When I say electric vehicle, you think Tesla,
right? Once a rare sighting on Aussie roads,
Tesla is no longer limited to the wealthy early
adopters with kilowatt-hours on their mind.
In fact, with recent price cuts and
a new flow of supply from China,
Tesla will easily sell 10,000 examples of its
Model three this year, more than double that
of all other EVs combined. So let’s see if
the updated Model three is worth the hype.
In the last decade few brands have disrupted
the automotive industry in the way Tesla has.
With a polarising leader at the helm and a flock
of vocal devotees worldwide, Tesla has long been
an enigma to many. But in what could be the
ultimate paradox for the seemingly elitist EV
pioneer Tesla’s top selling Model three is now
more accessible than ever. Now priced under
almost all of its combustion engined German
rivals, the cheapest 2021 Tesla Model three
standard range plus also undercuts the luxury car
tax threshold with the least priced under $60,000.
Tesla design is synonymous with sleek minimalism,
a lasers more approach inside and out.
For that reason they aren’t a great
deal of stand out exterior features,
it’s all very subtle even getting in
is understated. Underneath the now
Chinese produced Model three
plus there’s different battery chemistry
lithium, iron, phosphate rather than
lithium, nickel, cobalt, aluminium,
which means it is cheaper to produce but reduces
range by around 10 miles or 16 kilometres.
But it allows for 100% charging rather than
90% and brings potentially a longer life cycle.
Fitted with a single AC electric motor, single
speed reduction gear and the 50.9 kilowatt-hour
battery the rear wheel drive Model three
standard range plus now has a maximum range of
448 kilometres, a top speed of 225 kilometres per
hour and a swift zero to 100 time of 5.6 seconds.
The interior is minimalist but it’s not clinical,
it still has a warmth and a nice sense of occasion
in here. And the quality of the cabin materials
and fit and finish in this Shanghai-built car
don’t appear to be any different to any
of the US models we’ve driven before.
Interior updates for 2021 include matte black
trims to replace the gloss piano black finish,
satin black sill plates, a graphite finish
for the seat controls and metallised scroll
wheels on the steering wheel. Also new are
inductive charging mats for two smartphones,
an updated centre console and this compartment
with a sliding lid. You’ll also find two extra
USB-C ports for high speed device charging and a
new magnetic sun visor that steps back into place.
It’s easy to get a comfortable driving
position but for anyone new to this model
it takes a while to get your head around the
lack of instrumentation front and centre.
This 15-inch colour centre mounted touch
screen is pretty much where it all happens.
Swipe, tap, zoom, pinch, it pretty
much mimics device life as we know it.
Push and scroll buttons on the steering wheel are
your other point of control, it’s a learned skill
but worth the effort. Traditionalists will
mourn the lack of tactile buttons and dials.
Years from my first taste of the Model three I’m
still teetering on the fence I love the clean
lines but I’m still craving some dexterous fun.
The user experience is intuitive and informative
as well as highly entertaining. There is no
Apple Car Play or Android Auto but we think
you’ll survive. You’ll find satellite
navigation, dual zone climate control,
bluetooth connectivity, voice control,
heated front seats and a Wi-Fi hotspot
all standard. You can even name your vehicle and
much of this you can do via the Tesla mobile app.
The Model three has a five star and kept safety
rating with most of the basics well covered.
In cabin storage is really good and what I
love is that you can put stuff in places,
close over the lids so it’s out of sight. Space,
amenity and comfort are all of a high standard.
And that carries through to the second row
as well. Comfortable seats fit for three,
two charge points, two directional
air vents, two ISOFIX positions,
three top tether child seat points and an arm rest
with cup holders. A 649 litre boot is fit for the
family load and then some. A power tailgate is new
for 2021 and you can open it using a button here,
use the touch screen or use the Tesla app.
60-40 split fold seats offer extra load
flexibility. For EV owners in Australia range
anxiety is real and the roll out of convenient
nationwide recharging infrastructure has been slow
but like EV subsidies that is rapidly changing.
So let’s get on to the driving enjoyment shall we?
The simple active unlocking the car and
jumping in and the Model three is ready to go.
There is no stop-start button, it immediately
feels different. The model three packs a punch
that throw you back in the seat kind that we’ve
come to enjoy from big torque EVs. Response is
immediate and more than enough. It handles well
too, it’s not up to the German levels of dynamism
and engagement behind the wheel but I tell you
what it’s not far off. Drive modes of comfort,
standard and sport dial up the engagement and feel
at the wheel. It’s really fun and easy to drive,
it’s sporty but still comfortable and noise
suppression is up there with the Europeans too.
Impressive range from one charge, a broad
and effective array of safety and driver
assist technologies and efficient home charging
solutions are another strength in the Tesla story.
A large glass house makes outward vision
really good but it also makes for a really
bright cabin and it also gives the sense
that it’s much larger than it actually
is. A four year 80,000 kilometre warranty will
disappoint many potential buyers. Reverse parking
the Tesla Model three is simple with the
help of cameras and front and rear sensors.
The 2021 Tesla Model three standard range
plus is better and cheaper than before. And
it addresses almost all of the concerns would-be
EV buyers might have. You’ll be hard-pressed to
find a better EV in this price bracket. So yes,
Tesla’s most affordable model is worth the hype.