Images are for illustrative purposes only and may feature different models within the range
0 - 62 mph4.2s
Electric Range360 miles
By Jonathan Crouch
Launched in the UK in 2019, the Model 3 was Tesla's more significant car to date, mainly because it was the company's most affordable product. It's all-electric of course and in Dual Motor form offered industry-leading EV driving range. It was also the company's first four-door design. Here we look at the pre-facelift 2019-2023 versions of this car.
5dr Saloon (EV) [Standard Plus, Rear-Wheel Drive, Dual Motor, Performance]
From its establishment back in 2003, Tesla's goal was always to make cars that would provide a credible alternative to mass market combustion-engined models. The company's initial contenders, the Model S and the Model X, showed what was possible in the pricey luxury market. But it's this Model 3 that brought the Elon Musk global vision within reach of the man in the street. The reasonably well-heeled man in the street anyway: prices placed this saloon plumb into the kind of BMW 3 Series / Mercedes C-Class territory that from launch in 2019 it was sized to address. Buyers in this segment hadn't previously been offered a credible EV; cars with full-battery power had previously tended to be based either on compact family hatches or big luxury SUVs. But that was because in the past, a customer of a volume segment executive model couldn't have tolerated the kind of relatively feeble real world operating range that until the Model 3 arrived had characterised most all-electric models. Tesla addressed that here - with the Dual-Motor variants at least - and gave owners much greater access than they'd have had with other brands to the super-powerful public charging points needed for quick battery replenishment. But the Model 3 was much more than just a showcase for electrified technology. In creating it, this American maker battled with bankruptcy, struggled with quality control issues and fought against production bottlenecks at a Californian plant in Freemont that until the Tesla era was resolutely low-tech. Any one of these issues could have killed the company. Instead, it delivered on its vision of affordable executive EV motoring and produced a US market best seller that some think is the most important vehicle of the last decade. Here, we look at the earlier 2019-2023 versions of this model which sold until a far-reaching 'Project Highland' update in late 2023.
What You Get
It's a mark of Tesla's brand identity that even someone unacquainted with EVs would probably recognise this car's maker. They might perhaps be less likely to recognise it as a Model 3, though on closer inspection, the cues are quite distinct, though still very much EV-orientated. Starting at the front, where this more affordable Tesla design sees no need for the decorative front grille that aimed to ease the Tesla transition for Model S and Model X customers graduating over from something more conventional. A little overtaking presence has been lost as a result. From the side, you notice the short bonnet, facilitated by the 'skateboard'-style chassis that locates the drivetrain and the batteries as low as possible in the car, enhancing interior space and lowering the centre of gravity. From almost any angle, this car looks more like a hatch than a saloon - including from the rear. It's certainly very Model S-like. As with that car, Tesla's mounted the charging flap neatly in the offside rear light cluster - and made the socket inside CCS-compatible so that a wider number of public charging stations can be used. Once inside, you find yourself seated in a cabin that's more minimalist than a Scandinavian loft. Well, in terms of button clutter anyway. There's nothing minimalist about the enormous 15-inch central touchscreen, on to which virtually all the driving, comfort and infotainment features you'll need have been located. Beyond this, operating control provision has been kept to the absolute minimum. Which is all well and good, but a potential premium segment European buyer of this car is ideally going to want such minimality to be accompanied by the kind of cabin quality and richness of interior design that the posh German brands offer. You don't really get that here, but compensatory technology is absolutely dripping from every menu and pinch-and-swipe action accessible through this enormously capable central screen. There's a superb Google Earth navigation system, all the usual infotainment stuff and even arcade games. The driving position sits you a little higher than the segment norm and the lack of central transmission tunnel frees up load of space for useful extra stowage compartments. At first glance, all seems good on the back seat, especially compared to the cramped rear quarters you'd get in a rival BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class. Take a seat though and you find a raised floor matched with low-set seats, the result being that you sit with your knees slightly higher than they would normally be. Once you adjust to this, you'll find that legroom isn't bad - one six-footer can just about sit behind another thanks in part to the scalloped seat backs - though the fact that you can't slide your feet under the seat in front is something of a limiting factor. And the boot? Well the capacity on offer here - 425-litres - is 55-litres less than you'd get from a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 but only fractionally less than a Mercedes C-Class. Anyway, it's a good, square, usable space, with a recessed area to the left and a deep well under the cargo base for the charging leads that could also take other small items you might not want sliding around the boot floor. We'll finish by considering the 'frunk', the 'froot' or whatever you want to call it up-front in the nose. It can't quite swallow suitcases like the one in the Model S, but its 117-litre capacity is probably good for a couple of small squashy bags.
What You Pay
Prices for this Model 3 start at around £20,500 (around £22,700 retail) for a typical 'Standard Plus'-spec rear-driven variant on a '19-plate, with values rising to around £29,700 (around £32,500 retail) for the last of the pre-facelift late '23-plate 'Rear-Wheel Drive' models. You're more likely to want the longer range AWD Dual Motor version, which values from around £23,700 on a '19 plate (around £26,000 retail); values for this variant rise to around £32,100 (around £34,000 retail) for the last of the late '23 pre-facelift variants. For a Model 3 Performance, values start from around £24,600 (around £27,000 retail) for an early '19-plate car, with values rising to around ££33,600 (around £36,500 retail) for the last of the late '23 pre-facelift variants. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.
What to Look For
The Model 3 is rated by most commentators as fairly average for reliability, but it has a better record than larger Teslas do. We've come across some software glitches created by Tesla's over-the-air updates, which might be anything from a slightly off user interface to a huge breakdown of the system. You can reduce the severity of these potential problems by upgrading your car's software frequently and communicating with Tesla's customer service department. There have also been some well-publicised quirks with the Autopilot system. Some Model 3 owners have complained that Autopilot suddenly disengages self driving or incorrectly assesses driving conditions. We've also heard of some charging difficulties - like incompatibility with some stations or slower-than-anticipated charging times. A few owners communicated malfunctions with the flush door handles which have occasionally been known to fail, making it difficult to open the doors. Possible causes of this include faulty sensors or a power outage. There have also been some concerns about the online connection which is essential for several Tesla functions, including navigation, remote app control and automatic software upgrades. These capabilities might sometimes be temporarily unavailable due to intermittent connectivity issues. You can lessen the impact of these issues by keeping your Internet connection steady and your car within range of cellular networks at all times. Some Model 3 owners have complained about wind noise at high speeds and panel gaps that aren't uniformly spaced, so check the car you're looking at in this regard. As you'd expect, the battery life will degrade slightly over time. You can reduce this by avoiding quick charging and extremely hot environments - and by taking note of the battery care tips provided by Tesla. Some owners complained of problems with their climate control and heating and air conditioning systems, like erratic temperature regulation or weird noises coming from the fans. Check this in the car you're looking at. And there have been some phantom braking issues where the car abruptly stops for no apparent cause, probably due to issues with sensors, software and hardware. Tesla has introduced software upgrades meant to fix this. What else? Well some Model 3 users have complained of odd noises from the suspension like creaking and clunking, so check for these on your test drive. Broken or worn ball joints are to blame. There have been some reports of paint issues, including chipping and peeling, so inspect the bodywork closely. And a number of owners reported that the driving range wasn't as good as advertised, though as usual that's down to how the vehicle is driven, the weather and the usage of the climate system. The key things you need to remember in Model 3 ownership are to get your car regularly serviced, keep software up to date, be careful when driving in extreme weather conditions and regularly use a certified Tesla repair shop for any problems. The most significant software update is the one at 30,000 miles that enhances the vehicle's functionality and performance, but this particular update has been problematic for some owners and after it, touchscreen malfunctions, phantom braking and battery concerns have all been reported. Some Tesla owners have complained about the difficulty of getting their vehicles repaired. And we've heard of issues with the centre touchscreen like freezing, latency and unresponsiveness. Otherwise, it's just the usual things to look for: parking knocks and scrapes and any damage to the interior. And of course insist on fully stamped-up service history.
(approx based on a 2019 Model 3 Dual Motor - Ex Vat - see evaaccessories.co.uk) Rear brake pads sit in the £67 bracket. Front brake discs sit in the £47 bracket; rear discs are in the £48 bracket. An air filter is around £17. An ABS sensor is around £32. Wipers sit in the £34-£41 bracket. A front upper control arm is around £328. A wing mirror rebuild kit is between £35 and £66.
On the Road
So what'll you feel behind the wheel here? Superbly accurate steering, lacking only the final really feelsome element that's integral to a good European rack. A very well modulated set of brakes. Quite a lot of tyre and wind roar. And firm-ish damping that contributes to excellent body control through the turns, but doesn't crash too much through pot holes or over speed humps. You could actually enjoy yourself driving this car, which back in 2019 was a new experience for us in an EV and for anyone else familiar with this evolving market. The smooth linearity of the throttle helps - though it's still prone to lurch the car forward like a startled rabbit if used without due care. If you were to mash it into the bulkhead of the top 'Performance'-spec variant, you'd reach sixty mph in just 3.2s; Forget M3s and C63s - that's almost Ferrari-fast. The 'Performance' derivative is one of two top Dual-Motor AWD Model 3 variants, the other being the 'Long Range' version, the name designating that car's industry-leading WLTP-rated 348 mile driving range (the figure quoted back at 2019 at launch but subsequently improved upon). For the 'Performance' model, the figure quoted from launch was 329 miles. You'll manage a little less than that though, if you opt for the much more affordable 'Standard Range Plus' Model 3 that the majority of customers chose. Here, a single-motor rear-driven set-up gives you a 254-mile WLTP-rated driving capability between charges (figure quoted from launch). If that mileage needs to be covered over long highway distances, you'll appreciate the extent of this car's autonomous driving capability, courtesy of its integrated 'Autopilot' system, which uses eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and the forward-facing radar. The resulting set-up will position the car centrally within its lane, keep to a chosen speed, regulate the distance to the vehicle in front and even perform lane changes automatically. As with any EV, you'll mainly be plugging in and replenishing the car overnight using the garage-mounted wallbox you'll need. The Tesla brand though, gives you a much wider range of options for public charging when you're out and about, thanks to 430 UK 'Supercharger' locations exclusive to Tesla owners which allow you to charge the battery up to 80% capacity in as little as 30 minutes. Plus there are a further 550 less powerful but still very useful so-called 'Destination chargers' in clubs, hotels and other public locations around the country. Both these figures were as at 2019. Thanks to CCS socket compatibility, your Model 3 can also use any ordinary Public charging point too. And you'll make big savings in terms of your tax, VED and maintenance liabilities.
Just as the Model S did in 2012, the Model 3 blazed a trail and set new standards. It was the market's first fully electrified saloon, the first to offer a credible 300 mile WLTP-rated range and the first contender to bridge the previously yawning gap between mainstream and premium EVs. Almost as importantly in our view, it was the first really credibly handling car that Tesla had made - the first that in the right circumstances, you could really enjoy driving. A touch ironic that, given the amount of effort the brand has always put into fully autonomous tech. We're not getting carried away here; a Model 3 can't reward at the wheel quite like the best of its European rivals; of course it can't - it's carrying round an enormous battery pack. But this heavy car does a rather passably good impression of a much lighter one and, in its Dual-Motor forms, compensates for any further differences with Ferrari-fast acceleration. What a product it would be with greater refinement, more feelsome steering and a higher level of interior quality. Some of those things arrived with the product update in late 2023. And in summary? Well you'd have to like the cool, pared-back image of this Model 3 to want one - and be forgiving of a few idiosyncrasies - but if none of that matters, then you'll find that what's on offer here is as significant as it's ambitious. You'd expect that from the car some said Tesla could never build. But it has - and you should try it.
Whilst every effort is made to verify and ensure the accuracy of the data, the information should only be used as a guide and no purchasing decision should be made without verification of the data from either the manufacturer or franchised dealer. Our offers may be on a different model year to that represented by this data and so specification may differ accordingly.
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Based on 48 month contract and 5,000 miles per year. Initial rental of £9,548.68 followed by 47 monthly rentals of £1,060.96. Processing fee £298.80 Inc VAT. All prices Inc VAT . Excess mileage charges may apply if contract mileage is exceeded. Fair wear and tear charges may apply at end of contract.
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