The Euros strike back! The cheap yet chic EVs matching and even beating BYD Dolphin, MG4 and other Chinese electric cars
Right now, battlelines are being drawn at the lower end of the electric vehicle...
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Now that we have more details on the heavily updated 2024 Tesla Model 3, we thought it might be a good idea to see how it compares to its most direct competitors.
All three cars are sedan-like in nature, all are long-range fully electric models, and two want Tesla’s crown as the best-seller in the segment. As it might be a while before we can compare them on-the-road back-to-back, let’s take a look at how they compare on paper.
We’ve had pricing for a while. The 2024 Model 3 can currently be ordered with a before on-roads and state-based-discounts price-tag of $61,900 for the base rear-wheel drive, or $71,800 for the mid-spec Long Range. The Performance won’t be offered initially, but will return at a later date.
While the entry price for the Model 3 has returned to a level it was at previously, the Polestar 2 has only become more expensive. At the time of writing, the entry-level Polestar 2 Standard Range Single Motor cost $67,400, while the Long Range cost $71,400, and the Long Range Dual Motor is $76,400 ($85,400 with the Performance Pack).
BYD looks to be the player to really mix things up here, with its base-model Seal Dynamic costing just $49,888. That means for the first time, there's a genuine price threat to the Model 3, which has until now been able to stave off the Polestar 2 through frequent price-adjustments. The mid-spec Seal Premium costs $58,798, while the top-spec Performance costs $68,748 - notably more affordable than even mid-grade versions of its rivals here.
A winner? Hard to say until we can get our hands on the Seal to see if the quality is up to the task, but it's way ahead on price alone.
Up until recently, it’s been hard to talk about electric car value without also talking driving range, but these three models in particular have come far in providing plenty of range for prospective buyers, even in their most entry level forms. All figures below are to the more accurate WLTP testing standard.
The new Model 3 has again had a boost to its range thanks to significantly revised aerodynamics and a new set of tyres designed specifically for the model.
As a result, range has been boosted up to 513km for the Rear Wheel Drive, or 629km for the Long Range.
The Polestar 2’s recent deep upgrade also came with aerodynamic tweaks, but also a new set of larger batteries and more efficient motors.
The drive-type was also shifted to primarily rear-wheel drive to chase further efficiency gains.
As a result the base Polestar 2 Standard Range Single Motor can travel 518km, while the Long Range Single Motor can travel 654km and the Dual Motor drops to 591km.
Finally, the BYD Seal. The base Dynamic can travel 460km on a single charge, the mid-grade Premium can travel 570km on a single charge while the all-wheel drive Performance can travel 520km on a single charge.
They’re all pretty closely matched on this front, but it seems as though the Polestar has the edge here, justifying the additional spend. As it is, it seems like the Model 3 is cornered between the longer range offered by the Polestar and the lower price offered by the Seal.
Standard gear is pretty high for every car here, with the primary changes being to range and performance as you walk up the variants.
The Model 3 scores 18-inch wheels, a 15.4-inch multimedia screen, LED headlights, perforated heated and ventilated synthetic leather seats, dual wireless chargers, ambient interior lighting and a power boot. The key downsides for some buyers will be the lack of Apple CarPlay and a digital instrument cluster, although some of the Model 3’s software features are quite unique.
Meanwhile the Polestar gets 19-inch wheels, an 11.5-inch touchscreen with a 12.3-inch digital dash, Apple CarPlay connectivity, LED headlights, and cloth seat trim.
The main downside for the Polestar is the handful of optional gear which is standard on the other cars here, and the abundance of hard materials in its cabin compared to its rivals.
The entry-level Seal gets 18-inch wheels, a 15.3-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.25-inch instrument cluster, LED headlights, synthetic leather interior trim and the full set of safety equipment.
This car is clearly shooting for value and it shows. The big win here is vehicle-to-load which neither of its rivals get, but it remains to be seen if the BYD’s software and material choices can hold a candle to its very good rivals here. This leaves the Seal as seemingly our value winner.
Regardless, the Tesla Model 3 seems to maintain the largest boot capacity, even if the area is a little less accessible, measuring 561 litres. This includes its large under-floor storage area at the rear. It also features an 88-litre frunk.
The Polestar 2, despite having the most accessible luggage area thanks to its rear liftback hatch, is the smallest, measuring in at 405 litres with a 41-litre frunk.
Finally, the BYD Seal gets 450L of boot capacity, landing between its two competitors here, with a 50-litre frunk.
Our winner? On paper it’s the Model 3 overall, but some might find the Polestar’s hatch rear to be invaluable for ease of access.
Each car here follows a pretty similar range structure, offering a rear-wheel drive ‘standard range’ base model, with higher variants moving to bigger batteries, higher performance motors, and all-wheel drive.
Tesla doesn’t offer power figures for its cars, instead dealing in 0-100km/h times. Data the brand has listed for compliance reasons in other markets has the rear drive unit producing a competitive 190kW/375Nm
The Polestar pulls ahead of its rivals here, again helping it to justify its dearer cost. The rear-drive unit in this car comes to a punchy 200kW/490Nm.
Finally, performance could be the Seal’s blind spot, with its rear motor unit producing just 150kW/310Nm - this is actually the same as its Atto 3 SUV sibling, no doubt giving the brand a bit more economy of scale when it comes to its equipment, helping keep the price low. You’ll have to wait until we road test it to see if it can keep up with its rivals here.
A winner here? It’s hard to say without driving them. The Model 3 is also at a disadvantage because its top-spec performance variant isn’t here yet.
On the face of it, it looks like the Polestar has the edge.
The Model 3 carries over its batteries, cooling, and charging hardware, meaning the same specs as the pre-update model. This means a claimed peak of 250kW on DC. Charge time to 80 per cent arrives in roughly half an hour.
The Polestar 2 is a tad slower than the Model 3, with the base battery achieving a DC peak of 135kW for an 80 per cent charge in 34 minutes. The larger Long Range battery can charge at a rate of 205kW for a charge time in 28 minutes, more competitive with the Tesla.
Finally, the BYD Seal can charge at a maximum rate of 110kW on DC for the base car, or 150kW on DC for the Premium or Performance variants. This suggests a 10 - 80 per cent charge time of a little over half an hour for each version.
The cars are pretty evenly matched here, leaving us without a winner. Technically the Seal seems the slowest to charge outside of independent testing, although it’s not by much, and it’s also the only one to offer a vehicle-to-load system from its charging port.
The Tesla continues with a lacklustre four-year warranty, behind the expected five-year and unlimited kilometre warranties offered by most manufacturers in Australia. Servicing is computer-determined, although isn’t particularly transparent on the brand’s website. At least the list of parts, fluids, and filters don’t seem outrageously priced.
One benefit the Tesla does get over its rivals here is access to the brand’s entire ‘Supercharger’ network which extends the amount of charging locations significantly.
The Polestar has the standard five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty, but the real kicker is the brand throws in five years of servicing for free. Sure, that only really covers two services because the intervals are two years or 24,000km, but zero running costs outside of charging for the warranty term is pretty appealing.
The Seal meanwhile gets slightly ahead with a six-year warranty but it is distance limited at 150,000km. It shares its service pricing with the rest of the BYD range, costing an average of $299 per year for the first eight years. The Seal needs to see the shop every year or 20,000km.
Our winner? Jeez, the Polestar gets ahead with zero service cost for the warranty period.
We’ll give you a better determination once we’re able to properly road test each of these models, but on these figures alone it’s clear the Model 3 is holding its own, but its once large lead has been eroded by its impressive rivals. It’s not quite the slam-dunk it once was, despite its significant upgrades this time around, although the promised upgrades to materials and ride quality could still make it a clear winner. Stay tuned for our full review.