Lincolnshire Pride

Test Drive: Tesla Model 3

A seriously good car, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Tesla’s updated Model 3 is quick, quiet and quirky.  We enjoyed a seven-day test drive in the company’s most affordable model and soon found it to be a well-rounded, good value and very likeable proposition both for private and company car drivers. Expect a very long queue to form when Tesla opens its Lincoln premises, at Teal Park just off Lincoln’s A46, next year, but if you can’t wait that long, Tesla is now trialling new self-service test drives at three locations in Lincolnshire too

The Details: Tesla Model 3
Price: £39,990 (rear wheel drive); £49,990 (dual motor AWD, long range model).
Performance: Top speed 125mph, 0-60mph: 5.8sec (RWD), 4.2sec (AWD).
Range, WLTP combined, 18” wheels: 344 miles (RWD), 421 miles (AWD).

Standard Equipment: Electric windows, mirrors, steering wheel and seat adjustment, navigation, Bluetooth, vegan ‘leather,’ heated seats front/rear, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, parking sensors and camera, adaptive cruise control, power boot operation, keyless entry, smartphone app with cabin pre-heating/cooling.

They say time flies when you’re having fun. That was certainly my experience with a week-long test drive of Tesla’s recently updated Model 3. The car itself flies, too. In fact, along A-roads and dual carriageways it feels as brisk as a supercar, just as its 0-60mph time of 4.2 seconds might suggest. But brisk performance is by no means the car’s only strength. 

I reckon it’s the best value, most well-rounded vehicle on the market. It was a joy to drive for a week: silent, smooth and inoffensive around Sleaford or for my office commute, but also extremely capable and fun along the twisty roads through Horncastle and up through the Wolds to Louth, to photograph a charity event on Saturday evening. It’s also loaded with features that remain costly options on cars twice its price, and there’s an abundance of room for passengers both front and rear, plus a generous boot, ensuring that Model 3 is practical as well as being great to drive and inexpensive to own.

If you want something badly enough it’s easy to find a justification and though I confess I was already desperate to try out the Model 3, happily, my test drive could be explained away easily. That’s because earlier this year Tesla secured planning permission to create a Lincoln Tesla Centre at Teal Park, just off the A46 near Whisby Road, to offer sales, servicing and supercharging when it opens, next year.

Model 3 is currently the most affordable Tesla and was facelifted late last year with a number of improvements that will filter through to the rest of the company’s models, indicating the firm’s approach to future vehicles’ design and technology… another reason for my test drive.

And if any further justification to satisfy my whim was needed, 2023’s new car registrations were recently published in which Tesla did very well indeed. The company currently makes four models, S, 3, X, Y. Its two executive saloons are the larger Model S and smaller Model 3. It also makes two SUVs; the larger Model X and its smaller Model Y.

The latter was the fifth best-selling car overall and the best selling electric vehicle in the UK in 2023, with just under 36,000 registrations. Tesla only released its first car in Britain in 2014… and it didn’t start selling Model Y until 2022, so for such a young car company and such a recent model to become one of the country’s best-selling cars so quickly is both unprecedented and very impressive too. Model Y, incidentally, will be the next model to gain the Model 3’s recent improvements.

Undoubtedly, Tesla is here to stay, and there are rumours that the company will launch a smaller electric hatchback – probably badged the Model 2 – next year, priced at around £25,000 and aimed at making its premium electric cars even more affordable. 

Another reason to love Tesla is the simplicity of its lineup. There are just two versions of the Model 3. The rear-wheel drive version of the car has a 344-mile range and reaches 60mph in 5.8 seconds; it’s priced at £39,990. An all-wheel drive version with a 421-mile range that reaches 60mph in 4.2 seconds is priced at £49,990. We tried the latter.

Until Tesla has a presence in Lincoln, our nearest Tesla Centre is Nottingham, where Rebecca Chappell handed over the keys… well, not keys; a credit card wallet-based backup to the car’s mobile phone app, which, once signed in, allows keyless access to the car, allows you to heat or cool the cabin prior to a journey, and to check its charge status.

Speaking of charging, an advantage of Tesla over other brands is exclusive access to the company’s supercharging network. I was conscious to keep the car charged up as I don’t have good charging infrastructure at home, just a standard 13amp socket. A permanent domestic charger on your drive will fully charge the car in about eight hours (e.g.: overnight) – less if it’s not completely depleted – and you can instruct the car to charge during off-peak hours. E-on’s Next Drive Fixed tariff currently prices electricity at 30.9p/kWh on peak, or just 8p/kWh off peak, from midnight until 7am. For a week, I managed very well at Gonerby Junction’s 150kW Tesla-only Superchargers which provide 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes.

First impressions of the Model 3 is that it’s even better looking in the flesh than in photos. With no need to accommodate an engine up front, the bonnet can be low and sleek, sculpted, with no grilles, just slim headlights. It’s all very sexy and from the front, the car is not dissimilar in appearance to a Ferrari Roma. At the back, with its muscular shoulders, it’s similar in shape to an Aston Martin DB12.

We really love Tesla’s Ultra Red paint, introduced with the car’s facelift and seen here in Tesla’s official press pics. Our test car however was finished in Stealth Grey, also a new shade and very nice, but similar to five other Teslas when we went to supercharge… the ubiquity lead one driver to try to get into my car instead of hers by mistake. 

Happily, among Tesla’s features is Sentry Mode, a built-in camera which records people who approach the car, and can alert your mobile, potentially helping to catch a reckless supermarket trolley user who’s just dinged your car, in the act. The same system helped identify which of my neighbours’ cats was responsible for the muddy paw marks up the bonnet one morning. J’accuse… Princess.

The car’s interior is completely pared back, and as of the car’s facelift, even the gear selector has been moved to the crisp, responsive 15.4” touchscreen. It works well. 

A particular quirk is steering-wheel buttons, instead of a stalk, for the indicators. Even if you’re sceptical, go with it; Tesla has a knack for ergonomics and you soon find yourself appreciating the minimalist interior.

It’s all intuitive and well-thought out but build quality is super too; definitely up to BMW, Mercedes or Audi standards, with high quality materials and small panel gaps. Materials feel plush, there’s no free-play or panel wobbles, and the vegan leather is very nice, though our white leather – beautiful as it undoubtedly is – will be a chore to keep clean. 

Speaking of clean, our grey Model 3 was immaculately valeted upon collection, but as it was a wet, miserable day when we collected it, our car soon looked mucky, hence we’ve availed ourselves of Tesla’s press pictures.

Other facelift improvements include extensive soundproofing with acoustic glass… the press briefing says 30% quieter. We say virtually silent in town and hushed on A-roads and motorways. Really serene.

No handling complaints, though the car’s  quiet refinement does show up how bad our roads are, as our tyres met the A17’s potholes and disparate patches of tarmac.

Being fully electric, Model 3’s power delivery is instant. Telsa’s accelerator pedal calibration and its regenerative braking means you can drive with just your right foot, hardly needing to touch the brakes. Adaptive cruise control is standard too, so on our single-carriageway A-roads, a longer drive is relaxing and you’re always a safe distance from the car in front. 

Besides the choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, there are no different trim levels and, happily, no expensive packaged options. You can, however, specify Enhanced Autopilot with automatic bay or parallel parking, and Summon, which parks into, or retrieves the car from, a tight parking space or a garage   whilst you stand outside, using the phone app.

It costs a not inconsiderable £3,400, but we’d specify it on the basis that it might prevent kerbed wheels or a bumper scuff. Model 3 is also ready for Full Self Driving Capability, which is a £6,800 option, although that won’t be road legal in the UK until 2025 at least.

It may be seriously good, but Model 3 doesn’t take itself too seriously. My 12-year old son adored the 8” rear screen which afforded him his own climate controls, heated seat controls and enabled him to watch YouTube, Netflix, access Spotify and to play some of the built-in games. Other frivolous touches include the ability to make the car put on a light and sound show for those outside the vehicle.

There’s a built-in electronic whoopee cushion too, and ‘romance mode’ which displays an open fire on the screen, turns up the heating, dims the lights and plays Marvin Gaye. You can even change the sound of the car’s horn to play La Cucaracha, a feature that amused me much more than it amused my neighbours.

These are undoubtedly silly touches, but the Model 3 can easily get away with it, because fundamentally, it’s a great value, well-built, well-equipped car that’s genuinely premium.

If Model 3 was priced at ten or even twenty thousand pounds more, it would still be a great buy. The inexpensive list price and its comparatively high-spec plus the car’s  speed and genuine real-world range already make it a better candidate on paper than its rivals. 

However, as a prospective vehicle either for private drivers looking to go green and charge on a cheap tariff overnight, or for company drivers seeking to lower tax liability, few cars are also as well-rounded or enjoyable to drive and own as the wholly excellent Model 3.

Tesla is now trialling its latest innovation, self-service test drives, here in Lincolnshire. Anyone with a valid driving license can test drive a Tesla Model Y or Model 3 simply by using their smartphone. The experience is available at Thoresby Estate in Newark, Brackenborough Hotel in Louth and Forest Pines Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort in Brigg. Our vehicle was provided by Tesla UK Press and Nottingham Tesla Centre, see, or call 01628 450660.

Supercharging at Gonerby Junction near Grantham.
A lovely place to be... white 'leather' will soon appear mucky, but it's lovely!