Tesla has singlehandedly changed the electric-car landscape, and the Model 3 is the least expensive way to get one of the company’s tech wonders in your driveway. A four-door sedan that’s roughly the same size as the BMW 3-series, the Model 3 boasts quick acceleration and a future-forward, minimalist interior. Multiple battery configurations are available, and all versions are rated to go more than 200 miles on a single charge; the Long Range model claims a range of 322 miles. In our testing, the Performance model went from zero to 60 mph in a lightning-fast 3.5 seconds. While the Model 3 is the cheapest Tesla you can buy, the $36,200 Standard Range model is available only by special order at physical Tesla stores; the least expensive version available to order online is the $41,190 Standard Range Plus.
What’s New for 2020?
Tesla consistently updates its vehicles with over-the-air software tweaks and, occasionally, new mechanical components, but the company does not roll out changes to its vehicles on a conventional model-year basis. As a result, we cannot predict what changes might come to the Model 3 in the coming months, and the company will not tell us much about what the future holds in terms of updates. The Model 3 recently added features such as lane-keep assist and standard Autopilot capability (this is the company’s name for its autonomous-driving feature), and now has additional charging capability via the company’s upgraded V3 Supercharger network.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- Standard Range Plus Battery: $41,190
- Long Range Battery: $50,190
- Performance: $58,190
The Standard Range Plus model, starting just above $40,000, is the best value. Its 250 miles of estimated driving range should be enough for most people, and it comes standard with heated front seats and navigation.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
As with most EVs, the Model 3 gains speed smoothly and almost silently, with the electric motor providing strong power from a stop. The rear-wheel-drive Long Range model we tested sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. The Model 3 Performance rockets to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds—0.4 second faster than the bigger and more expensive Model S 100D. Like all Teslas, the Model 3 carries its battery under the floor, resulting in a low center of gravity. This helps it change direction crisply and feel planted and stable in corners. The steering is accurate and well weighted, with three different settings that adjust the level of steering effort. The ride is firm without being harsh; without the noise of a gas-powered engine, however, you do hear plenty of noise inside the cabin as the tires thwack and thrum over pavement imperfections.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
Three distinct Model 3 trims are offered, each with a different estimated driving range. The Standard Range Plus model is the most affordable, with a claimed range of 250 miles. Upgrading to the Long Range or Performance models increases its estimated range to 322 miles. Of course, this distance isn’t easy to achieve, as we’ve found in our long-term Long Range Model 3 test vehicle. The Model 3 offers several different options for charging: Tesla’s network of fast-charging stations called Superchargers, adapters for DC public-charging stations, 240- and 120-volt outlets, and a home-charging station.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The various versions of the Model 3 are rated between 113 MPGe and 141 MPGe by the EPA. Our test vehicle, however, managed only 84 MPGe when we took it on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test. The Model 3 comes standard with aluminum wheels that are covered by plastic aerodynamic hubcaps. We wanted to know how much impact those hubcaps have on the car’s driving range, so we tested it and were surprised to find that they helped more than expected.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
We’re not exaggerating when we say that the Tesla Model 3 has an interior unlike any other car on the market today. It’s shockingly simple inside, with nearly everything controlled by the monolithic touchscreen in the center of the dashboard. The Tesla’s low, flat floor makes for a spacious and airy feel inside. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, but the rear seats are cramped and uncomfortable; don’t expect adults to be able to spend time in them. Folding the 60/40 split-folding rear seats is simple and expands the trunk considerably. The Model 3’s seatbacks fold flat, too, providing an uninterrupted cargo floor for hauling larger items. With the rear seats folded, the Model 3 provides enough room for 15 carry-on suitcases. There are also generously sized bins and cubbies throughout the cabin.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Navigation, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity are standard, but the Model 3 is oddly not available with AM radio or SiriusXM satellite radio. Several internet-streaming radio options are standard. It also can’t be equipped with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. To make charging-station layovers more bearable, the Model 3 offers plenty of entertainment options on its central display, including Netflix, YouTube, and a host of arcade games.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Model 3 has been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and received a perfect five-star score; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t released its findings. Although we question whether the name Autopilot might be misleading, the driver-assist system has one of the best feature sets in the industry, with smooth operation and impressive capabilities such as automatic lane changes. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Tesla’s overall warranty coverage is among the longest in the EV segment, but it’s disappointing that the coverage doesn’t include corrosion protection. The Long Range model includes an additional 20,000 miles on the coverage period of its battery and drive components.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 8 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance