REVIEWED: 2021 TESLA MODEL 3 PERFORMANCE
We drive's the UK's best selling EV. Is it any good?
Wether you like it or not, electric cars are here to stay. In fact, electric cars have been around since the inception of the car with examples tracing their routes to the late 1890s/early 1900s depending who you ask. But it’s only been the past ten years or so where electric cars have actually been a variable option to conventionally powered cars, and Tesla have been leading the way.
We’ve been on the fence on the topic of electric cars since they started hitting the market a few years ago, and we have always had many opinions on Tesla. That is until I drove one. I was presented an opportunity to drive a brand new Tesla Model 3 Performance and I simply couldn’t say no. This car was my first new car to test and my god, what a car it is.
Performance and driving
When it comes to stats, nothing can beat the Model 3 Performance. In its latest iteration, it can do 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 162mph, all while having a potential range of 352 miles based on WLTP testing. The car offers 563bhp to all four wheels and 487lb ft of torque. These numbers are impressive, and more so when you remind yourself that the car weighs nearly 2000kg.
The result is mesmerising. The sheer acceleration pins you to your seat either when you’re at a set of traffic lights or going from 45-70mph on a dual carriageway. It’s truly addicting and I can see why it can easily out perform a lot of modern supercars. However, the Model 3 Performance may be a rocket in a straight line but in the corners, it felt a bit underwhelming. With the steering in sport mode, there’s some response but not as much as I hoped it would have had. The car doesn’t oversteer or understeer much, as everything feels flat. Shame really, but this could be down to the electric steering which doesn’t feel the same as a traditional steering rack.
Braking is fantastic though, largely thanks to the regenerative brakes fitted as standard. This blew my mind the first time I slowed down at a set of traffic lights as I didn’t have to touch the brake pedal at all. It takes a few times to get used to but it is genuinely convenient for slower driving situations such as driving in traffic as you just have to be gentle with the accelerator and the motors slow the car down instead of the brakes.
Autopilot is as terrifying and untrustworthy as I thought it could be. Granted, nothing went wrong when I had it turned on, and it works brilliantly when it was on, but there was always the thought in the back of my head that I couldn’t trust it and that I didn’t have full control of the car.
Like a lot of new cars, visibility is awful. Sure, there’s lots of glass to see out of but when you look back, you can’t see a thing behind you thanks to huge pillars and a racked roof line. However, this is not too much of a problem thanks to the brilliant camera system which is fitted to every Tesla as standard. This system, combined with a smallish turning circle makes the Model 3 incredibly easy to park.
Styling of the Model 3 is perfectly acceptable and won’t cause arguments. But, it’s not drop dead gorgeous. It’s more…handsome. Granted, I think it helped that my test car was fully blacked out which gave it a batmobile vibe to it but it’s not as cool looking as say, a Porsche Taycan.
The Model 3 really does need the big wheels to look right though. I see so many Model 3’s on the standard 18 inch “Aero” wheels but if you don’t mind loosing a bit of range, upgrade to the 19 inch “Sport” wheels, or in the case of the Performance, 20 inch “Überturbine” wheels are fitted as standard and only come in black.
The biggest downside of the Model 3 is the interior as it’s as interesting as watching paint dry. Sure, I like minimalism like a lot of people but there is nothing going on in the interior. Sure, you get a massive central touchscreen and a steering wheel but that’s about it. There are no visible air vents, no buttons, no dials, but at least the cupholders are on show. The Model S has a far nicer interior but that’s a considerably more expensive car.
One thing I’ve always hated about the Model 3’s interior is if you want to access the glovebox, you have to open it via the screen which is awful design. There’s always the thought of if the screen breaks, you can’t access whatever is stored in the glovebox without ripping it apart. So for the next update, Tesla really should add a button or something near the glovebox.
Interior and comfort
As mentioned above, the interior isn’t what you expect from a £40-70k car. Saying that, the quality of the things you touch the most have improved massively on the newer Chinese built examples than the early American made ones.
The seats are plenty comfortable enough to accommodate adults of most sizes, with soft cushioning and plenty of adjustment. I didn’t sample the front but with the drivers seat in the position I set it to, there is plenty of space in the back for both kids and adults.
The boot is more than big enough, and if for some reason you need more space, there is the frunk at the front of the car. There is a downside though and I wish the Model 3 had a proper hatchback rather than a traditionally designed boot door. A hatch would make the car so much more practical without making manufacturing costs go up much.
As you may already know, the Tesla Model 3 is packed with tech. The first thing you see when you get in the car is the huge central screen, which is as good as any modern high-end smartphone in terms of clarity, speed and responsiveness. The screen is also the place where the vast majority of the car controls are, with it allowing you to access your music, navigation, climate control and many, many more things. The seats are fully electric with adjustments for almost everything you could think of, as is the steering wheel and mirrors.
Autopilot is one of the biggest features that sells a Tesla and it works very well. To enable it, you tap down the gear selector twice and then the car will quite literally drive itself. My test car only had the “Basic Autopilot” package which acts as a glorified adaptive cruise control. However, Tesla will quite happily take more of your money so you could either have the Enhanced Autopilot software, of the full whack self-driving capability. But if you want to add either of the Autopilot packages after purchase, you can go to Tesla and have them install it onto the car for you, or via an Over-The-Air update, which is very futuristic.
Other than the standout features, the Model 3 has the more essential things such as wireless charging, USB-C outlets and many cameras on the exterior of the car that double up as a security system or parking aids. The latter use of the cameras is a life saver in tight spots.
Verdict - 8/10
The thing is, I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Tesla. This was largely due to the high prices, poor build quality and the strange owners who quite literally worship Elon Musk like he’s the reincarnation of Jesus. Despite all this, I came away from driving the Model 3 Performance wanting more.
It’s truly a brilliant car in terms of value for money. It offers supercar levelling performance for less money than a new BMW M3. Sure, it has it’s downsides which I’m sure will be fixed in the next refresh or the next generation but the Model 3 shows that Tesla can make a car that isn’t for the ultra-rich tech-weirdos in California.
I quite like the Model 3, but I wouldn’t buy one.
Tesla Model 3 Performance
Price: £59,990 (£61,090 as tested)
Range: 352 miles (WLTP)
Real world range: 290 miles
0-60mph: 3.1 seconds
Top Speed: 162mph
Porsche Taycan, Audi E-Tron GT, BMW i4 M50, Kia EV6 GT, Polestar 2
WANT TO READ MOTORDICTION CONTENT FIRST? CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE:
ALSO, BE SURE TO FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA: