The Tesla Model 3 is the most popular electric car in the country, and it’s now cheaper than ever. We find out what the most affordable Tesla is all about.
IT’S CHEAPER THAN EVER
A few weeks ago Tesla slashed the price of the entry-level Model 3 by about $3200, bringing the price of the Standard Range Plus (SR+) tested here down to about $65,000 drive-away. That’s bad news if you paid close to $80K this time last year. State government incentives add further savings of up to $3000, although NSW buyers will have to wait until September 1 to take advantage. Compared to similarly priced mainstream EVs from Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Mazda, the Tesla is great value. There’s no shortage of Model 3s to go around, as there are currently a couple of thousand on the docks waiting for owners.
THE CABIN IS VEGAN-FRIENDLY
Plenty of prestige brands use fake leather, but Tesla throws in vegan-friendly glues to ensure the whole car has no animal products. While it’s a conversation starter with friends, the faux leather looks very artificial. And the interior generally is stark and minimalist. If it wasn’t for the 15-inch touchscreen – which houses the speedo and the controls for opening and closing the bonnet, boot and glovebox – the cabin would be decidedly bland. It’s also lacking some features. There’s no head-up display, AM radio or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. To compensate, you can set the indicators to make a fart sound and play Atari arcade games or chess while parked.
THE RANGE CLAIMS ARE OPTIMISTIC
Tesla recently changed the claimed range of its Model 3 on its Australian website. The SR+ dropped from 508km to 448km, although nothing changed with the car. Tesla simply adopted the more realistic efficiency standard now used in Europe. It’s still too generous, though. Even with the bigger, heavier battery fitted to the updated Model 3 (it was upsized because Tesla started using batteries that are believed to be cheaper to manufacture but store less electricity) it will likely get about 400km from a charge – less if you’re sitting on 110km/h. A full charge at a Tesla Supercharger takes about an hour and will cost about $28. Charge it at home and the bill will be more like $14.
IT’S QUICK OFF THE MARK
The SR+ drives the rear wheels via a single electric motor. Tesla doesn’t quote power figures for this car, instead claiming a zero to 100km/h time of just 5.6 seconds. That’s not bad for a car that competes with the cheapest versions of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Sharp steering and taut suspension means it’s more sporty than luxurious, but the effortless near-instant acceleration makes it a fun drive.
IT’S NOW SOURCED FROM CHINA
Earlier this year Tesla Australia began sourcing the Model 3 out of China instead of the United States. The change of factories coincided with a minor update that also brought dual wireless phone chargers and a new trim strip on the insides of the doors (some cars late in 2020 also got the update). There’s also a new battery pack. There are still quality glitches you wouldn’t find on a Toyota, but the Chinese-made cars seem better screwed together than those from the United States.