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Tesla Model 3 2023 review: Rear-Wheel Drive

  • DrivetrainFully electric
  • Battery Capacity62.3kWh
  • Battery typeLFP
  • Range491km (WLTP)
  • Plug TypeType 2 CCS
  • DC charge rate250kW
  • AC charge rate11kW
  • Motor output190kW/375Nm
  • Efficiency13.6kWh/100km
Complete Guide to Tesla MODEL 3

The Tesla Model 3 is already an historically significant vehicle.

It’s not the first EV, it’s not even close to being the first mass-produced EV. But, it is the most popular EV in the world during a once in a generation shift toward electric drivetrain technology.

To give you an idea of this car’s popularity in Australia, in the first half of 2022 the Model 3 is only about 450 sales behind the Toyota Camry.

The Model 3 has made electric cars more accessible, and even cool, and since we last reviewed it, it has even managed to weather the storm of price rises relatively well.

The question is, with rivals bearing down on it locally and overseas, does the Model 3 deserve to be known as Australia’s best-value electric car?

We’ve grabbed its most popular variant, the entry-level Rear Wheel Drive, to find out if it has what it takes. 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

This entry-level car is the most popular in the range for a very good reason. Despite offering an outstanding driving range and well above par features and performance, the Model 3 RWD wears an MSRP of $65,500.

Model 3 is one of the most affordable EVs you can buy in Australia. (Image: Tom White) Model 3 is one of the most affordable EVs you can buy in Australia. (Image: Tom White)

That makes it one of the most affordable EVs you can buy in Australia, although the final price-tag will vary depending on where the car is delivered. In NSW where we tested the Model 3, the final price comes to just $66,776 thanks to a stamp duty exemption (-$2540) and a $3000 rebate currently in place.

The Rear Wheel Drive has been updated this year with a new battery with an alternate LFP chemistry, which has increased the WLTP-certified driving range to 491km on a single charge. It’s a lot of range, and one of the Tesla’s key advantages over its most direct rivals at this price.

15-inch multimedia touchscreen. (Image: Tom White) 15-inch multimedia touchscreen. (Image: Tom White)

Its most prime rival is the newcomer from Sweden via China, the Polestar 2, which mimics the Tesla’s pricing strategy. The base Polestar 2 is a front-wheel drive offering also from $63,900, but to get close to matching the equipment level of our Tesla here, it requires the optional Pilot safety pack, adding a further $5000 to the price.

Other rivals include the Nissan Leaf e+ (from $61,490) or Hyundai Kona Electric (from $60,500) although neither come close to this car’s level of standard inclusions.

The biggest threat to the Model 3’s dominance comes from within the brand’s own ranks, with the Model Y shooting to the top of buyers lists wherever it launches. Read our launch review of the Model Y here.

19-inch alloy wheels with aerodynamic hubcaps. (Image: Tom White) 19-inch alloy wheels with aerodynamic hubcaps. (Image: Tom White)

Standard stuff for the Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive includes a massive 15-inch multimedia touchscreen with always-online connectivity, built-in navigation, a comprehensive host of apps which many rivals don’t have, LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels with aerodynamic hubcaps, ‘vegan’ leather interior trim, power adjust front seats, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, and heated seats all-round.

LED headlights. (Image: Tom White) LED headlights. (Image: Tom White)

The app for this car deserves a special mention. It is one of the best executions of an automotive phone app on the market, offering you the ability to control many of the car’s functions remotely, as well as offering in-depth information on charging. More on this later.

Ironically, for a car with such a great software suite, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. Tesla is betting you’ll use built-in versions of key apps like Spotify, and use your phone with the more basic Bluetooth functions. Tough luck I guess if you often rely on your favourite iOS app, built-in music apps, or an app that the Tesla doesn’t support.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Model 3 is slick, modern, inoffensive, but perhaps a bit featureless? To me it looks a little bit like a wireless mouse, but it speaks volumes that despite being a sedan, the Model 3’s curvy, garnish-free design is seemingly universally appealing across many markets.

There’s certainly something slick about its nose which dips inward as though taking influence from Porsche. It comes as no surprise this design has an extremely low drag coefficient of just 0.23cd.

There’s certainly something slick about its nose which dips inward as though taking influence from Porsche. (Image: Tom White) There’s certainly something slick about its nose which dips inward as though taking influence from Porsche. (Image: Tom White)

Character is added back through the distinctive light profile, both front and rear, and the base 19-inch wheels on our car, which I know from various social media pages are seen as so stupendously cool that people buy them, or even steal them to put on other makes and models. It’s wild the cool bit is just a plastic aerodynamic cover for the alloy wheel beneath.

The cabin takes minimalism to the extreme, with just the single massive centre tablet interrupting the clean lines of the dash. The dash itself is low and finished with an appealingly simple woodgrain panel, and the directional air-vents are hidden away and controlled digitally rather than on full display.

The cabin takes minimalism to the extreme, with just the single massive centre tablet interrupting the clean lines of the dash. (Image: Tom White) The cabin takes minimalism to the extreme, with just the single massive centre tablet interrupting the clean lines of the dash. (Image: Tom White)

This pairs with the abundance of glass to make for a space which is very… Apple Store. It’s spacious and pleasingly minimalist, but cars need to display information and have controls… more on this in the practicality section.

The mix of textures and materials is also pleasing, with soft surfaces where there needs to be soft surfaces, a neutral colour palette of blacks, greys, and silvers interrupted only by the woodgrain piece.

Again, I can see why this design is seemingly universally appealing. It’s simple, well executed, and feels modern.

How practical is the space inside?

As modern as the interior feels though, it comes with a few drawbacks. Primarily, the fact that about 90 per cent of this car’s core functions are controlled solely through the multimedia screen. It’s a huge tablet with very impressive software that runs lightning fast, but its crisp resolution means the touch areas for some core features are a little too small to be comfortable to use while you’re on the move.

Unlike other cars where even a small button can at least be sought out by feel and provides tactile feedback once it’s been pressed, in the Tesla you are forced to take your eyes from the road at times to make sure you’re doing exactly what you want when you adjust things like the climate controls, steering tune, and radio.

The same can be said for the centrally located speedometer and power/regen indicator. With no dash or even a holographic display, these two key items have moved to the edge of the centre display. It’s not like this hasn’t been done before. Old versions of the Toyota Yaris, Nissan X-Trail, and Mini Cooper spring to mind, but it is annoying to have to constantly look to the centre of the car to reference something as important as your speed.

The back seat is a less impressive story, with a more confined space courtesy of a descending roofline and seats which have bases much taller than in the front. (Image: Tom White) The back seat is a less impressive story, with a more confined space courtesy of a descending roofline and seats which have bases much taller than in the front. (Image: Tom White)

I’m seemingly fighting a losing battle on this one, with Tesla acolytes in the comment section roasting me every time I mention it, but for some buyers coming out of a car with a more traditional layout, it’s worth mentioning. The same can be said for the touch panel, and to be fair here, Tesla is a trend-setter with brands like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Polestar, and others moving to similar fully touch interfaces. For the record, I don’t like them in those cars either, but at least the Polestar had the good sense to maintain an actual instrument cluster and make the key functions have enormous touch regions in its menus.

Moving on, the Model 3’s interior is spacious for front passengers with some clever storage options. There’s a bottle holder in the door, two more in the centre console (although without adjustable ridges to hold smaller bottles in), dual wireless charging pads which help you have a cable-free interior, and two huge storage areas, one under the wireless chargers with a retracting lid, and another under the armrest console box.

  • The boot measures 561-litres (VDA) The boot measures 561-litres (VDA)
  • 2022 Telsa Model 3 I Boot 2022 Telsa Model 3 I Boot
  • 2022 Telsa Model 3 I Boot 2022 Telsa Model 3 I Boot

The back seat is a less impressive story, with a more confined space courtesy of a descending roofline and seats which have bases much taller than in the front. I fit okay at 182cm tall, but if you’re any taller than me there’s a good chance your head will be touching the glass ceiling.

The seat trim is comfortable though, and it's a neat touch to have every position, even the centre position, heated. The flat floor gives you plenty of space for your feet, and amenity-wise there is a small bottle holder in the door, two more in the drop-down armrest, small pockets on the backs of the front seats, dual adjustable air vents, and dual USB-C power outlets.

The frunk is 88-litres and was also able to fit the smallest luggage case. (Image: Tom White) The frunk is 88-litres and was also able to fit the smallest luggage case. (Image: Tom White)

The boot measures 561-litres (VDA) but this includes the large compartment under the boot floor which may not fit more unwieldy objects. We needed to use it to house the smallest (36L) CarsGuide luggage case to fit the whole set, but there was a little extra space to spare on either side once the larger two were loaded.

The frunk is 88-litres and was also able to fit the smallest luggage case, although this space is probably best saved for charging equipment.

What are the key stats for the drivetrain?

Tesla doesn’t talk power figures for its range, preferring instead to deal in 0-100km/h times, which are dubiously useful for the average buyer. Regardless, the RWD is the “slowest” Model 3, completing the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.1 seconds. To put that into perspective, it’s about as rapid as a Hyundai i30 N but feels faster thanks to its instantaneous torque application. 

Tesla doesn’t talk power figures for its range, preferring instead to deal in 0-100km/h times, which are dubiously useful for the average buyer. (Image: Tom White) Tesla doesn’t talk power figures for its range, preferring instead to deal in 0-100km/h times, which are dubiously useful for the average buyer. (Image: Tom White)

Data listed elsewhere has the Model 3 producing roughly 190kW/375Nm which seems about right to me. It’s both more powerful and has the advantage of rear-wheel drive as opposed to front-wheel drive compared to its closest base Polestar 2 rival.

Again though, this speaks to the value of this base car. It’s as fast as a hot hatch, has fun rear-wheel drive dynamics, and only costs $10,000 more than one while adding 491km of all-electric range. What’s not to like about that?

How much does it consume? What’s the range like, and what it’s like to recharge/refuel?

First, range. 491km is the current number, although this seems to be changing frequently as Tesla tweaks the Model 3’s battery chemistry. The base car now has a new Lithium-iron-phosphate unit, which has both extended the range over its predecessor and eliminated the need to source the controversial cobalt as used in the more traditional Lithium-ion chemistries like NMC.

At nearly 500km of range though, the Model 3 RWD offers one of the longest ranges at this price-point, with the only rivals coming close including the Long Range Hyundai Kona electric (484km), new-generation Kia Niro EV (460km range) or Polestar 2 Standard Range (470km). 

In terms of efficiency the Model 3 RWD is one of the most energy efficient vehicles I have ever tested, scoring 13.4kWh/100km on my week with the car, against an official/combined number of 13.1kWh/100km. The only vehicle which I have ever pulled a better score from is the Hyundai Kona electric.

Expect a charge time close to half an hour (from 10 - 80 percent) on DC, which is roughly what I experienced on my charge session on a 120kW Tesla Supercharger. (Image: Tom White) Expect a charge time close to half an hour (from 10 - 80 percent) on DC, which is roughly what I experienced on my charge session on a 120kW Tesla Supercharger. (Image: Tom White)

On the charging front the Model 3 maintains its great 11kW AC charger, but is able to charge at up to 250kW on a compatible Tesla Supercharger, well above the average for the segment.

Expect a charge time close to half an hour (from 10 - 80 percent) on DC, which is roughly what I experienced on my charge session on a 120kW Tesla Supercharger. According to the car’s computer, the session took 36 minutes to get to 80 per cent and cost $22.32 adding roughly 430km of range by the time it had achieved 100 per cent.

While Tesla location charging is no longer free as it once was for buyers, it is notable that Tesla users have the largest selection of chargers to choose from as they are compatible with both the software-locked Tesla stations and the regular public fast-chargers, as in Australia the Model 3 has a standard Type 2 CCS charging port.

One small downside to the Model 3 is it doesn’t yet offer V2L features (the ability to power devices from the car’s charging port) like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 or Nissan Leaf.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Safety is a little different in the Model 3 because its abundance of cameras and radars means it doesn’t really have regular versions of the usual safety tech we cover here, but equivalent versions of things like auto emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane keep assist. As already mentioned, the adaptive cruise suite is particularly impressive.

The Model 3 was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating to the 2019 standard, with very high scores across all categories.

Safety is a little different in the Model 3 because its abundance of cameras and radars means it doesn’t really have regular versions of the usual safety tech we cover here. (Image: Tom White) Safety is a little different in the Model 3 because its abundance of cameras and radars means it doesn’t really have regular versions of the usual safety tech we cover here. (Image: Tom White)

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Model 3 is covered by a four-year and 80,000km warranty which seems on the face of it, quite lacking. It is in front of only BMW’s three-year warranty, and behind the industry standard five-years or more desirable seven-years.

The battery and drivetrain components however, are covered by a different eight-year or 192,000km warranty, adding at least some peace of mind.

Servicing is computer-determined, meaning the car will tell you when it wants to visit the shop, depending on how it has been driven and how long it has been between visits.

Scanning Tesla’s inventory of parts, filters, and fluids, none seem particularly expensive, although to maintain efficiency and handling you’ll want to keep the expensive EV-specific tyres in good condition.

What's it like to drive?

The Model 3 is as slick and modern to drive as its design suggests, the minimalist approach extending to your interactions with the car’s inputs.

Visibility is great out the front of the Model 3, with the low dash and abundance of glass making it easy to see in most directions, it is only out the rear where visibility is a bit limited by the tall boot lid.

The steering is somewhat artificial, and has three modes. ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ are far too heavy, with 'Comfort' the only mode I’d be using day-to-day. Even then, it was a relief to return to the comparatively featherweight steering of my Kia Niro long termer after my week in the Model 3.

The Tesla is much more fun though, with its absurdly responsive acceleration. Sure, on the numbers it’s only about as fast as a Hyundai i30N, but bloody hell does it feel faster. Dipping your toe into the accelerator simply throws you into the back of your seat, with the corresponding warp in speed anything but smooth. Use it to terrify your friends, family, EV naysayers, and family pets.

As heavy as the steering is, it’s also reactive, combining with the eager acceleration, firm ride, and rear-driven axle to make even this most basic Model 3 a lot of fun to steer.

One advantage the Model Y does get is ride height. (Image: Tom White) One advantage the Model Y does get is ride height. (Image: Tom White)

For everyday driving though, the firm ride can be a bit much. It makes the car feel harsh and brittle, communicating much of the road through to the cabin. The base rear-drive with its 19-inch wheels is more comfortable than the Long Range or Performance grades too, with their bigger alloys, so keep this in mind if you’re shopping up the range. This problem is something the Model 3 shares with the Model Y, so buying the SUV version isn’t going to help.

One advantage the Model Y does get is ride height. The Model 3 is quite close to the ground, making it quite possible for it to scrape on speed bumps and driveways. This, no doubt, is to keep the drag down, but it might be too low for access to some driver’s properties.

The Model 3 is offered with a single regen tune, which can alternatively be switched for a more traditional drive experience where the brake pedal blends the regen in. The standard tune is nice though, with a linear roll-on and instant activation, saving you energy in every possible moment it can. It’s not quite as strong as some rival’s ‘single pedal’ driving modes, but it suits the Model 3 well.

The steering is somewhat artificial, and has three modes. ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ are far too heavy, with 'Comfort' the only mode I’d be using day-to-day. (Image: Tom White) The steering is somewhat artificial, and has three modes. ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ are far too heavy, with 'Comfort' the only mode I’d be using day-to-day. (Image: Tom White)

Thanks to the hard ride the Model 3 is not the quietest EV when it come to cabin ambiance, with some road noise and thuds from the suspension being easily heard in the cabin. It also doesn’t emit a noise, with only a high-pitched whine from the rear electric motor when really pushed.

The software continues to be a strong point, with the Model 3 offering a very cool radar screen showing you all the objects around you, even ones you may not have seen, and the fact that there’s no push-start ignition or need to use keys is pretty neat, just hop in and drive, hop out and walk away, the car takes care of the rest.

Finally, the autonomous cruise feature is disturbingly good and deserves a special mention. While it’s hard to recommend the absurdly expensive ‘Full Self Driving’ upgrade ($10,100!) which is dubiously legal and offers you the opportunity to pay to be Elon Musk’s beta tester, the standard adaptive cruise is very good.

It stays in its lane better than pretty much all other active cruise systems I’ve used, is very clever at steering and avoiding objects, although does have a penchant for being a bit heavy on the brakes when in stop-start traffic. 

I’d go so far as to say this base Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3 is the pick of the bunch by a long shot. It’s fast and a lot of fun with a futuristic feel from behind the wheel. Sure the steering is heavy and the ride is hard, but it’s easily one of the best EVs to drive right now regardless.

  • DrivetrainFully electric
  • Battery Capacity62.3kWh
  • Battery typeLFP
  • Range491km (WLTP)
  • Plug TypeType 2 CCS
  • DC charge rate250kW
  • AC charge rate11kW
  • Motor output190kW/375Nm
  • Efficiency13.6kWh/100km
Complete Guide to Tesla MODEL 3

While it still carries its share of small frustrations and flaws, the Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive is simply the best value EV on the market right now considering its range and features for the price, and deserves its place at the top of the electrified sales charts.

It’s fast, fun, futuristic, and efficient, and while the ride is unnecessarily hard and the tech goes a bit too far in some places, it’s clear that its competitors are still playing catch-up.

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.