to spot the occasional use of cheaper materials in some areas.
The speed is displayed in the top corner of the screen and, once you override your instincts, is as easily within your eyeline as the traditional behind-the-wheel locations. The few physical controls – two behind-the-wheel stalks and two on-the-wheel controllers – are usefully multi-function and handle the controls you most need when driving.
And, after all, it’s driving where the Model 3 really scores. With its single motor, the Standard Range Plus has a top speed of 140mph and a 0-60mph time of 5.3sec. That compares to 145mph and 4.4sec for the twin-motor Long Range, but it hardly feels lacking in power. The instant torque provides effortless, smooth acceleration. It may not have the Ludicrous modes or absolute top speed of higher-spec Tesla models, but you’re never left wanting for more.
Notably, unlike many electric cars, the Model 3 doesn’t offer the ability to adjust the regenerative braking effect, which actually reduces the ability to better control it and to maximise the range of the 50kWh battery.
The steering offers pleasingly rapid changes of direction, although it can be a little numb and lacking in feedback. Even if you aren’t exploring the full reaches of the Model 3’s torque, it drives well; it’s smooth and refined, conveying a quiet sense of luxury. The ride isn’t as refined as rivals' and there’s more road noise than you’d expect from a car pitched as a premium saloon to rival the BMW 3 Series.