Tesla Model 3 UK reviews: how does it handle Britain’s bumpy roads?

After a three-year wait, UK buyers are now taking delivery of the much-hyped budget EV

Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3
(Image credit: Tesla)

Tesla’s base-level Model 3 electric car is finally on sale in the UK and critics have put the car through its paces on Britain’s notoriously harsh roads.

The American electric carmaker took the covers off its cheapest model to date in April 2016, before taking orders from customers in the US a year later.

It was then confirmed earlier this year that orders for customers in mainland Europe were open, before company founder Elon Musk told his 27.8 million followers on Twitter that orders would commence in Britiain in early May.

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Now, three years on from the car’s unveiling, customers in the UK are finally taking delivery of the much-hyped electric car.

But before you place, here’s what the critics had to say after they got behind the wheel and set out on Britain’s roads:

What do the critics think?

“The Model 3 could only be a Tesla – its slippery shape is much like a Model S that shrunk in the wash, but cuter”, says Auto Express. The saloon looks surprisingly “compact” in the metal, but it’s actually larger than the critically acclaimed BMW 3 Series saloon. Perhaps the vehicle’s “large” windows are what hide its size.

The cabin is “the real wow factor” on the Model 3, the magazine argues. The “slim” 15in touchscreen panel in the centre of the dashboard is the only display in the cockpit, housing all of the car’s information and controls. There are no other buttons anywhere else in the cabin, aside from two on the steering wheel, nor are there any visible vents in the dashboard.

In fact, the cabin is so impressive that Top Gear says it feels better built than the Model S saloon and Model X SUV, both of which are considerably more expensive than the Model 3.

It takes some time to master the touchscreen display, but the website says it is much better than the infotainment systems on Tesla’s German rivals. “Elon Musk takes the same approach as Steve Jobs. Simplify and add beauty. It works.”

But none of this matters if the Model 3 doesn’t perform well on Britain’s pothole-ridden roads.

Thankfully, says Autocar, the budget EV feels “very good” on them. The vehicle’s long wheelbase means it rides “flat” and “controlled”, although there is a hint of body roll when driving around “very hard corners”. On particularly bad roads, there was “quite a bit of surface noise” that made its way into the cabin, though it was “by no means as bad as the worst” cars on the market.

“The steering is very accurate if a shade lifeless against the best” and the EV “grips extremely well” in corners, the motoring mag notes. Even on the bumpiest of roads, the steering wheel “stays rock-steady in your hands — thus the car always feels brilliantly stable”.

While the Model 3 is “pricey”, it “drives brilliantly, looks great, seems to be built just as well as other cars at the price and is full of the most advanced tech”, Auto Express adds.

WhatCar? agrees. It adds that the EV is “never uncomfortable” on British roads, despite being “firmer than some of its rivals”, and it’s “ridiculously” fast in top-spec performance trim.

Overall, the Model 3 “easily answers that question about suiting British drivers and roads – it’s made for them”, Autocar concludes. It is “indisputably a fascinating, very capable car”.

What about the Standard Range Model 3?

Tesla’s cheaper EV, the Model 3 Standard Range, is almost identical to the more expensive Long Range version, albeit with a smaller battery that delivers 220 miles of power.

Battery range is plentiful on the budget model, but the Standard Range car “feels nervous” when driven at motorway speeds, particularly on “poorly-surfaced motorways and B-roads”, says Top Gear. “The steering is too quick just off-centre, so you’re constantly making corrections on motorways and on country roads, as it twitches into corners too sharply.”

This would be less of an issue if the car had a stiffer chassis, the motoring site claims, but instead the Model 3 Standard Range “tends to lurch” at high speed. The “artificial weight” in Sport mode helps, but the car’s overall behaviour on motorways “remains odd and a bit disconcerting.”

While Auto Express agrees that the Model 3 Standard Range’s steering has “very little connection” to how the car reacts on the road, it still offers “plenty of grip” and there’s “more finesse” to ride quality compared to its big brother - the Model S.

Overall, though, the Model 3 Standard Range beats its combustion-engined rivals on pace, offers “lots of standard kit” and “genuinely usable” battery range, the magazine concludes.

Prices and delivery dates

Base-spec Model 3s start at £38,900 once the Government’s £3,500 electric car grant is applied, says financial news site This Is Money.

Above that sits the Long Range AWD model at £47,900, the news site says. As the name suggests, this version comes with a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system and a battery capacity of 348 miles.

Top-spec Performance versions, which offer a 0-60mph time of just 3.2 seconds and 329 miles of battery range, come in at £56,900.

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