Much has been written about the Tesla Model 3 already – in the car’s troubled gestation few might have believed Tesla could turn out such a world-beater, but it has. We’ve already driven the Performance and Long Range versions of the Model 3, but now it’s the turn of the mainstream model that many will buy: the Model 3 Standard Range Plus.
That tag comes courtesy of the entry-level 3’s £37,340 starting price, which has recently been cut further to make it even more affordable. For that you get a 55kWh battery and a single motor delivering 235bhp and 375Nm of torque to the rear wheels for a claimed 0-60mph time of 5.3 seconds and up to 254 miles of range, according to Tesla’s WLTP figure – although the latter two numbers are most likely to be mutually exclusive.
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After the Model 3 Performance, the Standard Range Plus doesn’t feel anywhere near as quick, but there’s still ample acceleration given the electric motor’s instant delivery of torque. You can, in fact, change the ferocity of the power delivery: in Chill mode the throttle pedal’s calibration is softer, so the Model 3 feels more progressive off the mark. In Standard mode it’s as aggressive as we’ve come to expect from an EV built by Tesla, with much keener reactions to flexes of your right ankle.
Like many EVs, Tesla still has a way to go with its regenerative braking systems, but this set-up is fairly intuitive. There are two modes to choose from, but only off and on, so there’s less gradation with the driver’s calibration when it comes to braking. With it on, the Tesla slows predictably as you lift off, force-feeding the battery with energy and recouping energy that would otherwise be wasted. Respect the throttle and drive conservatively, and the Model 3 only uses one mile of range for every one mile travelled, so its range read-out can be trusted too, which inspires plenty of confidence to actually use it and cover longer distances without any anxiety.
The steering is weighty and you can change the modes, which also adjusts the car’s torque vectoring to improve the agility of what is a weighty machine at 1,611kg. Few modern cars have much in the way of feel, but there’s very little connection to what the Model 3 is doing underneath you. That’s not to say it isn’t capable – there’s plenty of grip, in fact, and combined with the clever control software it means the motor can be used to really enhance the car’s capability, turning in harder and faster than you might think possible for a family-focused machine like this.
In the past, Teslas have been on the firm side, and while this one’s still occasionally crashy, there’s an acceptably compliant side to the ride. It has to be firm to control all of that weight, but there’s more finesse to the way this Model 3 covers bumps than early examples of the Model S, for example. It shows Tesla is evolving, improving and learning, which is obvious if you take a glimpse inside, too.
Build quality is better but still not in the league of Audi or BMW – but the infotainment is great. Given the huge 15-inch centrally-mounted screen, a head-up display in front of the driver would have been nice, but the system works so slickly and with hardly any lag that there are few complaints. The usual issues with touchscreens are apparent, so it’s not always the easiest to use in motion, but the clarity and response of the display is great.
No engine means a decent storage space in the front, so with a total of 425 litres of luggage space there’s a good level of practicality. With no intrusion into the cabin for an exhaust tunnel or prop shaft, legroom and space in the rear of the Model 3 is more than adequate, so it’s a shame that the swooping full-length glass roof eats into headroom a little.
Of course, with an EV, practicality is also governed by range and charging capability. With Tesla’s Supercharger network giving access to 120kW charging (adding as much as 170 miles of range in 30 minutes) there’s great flexibility here.
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CCS charging capability is also included, so owners can take advantage of 50kW, 100kW and even the 150kW rapid charging points emerging across the country, too. A 7.4kW wallbox supply should fully recharge the 55kWh battery in eight hours, so overnight charging at home is a genuine possibility too.