It’s an interesting sign of what’s to come in this section to observe that the Model 3 steers, in some ways, like a mid-engined supercar. You can argue that it probably shouldn’t; that such directional sensitivity makes the car more demanding to drive than Tesla’s self-proclaimed “world’s first truly mass-market electric vehicle” ought to be. And we’ll come to that. But whatever you think about it, with just under two full turns between extremes of steering lock and a usefully tight turning circle as well, the Model 3 really does feel as rampantly agile, up to certain speeds, as something built very expensively in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna.

But the Model 3 doesn’t weigh what a Ferrari, a Pagani or a Lamborghini weighs, and wherever it hides away the majority of that mass, you can feel its influence in almost every move that the car makes. So although the front axle bites into a bend almost the instant you move the wheel off dead centre and the firmly set suspension resists body roll very effectively, it takes an instant or two for the car to settle into a cornering stance and feel stable enough to allow you to begin driving it out.

Stunned at how easy those Superchargers are to use. If you’ve got an account, all you have to do is turn up and plug in. Zero faffing about. Tesla has this part of EV ownership nailed

The numb-feeling steering is too often obtrusively heavy yet it also fails entirely to telegraph the moment that you’re beginning to load lateral forces into the front sidewalls. Both of these aspects are also clear contributory factors to the sense of darting nervousness you’ll feel while you’re getting used to the sheer keenness of the Tesla’s handling.

The good news is you do get used to it, and once you have, you can enjoy the Model 3 in faster-paced driving – on the motorway, on A-roads and on cross-country lanes – in a way not unlike you might any sport saloon. Vertical body control is firm, slightly fidgeting and animated almost everywhere, but there’s decent sophistication to the car’s damping so that ride composure doesn’t deteriorate as much as you expect it might on really testing B-roads.

ASSISTED DRIVING NOTES

The Model 3’s Autopilot and Autosteer functions extend beyond motorway lane keeping and traffic jam assist functionality to drive the car around town and to negotiate junctions autonomously – in theory. However, they’re troubling systems to use.

Autopilot will centre the car within its lane, maintain a chosen speed, regulate distance to the car in front and perform lane changes automatically. The system asks you to keep a hand on the wheel at all times, but oddly it requires no input of physical effort from the driver at all and is prone to deactivation if you do attempt to steer the car slightly.

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It can also overreact to the presence of other cars around you in traffic that it has only just detected, making the car sweep to the far side of its lane or, worse, abandon an automatic lane change halfway through. Handover of control from car back to driver is telegraphed quite poorly as well.

EMERGENCY BRAKING

Is the system more than averagely prone to ‘false positive’ activation? ✗ Can its sensitivity be adjusted? ✓ Can it be deactivated entirely? ✓

LANE KEEPING

Does the system keep the driver engaged when activated? ✗ Can you easily avoid a pothole without deactivating it? ✗ Does it progressively warn, then intervene, to prevent you changing lanes into the path of an overtaking vehicle? ✗ Does it work equally well on singletrack roads as motorways? ✗ Once deactivated, does it stay off even after restart? ✓

INTELLIGENT CRUISE CONTROL

Can the system recognise and automatically adopt speed limits on posts and gantries? ✗ How consistently does it work? na Does it prevent you undertaking? ✗

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

Eerily strong performance is a dynamic trait we now all expect of an EV, but noisy rolling refinement certainly isn’t. And as much as Model 3 owners will likely still be struck by the car’s accelerative power and responsiveness, if they’re anything like us, they’ll also be disappointed by how much road roar the stiffly set suspension conducts into the cabin, and how much high-frequency audible buzz the car’s body structure can generate on a rough surface.

State-of-the-art noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) insulation techniques evidently weren’t budgeted for when Tesla designed and engineered this car. Given that it doesn’t have a clamouring piston engine, and it’s also the firm’s cheapest model, you might understand why; and yet you still might not be minded to overlook the decision entirely when you realise just how much background roar is allowed into the car at cruising speeds.

The Model 3 is short of Tesla’s own NVH standards, as set by the Model X and Model S, and well short of the refinement level that many will hope for in a car at this price – even some, we dare say, who are buying into the car’s performance appeal and might therefore be willing to accept a bit of compromise.

The car’s ride comfort is also below par, albeit less conspicuously so, for suppleness and bump absorption over less than smooth roads. Here, the firm suspension springing makes the body busy and fidgety. However, ultimate body control is retained and handling security isn’t compromised.

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The heavy, inert, high-geared steering we referenced earlier does at least make for reasonable high-speed motorway stability and it is seldom affected by bump steer.

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