So, finally the Model 3 has arrived on UK shores. Driving an Ioniq electric, I sometimes get asked “when will you get a Tesla?”, as if its the goal of every EV driver. Funny how nobody ever asked “when are you getting a BMW M3” when I drove a Skoda!
For my purposes a Tesla Model S has always seemed like a huge car. Commuting on narrow english country roads (inevitable when the motorway and dual carriageways get busy or blocked) can mean pulling over into the weeds to allow another car past- so width is everything. A Skoda Fabia was perfect, a Nissan leaf a bit less so, and my current car, Hyundai ioniq electric, is slightly wider still.
In 2019 a Model S is looking good value, examples appear from £34k used, from Tesla. It’s a shame its so huge. They’ve also deleted free supercharging from their used car offerings.
The Model 3 starts at £37,340 new, or around £400 to £500 PCP or HP – still potentially good value for a car that promises a lot with an EPA-rated range of 240 miles. That price is for pearl white, rear wheel drive, black interior, ~62kWh battery, 18″ aero wheels, and includes the £3,500 UK “PICG” grant and the £840 documentation fee. Other colours and trims are extra, as is a factory-fit towbar (nice to see a towbar is at least an option).
Annoyingly that means that there’s also £320 luxury car tax to look forward to, for years 2 to 6, as even though it’s an EV it’s over £40k excluding PICG. Cheaper EVs don’t attract this or any “road tax” in the UK.
The Model 3 is slightly longer than the Ioniq, has a very similar side profile – yet isn’t a hatchback. Aside from seating 5 people, having 4 wheels and an electric motor, there aren’t many other similarities. The Model 3 SR+ (Standard Range Plus) Model 3 has some 280hp compared to the Ioniq’s 120hp; it’s rear wheel drive compared to front. Battery size is around 62kWh compared to 28kWh. The tech in the Model 3 is clearly light years ahead, 8 cameras and 12 other sensors, with full self driving hardware as standard (if not enabled unless you pay up around £6k). Storage is generous, with a very deep boot and storage under the bonnet (frunk or froot?) and my only concern is access to the boot as it’s a smaller opening than the Ioniq. A fridge is not going in there. A compact road bicycle probably would.
A full glass roof comes as standard, and that means from the windscreen to the tail. Even on a summers day in the UK, I didn’t feel any heat coming through like I’ve experienced in a Model S, so the IR and UV coatings do work well.
Room inside is generous and the extra length, about 30cm over Ioniq, is felt both in rear seat legroom and boot length.
Would we lose any features over Ioniq?
These features would certainly be lost – Android auto, heat pump heating (and so some range reduction in winter), adjustable regen braking (I think I’d miss the zero regen setting), buttons and rotary switches for things like volume, temperature control and map zooming. To my mind the Ioniq is a model of ergonomics. The Model 3 famously has a 15″ touchscreen to control most things and although I didn’t miss a dashboard behind the steering wheel, I don’t find a touchscreen as immediately intuitive as buttons. Tyres would be more expensive as they’re larger, but this is a performance car so that’s fair enough.
I’m keen to hear from anyone who has gone from Ioniq to Model 3.
What would we gain?
Range and performance. Both are around twice as high as the Ioniq. An app to remotely control things like heating and aircon, and keep an eye on battery charge. The Tesla ecosystem – especially the supercharging network, the promise of charging at up to a thousand-miles-added-per-hour (250kW), and ease of finding chargers via the dashboard. Supercharging is no longer free, 24p/kWh, and its also worth mentioning that in Europe Model 3s have a CCS charging socket- so while this means you can use any network with CCS, it means that only a subset of the Supercharger units will be suitable, as far as I know. The other Tesla models use their own proprietary connector. Already there are reports of people waiting to plug in at Tesla superchargers.
Over-The-Air updates – though how long these remain free is anyone’s guess. Today Premium connectivity is an extra $100 and its clear Tesla are starting to charge for more and more services. At least OTA is an option, with real development and new features, Nissan wanted cash just to update a 5 year old map on my Leaf!
So to the test drive – we drove it on some dual carriageways, and roundabouts in quite busy traffic. Let’s just say there’s plenty of useable performance, hugely more than anyone needs on a day-to-day basis. Five seconds to 60 is really very quick. No tyre spinning or sliding like the FWD Ioniq on its worn Michelin Energy tyres. Performance tyres and RWD clearly help. Strong regen braking as standard, although not adjustable beyond two settings (in a menu on the touchscreen), and no flappy paddles. Accelerator response feels like the Leaf “D” mode, no soft-start like Ioniq. (D-mode in Leaf/Tesla feels like Sport in Ioniq). Cornering was very stable and flat, overall even this SR+ is much sportier than the Ioniq – I expect the centre of gravity is lower and it’s more stiffly-sprung. Still not 100% sure I’d want rear-wheel-drive on a snowy commute, however. There are a few YouTube videos of RWD Model 3s, and they do seem to need winter tyres so there’s a bit more expense.
Road noise, in the rear seats, was noticeably high.
Windows drop slightly when you open the door. There’s an odd electrical push-button to open from inside. There is a mechanical over-ride, but its use is not encouraged. The back door inside openers have no mechanical over-ride – I think this quite a serious omission and would like to see it corrected.
The numbers being produced mark this car out as something of a revolution, we’ll soon see these cars daily in the UK. What this means for future value is interesting, I expect the level of tech built in future-proofs this car like no other. Lack of supply shouldn’t be a problem, since unlike virtually every other manufacturer who are reliant on third-party battery manufacturers, Tesla produce their cells in-house.