If you want a car that all the cool kids are driving but can't justify spending over $100,000, the Tesla Model 3 isn't a bad answer. This is Tesla's entry-level offering of a luxury electric midsize sedan. It offers various options, with between 263 and 353 miles of range depending on the model of choice, while performance also varies. The base entrant is rear-wheel-drive and provides 266 horsepower while the other end of the spectrum sees the Performance variant promising 430 hp along with a low-three-second 0-60 mph time and the potential to hit 162 mph. Far cooler than a Chevrolet Bolt EV, but not quite as fancy as a similarly priced BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 - is the Model S's more compact sibling worth considering? Our Tesla Model 3 review will help you make that decision.
Tesla does pretty much everything its own way and that includes updating its cars, whereby upgrades happen suddenly and throughout the year rather than from one model year to the next. What we know for now is that the new Tesla Model 3 has seen an extended driving range. On the base Standard Range Plus, it can now go 263 miles on a single charge, up from 250 miles. The Long Range can go 353 miles and the Performance can now manage 315 miles. The Long Range and Performance are also slightly quicker than before, with even more brutal performance specs. In fact, the newest Performance model needs just 3.1 seconds to hit 60.
Other updates include new wheel designs, satin black exterior trim, a power trunk lid, more black satin trim on the inside, and a revised center console that makes way for two wireless charging pads. There are also some new finishes for controls on the steering wheel and those of the seat adjusters.
See trim levels and configurations:
The Model 3 isn't a car to lust over from a design perspective, but it's not offensively ugly either. LED lights feature at the front and the rear, while a smoothed front end with few openings creates a bulbous look. A tinted glass roof is standard, while the rear is pert but smooth, too. 18-inch Aero wheels are standard on the lower two trims but these can be upgraded to 19-inch Sport wheels. The Model 3 Performance comes with 20-inch Uberturbine wheels, a lowered suspension, and a carbon fiber spoiler - these changes make it look quite a lot sharper. LED fog lights are also available.
The dimensions of the Tesla Model 3 sedan are comparable to those of other midsize sedans, with length measuring 184.8 inches and the wheelbase spanning 113.2 inches. Height is 56.8 inches while width with the mirrors folded is 76.1 inches. Curb weight varies depending on the spec of the vehicle. The Standard Range Plus base model weighs 3,582 pounds, while both the Long Range and Performance models have the same curb weight of 4,065 lbs.
Pearl White is almost Tesla's signature color and is included in the purchase price, but you can spice things up with Solid Black, Midnight Silver metallic, or Deep Blue metallic for $1,000. A Red multi-coat finish is also available, but this is the most expensive of the lot at two grand.
If outright speed and acceleration are your concern, you'll want the Performance model with the performance upgrade which is included in the price. In addition to a lowered stance, bigger wheels, and larger brakes, this spec builds on the Performance model's 3.1-second 0-60 mph sprint time by increasing top speed to 162 mph. The Long Range model is only capable of a max speed of 145 and gets from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. The base Standard Range Plus variant is the slowest yet is still respectable, claiming a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed just five mph slower than that of the Long Range model. This base variant is rear-wheel-drive only and features a single motor over the rear axle, while the other two models are all-wheel-drive with two motors. Regardless of which you opt for, battery packs are laid on the floor of the car, giving the Model 3 a low center of gravity and impressive handling characteristics. Rumors have suggested that the Model 3 would be offered with a tow hitch in the USA to take advantage of an apparent 2,000-pound towing capacity, but this option isn't yet listed on the brand's website.
The base variant, known as the Standard Range Plus, features a single motor that is three-phase induction in type. The motor is positioned at the front of the vehicle and sends 266 hp through a single-speed direct-drive automatic transmission to the rear wheels. Thanks to the weight of the vehicle, the instantaneous torque of the motor is unlikely to cause much wheelspin but the thrust is still strong. On the freeway, this instant torque is less vivid, but overtaking is still a breeze.
On the Long Range model, the original motor is supplemented by a rear-mounted three-phase internal permanent-magnetic motor that, in conjunction with the first motor, produces a total of 393 hp. This model sends output to all four wheels, enhancing acceleration and grip. The Performance variant uses the same setup, but produces even more power, with 430 horses. In these all-wheel-drive variants, acceleration and overtaking ability are enhanced to the level that you have to ensure the road is clear ahead before planting your right foot with wanton abandon. For cheap thrills, little is as intoxicating as near-silent warp speed that can humble supercar owners.
Electric vehicles will likely never be as engaging to drive as their gas-fed counterparts, yet the Model 3 does a good job of trying to be as fun. Steering is responsive and sharp with impressive weight, with this characteristic customizable through three different on-board settings, although the wheel is lacking in feel, as is typical for these types of vehicles. Thanks to that low center of gravity we mentioned earlier, body roll is well contained and only truly ham-fisted driving will get the Model 3 to reign power back in. Naturally, the all-wheel-drive variants are better than the base rear-drive model in this respect, with a higher grip threshold allowing you to push harder.
Even with such impressive handling ability, the Model 3 is rather supple over small and large bumps alike - a feature that is partly a by-product of the weight of the vehicle. When you let off the power and want to slow down, regenerative braking instantly but gradually slows the car, and once you've acclimatized to the experience, you can use it to slow down in traffic without touching the pedal. When you do need to touch the brakes, the pedal is easy to modulate and allows you to make smooth stops with ease.
Capabilities of the Tesla Model 3 vary depending on the model you opt for but with increased range this year, all trims are even more capable than before. Obviously, there is no regular mpg rating but rather an MPGe rating as seen with other EVs. The base Standard Range Plus is the lightest and therefore returns the best figures, with EPA estimates of 150/133/142 MPGe on the city/highway/combined cycles. However, this model only has a smaller lithium-ion battery and thus offers the shortest range of just 263 miles, although this will likely be plenty for most users. The Long Range and Performance variants get a bigger battery and this boosts the Long Range's range to 353 miles and the Performance model's range to 315 miles. According to the EPA, these models have figures of 141/127/135 MPGe and 118/107/113 MPGe respectively.
Tesla 120 kW superchargers can add 175 miles of range with just 15 minutes of charging. Fortunately, for those who will charge at home, a 7 kW home charger can fully fill a depleted battery in 13 hours. Tesla says that with its wall connector, around 44 miles of range can be added per hour of charging. Overall, the time to charge your Tesla shouldn't be a deterrent, especially with the vast supercharger network and the excellent range of these sedans.
Spartan seems a bit condescending a term to use when describing the interior of the Model 3, but at least it's simple. Two things strike you about the interior when you first open the door: it looks bigger than it would appear from the outside, and that central screen on the dash is huge. This effect is amplified by how simplistic the dash and most of the interior are, but it is indeed a large screen, measuring 15 inches. It's a very clean and modern look overall and it works fairly well, but we still would prefer some physical knobs. Interior space is good too, proving to be more than just an optical illusion, although those in the back shouldn't be close to the six-foot mark if you intend to go on a long trip.
The Model 3 seats five individuals in relative comfort, but as we've noted above, the sloping roofline cuts into the rear headroom a little. Fortunately, legroom is good - a bonus that comes with a car that doesn't have a transmission tunnel. In the front, 12-way power-adjustable seats allow the driver to get into a good driving position. All-round visibility is exemplary too, and forward occupants will have no issues with headroom or legroom. Ingress and egress for all passengers are impressive too, and all seats offer a good balance between support and comfort.
Two interior color schemes are available for the Tesla Model 3, the first of which is called All Black but features a contrasting wood element through the dash. Leather isn't viewed as environmentally friendly, so a leatherette with white contrast stitching features instead. However, we prefer the $1,000 Black and White color scheme. Here, the seats and elements of the door cards and dash feature a bright and futuristic blank white. Spec your Model 3 with either black or white paint and the car has an overall appearance that wouldn't look out of place in an early-2000s sci-fi flick.
Since electric cars don't have an engine sitting under the hood that area is used as a buffer for frontal collisions but also doubles as a place for a frunk. In the Model 3, that front trunk offers 2.7 cubic feet of volume, while the rear offers 12.3 cubes for a total of 15. The back is large enough to swallow carry-on luggage for four, while the front can fit an additional overnight bag. If that's not enough, you can fold the rear seats to maximize rear storage to 40.3 cubic feet.
In the cabin, you get a pair of cupholders in each row, along with door pockets that feature recesses for water bottles. There's also a spot for two phones in the center console, a reasonable glovebox, and a center armrest storage bin.
As standard, the Tesla Model 3 features 12-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, a tinted glass roof, heated and power-folding wing mirrors, remote access through a mobile app, keyless entry and ignition, LED headlights with automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, a brake hold feature, a surround-view camera, parking sensors, and a dash cam. Dual-zone climate control also features, along with lane departure warning and lane-keep assist. You also get adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking as part of the Autopilot suite of semi-autonomous driving aids. Further wizardry can be unlocked with the Full Self-Driving Capability option that adds a summon feature, automatic parking, auto lane change, traffic light/stop sign control, and the still unreleased features of automatic steering on city streets. A power trunk lid is now also equipped.
The aforementioned 15-inch horizontally-mounted touchscreen display in the center of the dash is the base of operations for the infotainment system, but also for most other vehicle functions. It features navigation with real-time traffic updates, both of which use the familiar Google Maps interface. Bluetooth connectivity features too, along with four USB-C charging ports, HD Radio and FM-frequency radio. However, AM radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all conspicuously absent. At least an internet browser and some online stations are offered. A 14-speaker premium sound system is also available. While the overall look and feel of the system is decent, the lack of any physical knobs or buttons, as well as icons that can be too small, can distract one from the road for too long. Two phones can be wirelessly charged at the same time on charging pads positioned below the screen. There is a USB-A port in the glovebox and Tesla has thrown in a 128 GB portable storage device.
Thus far, both the 2021 and 2020 version of the Tesla Model 3 have been completely free of recalls, although one was registered for the 2019 model. This was in October of 2019 and referred to a missing airbag warning sticker on the sun visor. That year, there were also over 100 complaints covering various issues, but the 2020 model saw the number of complaints drop to 48 and, at the time of writing, there were just eight complaints for the 2021 model. Hopefully, this is an indication that the Model 3 has become more reliable since its launch.
In terms of coverage, a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty is accompanied by an eight-year/100,000-mile battery and drive unit warranty. Long Range and Performance variants get 120,000 miles of security here.
The Tesla Model 3 is a stand-out performer in crash reviews, earning the best possible five-star safety rating in the NHTSA's testing, along with the best possible rating of Good in the IIHS crash tests. In addition, the IIHS awarded the 2021 Model 3 with a Top Safety Pick+ award once again, just as they did with the 2020 model.
Key safety features in Tesla products fall under the Autopilot suite of driver aids, which includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist. Fully autonomous highway driving, automatic lane changes, and automatic parking are available add-ons. Blind-spot monitoring is included on all Model 3s too, but the warning is shown on the central screen, which is acceptable when the "offending" vehicle is on the passenger side, but counter-intuitive when there's a vehicle next to the driver's side of the car. Standard airbags include a pair of knee, a pair of frontal, a pair of side-impact, and two curtain airbags. Autosteer on city streets is a feature that is said to be coming later in 2021.
If you're used to benchmark luxury midsize sedans like the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4, chances are that the Tesla Model 3 may feel numb and sparse to you. On the other hand, the instantaneous torque delivery, the novel "Easter egg" features, and the semi-autonomous driving abilities of the Model 3 may be exciting enough. Total cargo space is helped along by rear seats that fold completely flat, meaning the Model 3 is practical too. Naturally, you have to take into account what the network of charging stations is like in your specific area, but that network continues to grow. In addition, regular software updates ensure that you're not just buying a current model - you're probably buying next year's version too. If you can look past the slightly lax build quality, the plain but futuristic interior, and the limited options for luxury, convenience, and customization, the Tesla Model 3 could be just the car for you.
Tesla has altered the cost of the Model 3 several times recently, so what you see here may be subject to change. The cheapest model in the lineup is the Standard Range Plus, which starts at a base MSRP of $38,490 before a $1,200 destination charge. While that delivery fee is a little lofty, various tax incentives and rebates can cancel it out and even bring the price down slightly. The next model in the range is the Long Range, which is all-wheel drive. This model costs $47,490, while the top of the range sees the Performance model start at $56,990. The price of the Tesla Model 3 will reach $68,490 when fully loaded although this is before any potential rebates are applied.
A $100 non-refundable order fee secures the build of your chosen model. Among the incentives that could be applicable to you include the $1,500 Clean Fuel Reward for residents in California.
The 2021 Tesla Model 3 is available in three iterations, but standard and optional features are largely the same across the range. The three versions on offer are as follows: Standard Range Plus, Long Range, and Performance. Standard features shared by all include 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats, a tinted glass roof, heated and power-folding mirrors, and a 15-inch touchscreen display with Bluetooth, four USB ports, navigation with live traffic updates, and remote mobile access. Parking sensors, a surround-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights with auto high beams, a dash cam, and adaptive cruise control are all included too.
As the base model, the Standard Range Plus is rear-wheel drive and features a single electric motor. It produces 266 hp, giving it a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. Range here is promised at 263 miles.
The Long Range version gets an additional motor and all-wheel-drive, allowing it to accelerate from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 145 mph. This model has a range of 393 miles.
At the top of the range is the Performance, the quickest model, accelerating from a standstill to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds. It tops out at 162 mph and has a range of 315 miles.
There aren't many options and accessories to choose from but those that are available are worth a look. The base model comes with aerodynamic 18-inch wheels as standard, but sportier 19-inch wheels can be added for $1,500. The same applies to the Long Range model, but the Performance variant doesn't have access to 19s. Instead, you get the performance upgrade by default which adds 20-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, a carbon fiber rear spoiler, lower suspension, and a track mode. This costs nothing extra. The full set of Self-Driving Capabilities is an available option for all models and costs $10,000, up from $7,000 previously. This gives you access to future autonomous driving aids, but for the time being, you get autonomous highway driving, automatic lane changes, and automatic parking.
The choice here will largely depend on your requirements, but for most, there's no need to upgrade from the Standard Range Plus model. Its range of 263 miles is respectable, and its acceleration is reasonably good too. However, we would highly recommend opting to spend ten grand to gain access to all of the Autopilot/Full Self-Driving features, as well as be granted access to future upgrades over the air. With this, you have a good EV with decent range and a price that is below $47,000, even without taking rebates into account.
There's always a bit of sibling rivalry in a manufacturer's lineup and Teslas are not exempt; in the case of the Model 3, competition comes from the Model S, a car that is arguably far sexier and svelte in design but also boasts a less attractive price tag that far exceeds. The Model S has been significantly revised recently with styling tweaks, a new horizontal 17-inch display, and a controversial yoke steering wheel that could only come from a company with Elon Musk at the helm. Starting at just under $80,000, the base Model S Long Range is as quick as the Model 3 Performance but offers a superb 412 miles of range. The Plaid and Plaid+ are on another level, reaching 60 mph in under two seconds but with a price that is double that of the Model 3 Performance. The Model S comes with better tech (like a 22-speaker sound system) and far more cargo space. If you can afford to do so, we'd get the Model S.
The Model Y is another popular alternative to the entry-level Tesla, and starts at a base price of just over $50,000, although that does get you the dual-motor AWD Long Range. If you need space, this is the electric crossover for you. Unlike the Model 3, there's plenty of space in the back for people of all sizes and body types, and with the seats flat, you have a cargo area of up to 66 cubic feet. Naturally, with a taller profile, the handling abilities of the Model Y are compromised slightly compared to those of the Model 3, but it's not excessively worse and can still handle better than most cars out there. A similar face adorns the front of the Model Y, but in our opinion, the Model 3 pulls it off better. These cars are very similar in many respects, but unless you need the space that a so-called active lifestyle demands, we'd opt for the cheaper and more fun Model 3.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Tesla Model 3: