2019 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus review (video)

Finally, from the bold brand of Tesla, the Model 3 has landed on Australian soil. With a waiting list that dated back to March 2016, the US-built, premium mid-size all-electric car is here. But in that time, many other EVs have become available on the market. So, does Tesla still have enough innovative individuality to maintain the hype? Let’s take a spin to find out.

Tesla likes to be secretive on specs of its cars, but we know that there are three models to choose from: The Standard Range Plus, the Long Range, and the Performance. The Standard Range Plus uses a single electric motor (rear-wheel drive) and will travel about 460km before needing a recharge. The Long Range has two electric motors (all-wheel drive), and can travel 620km. Then the Performance model boasts a 560km range but offers a claimed 0-100km/h run of just 3.4 seconds (separate review of that coming soon).

In Australia prices begin at $67,900 for the Standard Range Plus that we’re reviewing here. If you need that greater range or desire more power, prices rise to $90,014 for the Long Range, and from $99,124 for the Performance model (plus on-road costs). At the time of writing, Tesla’s website indicates delivery within a month of order.

2019 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus – THE SPECS

Battery capacity: 62kWh
Output: 211kW rear axle electric motor
Transmission: Single-speed auto
Drive type: Rear-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×8.5, 235/45
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1609kg
Power-to-weight: 7.62:1 (kg:kW)
Official range (NEDC): 460km

0-60km/h: 3.03 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.63 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.47 seconds*
1/8 mile: 9.20 seconds at 134.6km/h*
1/4 mile: 13.99 seconds at 166.4km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.245g
100-0km/h braking: 2.85 seconds at 37.71 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.375g
Priced from: $67,900

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2019 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus – THE PACKAGE

The difference with the Tesla Model 3 compared to other EVs now on the market is that even if you take away the all-electric aspect of the car, it is still so different. Almost everything is operated by the gigantic 15-inch centre touch-screen which can be operated by voice command. Even the air flow direction and glove box access are controlled by this screen. Minimalistic and futuristic seems to be the theme – there are no buttons, no instrument cluster, and no gear selector on the centre console. Even the doors can be opened by the screen.

Being electric does not mean the interior space is compromised. Maybe the fact that there are no buttons or dials sprouting out at you makes legroom, headroom, and rear seat room feel bigger than the average mid-size sedan. In fact, the rear boot space combined with the front boot is officially rated at 542 litres. This is more than the Audi A4 (480L), BMW 3 Series (480L) and Mercedes-Benz C-Class (455L) sedan rivals.

The exterior design is also minimal, non-flared, rounded and smooth. It adopts most of the same design elements from the bigger Tesla Model S. There is no front grille, and the smooth aero-style wheels help with efficiency and to give it a futuristic look.

Inside, the materials used feel premium and clean. But it can seem a little too clean. When do we mean? It’s very bare and almost sterile. Like sitting in a hospital waiting room. A private hospital waiting room.

Comfort-wise, the Model 3 is a nice place to be. The seats are soft and supportive, with all of the electronic adjustments you would expect. Even the steering wheel is power-adjustable – of course, by using the centre command screen. Gears are selected via the right-hand steering column stalk, like an old-fashion column shifter.

We did notice this test car had some minor rattles coming from the dash when driving, and some of the exterior panel gaps are noticeably larger than the established combustion-powered rivals. We think this might have something to do with Tesla still being a relatively new car manufacturer and still building its manufacturing experience.

All Model 3 variants are generously packaged and come with a beautiful sound system. But it’s a secret how many speakers are offered. Internet connectivity can be made by the centre screen via a paired device or SIM card, which allows you to control aspects of the car remotely via the Tesla phone app. You can do things like unlock and lock, and turn on the air-con without being near the car.

You also get dual-zone climate control, distance-controlled cruise control, daytime running LED lamps, leather seats, a tinted glass roof, auto-dipping high beam and active cornering headlights, blind-spot sensors with passive lane departure assist, forward collision mitigation, and front, rear and side parking cameras.

The Standard Range Plus misses out on digital radio, and you need to pay extra to get the full self-driving Autopilot capability that is not available until later this year.

Elon Musk couldn’t resist showing his quirky side, as there are some peculiar ‘Easter egg’ features built into the big screen. For example, you can make the indicator sound like a fart; you can turn your car into Santa’s giant sleigh in the picture within the screen; and you can play games when the car is stationary.

2019 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus – THE DRIVE

It’s always a good idea to get used to your surroundings and button placements when getting behind the wheel of a new car for the first time. But with the Tesla, this is more necessary than ever. We’re not saying that you’ll be overwhelmed; it’s just very different to a conventional car. We’d say it is slightly more difficult to get things done while driving, but the huge screen will definitely appeal to the serious tech-heads out there.

Like with other electric vehicles on the market, the delivery of power here is immediate. There are no gear change delays or turbo lag to wait for. Torque is wonderfully strong and really handy for getting up hills or a quick take-off. And there is a delightful amount of power on tap (211kW) considering no fossil fuels are being used. Officially, the Standard Range Plus rear-wheel drive covers 0-100km/h in a claimed 5.6 seconds. Our testing revealed a best time of 5.63 seconds.

You don’t need to use the brakes as much in the Model 3. Like with other EVs, when you reduce acceleration you will feel back pressure as the energy from your momentum is collected and used to recharge the batteries. There is a setting within the touch-screen that allows you to adjust the level of load that you feel, so if you don’t like this driving style you can turn it down so it coasts more like a regular car.

In terms of handling, the steering is light and responsive, which makes it very easy to navigate around the city and tight carparks. Bumps are absorbed effectively via what feels like a great suspension system, with only a nervous wobble evident over larger potholes. Around fast bends it is wonderfully composed, partly thanks to the strategic placement of batteries that help keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. Tesla has also opted for Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, which are about as good as they come for this style of vehicle.

The biggest adaption to your lifestyle is in the way you refuel the car. Your trips may need to be more prearranged and less spur-of-the-moment – especially if you travel long distances. The travelling range is roughly 460km in the Standard Plus (according to NDEC testing standards), which, for example, is 10km less than the Hyundai Kona Electric. Our testing revealed a 377km range when driving in ‘normal’ mode.

It does take much longer to recharge than refuelling a regular car, too. You can plug it into a standard household powerpoint, which will take over 20 hours. Or, you can plug it into a standard public charging station which takes a bit over an hour, or a specialised Tesla Supercharging station which takes a bit less. You can also have Tesla install a fast-charger in your house. We were able to charge to full in about 50 minutes using a Supercharger. But a word of warning, there are not many of these around yet. If you have one near your work, home or shopping centre, you’re laughing.

Unfortunately, Australia’s current infrastructure for EVs is not yet set up to handle EVs at a mass level. As well, if your home has a car space away from your building, or you only have street parking, you might need to hold onto your polluting car for a little longer.

2019 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus – THE VIDEO

2019 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus – THE VERDICT

Within the automotive industry, the new Tesla Model 3 competes in a relatively niche field. And within that field, there’s no doubt the Model 3 is a unique car. It’s as close as we have come to be the most practical and usable EV in the real world. But it might be a bridge too far for country drivers, or drivers with lifestyles not suited to the current recharging technology and availability within Australia.

We love the instant torque and power delivery, as always with electric cars, and it’s great that you can go even further if you opt for higher-end variants. The in-car technology is also amazing, and the interior layout thinks outside the square in terms of practicality and sheer spaciousness.

If you do choose the Model 3 we can guarantee that you’re buying into an enthusiastic community, and so you will be caught among countless conversations at recharge points with fellow Tesla owners. They all seem to want to stop and have a good chat with you – it’s a great way to pass time while recharging.

Sadly, Tesla doesn’t meet the industry warranty length standards, offering four years and only 80,000km. We feel this is something you should keep in mind, especially since Tesla is still a relatively new carmaker. It does offer four years roadside assistance, however.

PROS:
– No tailpipe emissions
– Well packaged with technology and space
– Huge amount of instant torque available
– Reasonably priced compared with premium mid-size rivals

CONS:
– Not completely suitable for Australian infrastructure
– Questionable build quality in some areas, for this segment
– Speedo position takes some getting used to

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Mark is a contributing road tester at PerformanceDrive, and is an expert in technology and efficiency. He has had a passion for cars since before he can remember. With the soul and background of an IT nerd, Mark especially appreciates technology advances, safety, and attention to detail. His first car was a rusty powder blue 1972 Volvo 144 sedan. When he's not road testing vehicles, his daily drive is still a Volvo only now it's able to steer and brake all by itself.