In 2016, when Tesla launched its Model 3 at a glitzy do in Los Angeles, the pre-orders flooded in within a matter of hours; 115,000 of them to be exact.
It was the long-promised affordable version of their innovative electric vehicle, and the waiting list for the hyped-up model continued to grow exponentially over the following days, weeks and months.
Fast forward to the current day, and the smallest EV of the Tesla family is still comfortably the world’s best-selling all-electric vehicle.
Of course, Tesla has always had somewhat of a cult following. Founded and continued to run by a group of people who believed that a car can be both environmentally friendly and exciting to drive, they continue to be different from other cars on the road.
So what is it about the Model 3 that makes it so special? Maybe it’s because it’s far more affordable than other models of its class, or that it’s designed to be a family car.
Perhaps it’s because of the outstanding features. Or could its dizzying 0-60mph time have something to do with it?
Well, to find out, we’ve broken down the recipe that lies behind the success of Tesla’s luxurious electric Model 3 below for you to make up your own mind.
Design & styling
There’s no questioning that the Model 3 is from the Tesla hierarchy. A smaller Model S with different proportions, this is a very good looking car.
The beauty of Tesla is that they always build from the ground up. Their cars start off life – designed and engineered – as electric vehicles. This gives them an advantage against others who shoehorn batteries into already-built models.
The result is a clean, sleek vehicle that borders on the futuristic, but with an ultimately practical design.
With a low bonnet, darker wrapped chrome trim and a tall arched roof, the Model 3 features LED lights at the front and the rear with 18-inch wheels as standard – moving up to 19 and 20-inch as you progress through the trim levels.
All versions of the Model 3 sport a tinted panoramic roof, which serves to give the car a modern airy feel and – made from two layers of hardened glass laminated with thermoplastic – also acts as a safety aide. And while the deep, large front windscreen looks great, it also helps with clear visibility.
As there’s no engine, traditionally other electric car manufacturers leave this space to put either the electric motor, the controls or the charger.
However, Tesla has integrated all of this into the car, leaving the room under the bonnet for storage. Tesla has dubbed this front trunk as the ‘frunk’. And if you don’t love that, this may not be the car for you.
Running costs & environmental impact
Like all electric cars, the Tesla Model 3 produces zero CO2 emissions, which makes it a no-brainer as a company car for Benefit in Kind tax savings. But even as a personal vehicle, you’ll spend a lot less on electric than you would petrol or diesel.
When you drive a Model 3, it also gives you access to Tesla’s network of Superchargers, of which there are around 500 in the UK. There you can get from 10 to 80% charge in around 30 minutes.
Engines, drive & performance
If beauty is simplicity, the Tesla Model 3 spec list is stunning, with just three specifications to choose from.
Entry level is the Standard Range Plus, then Long Range and finally, the Tesla Model 3 Performance.
The Standard Range Plus is the ‘slowest’ of the three, with a range of 254 miles, 140mph top speed and 5.3 second time from 0-60mph.
Long Range and Performance models benefit from four-wheel drive and two electric motors, making them more dynamic, controlled and quicker. The Long Range has a top speed of 145mph, achieving 0-60mph in just 4.5 seconds.
And then there’s the top-spec Performance with its 329-mile range. It’s capable of a heart-racing 162mph top speed and leaves even sports cars in its shadow during the 3.1 seconds 0-60mph sprint.
Staggering speed aside, all Tesla 3 models have a smooth, refined drive. With quick, intuitive steering, it’s incredibly enjoyable to manoeuvre. Its low weight and fine-tuned suspension is comfortable and can also handle the bumps of the road easily.
Of course, the Tesla’s talking point is always the AutoPilot feature. Activated through the steering wheel stalk, the car can steer, accelerate, change lane and slow down autonomously. Take your hands off the wheel, though, and you’ll soon find yourself told off by the car.
It operates through cameras and sensors positions around the car, helping it to overtake on command, take over in heavy traffic, or just guide you through your usual commute.
If you’ve ever wondered what the future looks like, you only need to step inside the Model 3. The interior is unlike any other car – futuristic, minimalistic and simply magnificent.
Before you even get in, you can use your smartphone as the key or to control almost every other component in the vehicle.
Slide into the leather front seat and you’ll be faced with a vast empty space with only a steering wheel and huge touchscreen. It’s as minimalist as you can get. It might take a while to get used to, but there’s not a dial, button or switch in sight – it’s all controlled through the ginormous screen.
Of course, there are still some ‘old-school’ necessities such as the stalks on the sides of the steering column for the gears and indicators and a button for the hazard lights on the interior roof. But that’s pretty much your lot.
Back to the touchscreen and it’s everything you’d expect from such a high-tech vehicle, and more.
As well as the usual sat-nav, Bluetooth and sound system, there’s also some rather unexpected features, such as a full suite of arcade-style games and a digital whoopee cushion. Because, well, Tesla.
The Model 3 also comes with added luxuries such as heated seats and a tinted glass roof with UV and infrared protection. See, it’s not all fun and games.
Practicality & boot space
It may have been designed as the latest affordable EV for families, but it’s probably not the first car you think of when you’re choosing a family vehicle.
However, the Model 3 isn’t just a pretty face. This car has a lot going for it when it comes to practicality.
There’s a load of space in both the front and rear, with decent enough legroom for rear passengers to be chauffeured in comfort.
Tesla states the Model 3 will fit five adults, but the middle rear seat is fairly narrow, so you may hear a few complaints on longer journeys.
On the storage front, the Tesla claws some marks back. Cupholders in the front with a spacious cubbyhole in the centre console as well as good-sized storage in the doors and a glovebox. Pretty standard, but good to keep your possessions out of sight where you can. You don’t want to ruin the interior architecture now, do you?
The Model 3 also does well with luggage, featuring both rear and front boots with a combined capacity of 542 litres.
While you get some smaller bits and pieces in the frunk – look up for that reference – it’s the rear boot that holds most of the capacity. The rear seats split and fold flat and it’s a fairly deep area, so ideal for suitcases.
And, on the off-chance you ever need it to tow something – the Model 3 actually can.
Although it’ll cost you to add the two-hitch, Tesla claims that the Model 3 can tow up to 910kg, which isn’t bad going considering EV’s aren’t renowned for their towing capabilities.
Reliability & safety
As we already mentioned earlier, Tesla takes safety seriously, and there’s a whole host of features designed to look after you in your Model 3.
Forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure avoidance, blind-spot collision warning and red light recognition are just some of the aids on show.
There are also weight sensors built into the seats that not only emit a warning when someone’s not got their seatbelt on, but in the event of a collision, will gauge how powerfully to deploy the airbags.
Even the floor-mounted battery enhances the safety of the vehicle; the weight making it less likely to roll over. And Tesla has ensured that should the battery ever malfunction and overheat, thermal runaway (when overheating in one cell transfers to another), can’t take place.
So, all boxes ticked for safety, how about reliability?
Well, given it’s such a technologically advanced car, there are a few small gremlins – but there are with any car really.
Usually nothing major, and cheaper to repair if anything big was to happen thanks to the electric vehicle’s simpler design, the Model 3 is about average for reliability, albeit you can including a maintenance package in your lease agreement to escape any unwanted bills.
Cost & deals
So how much is the car branded the most affordable EV? Well, it’s still pretty pricey; starting at around £36,490. However, compared to others in its class, it’s still good value.
Insurance doesn’t come cheap for the Model 3 though, as it lands in group 48 for the Standard Range and tops the list at insurance group 50 for the Long Range and Performance models.
When it comes to warranties, Tesla offers a standard four-year/50,000-mile warranty on the Model 3, with an option to extend as part of your lease agreement.
But the true value lies when leasing, where the Model 3 is available for a little over £400 a month. And considering the savings you make on road tax and fuel, compared against cars of similar quality, it’s very reasonably priced.
You can lease a Tesla Model 3 from £418 per month, with a range of contract terms, deposit amount and mileage allowances on offer. Browse our selection of Model 3 deals available below, or alternatively hit the ‘Apply Now’ button to get on with your application right now, with no impact to your credit score and a decision on minutes.