Menu

Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

Tesla Model 3 2020 review: Standard Range Plus


Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5

Forget the Volkswagen Beetle - could the Tesla Model 3 be the new People’s Car?

I’ll leave you to join the dots between the men behind each of the two vehicles in question, but the Tesla Model 3 is the first ‘affordable’ EV from the breakout US brand.

Affordable is relative, of course - and we wanted to find out whether the entry grade variant - the Model 3 Standard Range Plus - is the Tesla you should be buying.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

I love those wheels. Love them. LOVE THEM. They are futuristic but somehow retro, too. And the fact is that they’re functional too, as they help cut down aerodynamic drag. Plus they’re smaller than the ones on the sportier car (18s as opposed to 20s).

The rest of the car? Ummm, I like elements of it - the glasshouse is attractive, the side profile is pleasant, and the rear is reminiscent of the Model S, but not copycat. The front? Well, it lacks a bit of character to my eye, and to everyone in the CarsGuide testing team, too.

You might want to have a look at my Model 3 Performance review as reference here - because the car we had in that test was very poorly pieced together. This base model car was a bit better, with more acceptable panel gaps and fit/finish, though still not as uniform as you’d see from one of the German luxury brands.

The glasshouse is attractive, and the side profile is pleasant. The glasshouse is attractive, and the side profile is pleasant.

The interior quality was slightly better on this example of Model 3, too, but the fact there is still a level of variance between cars could be concerning to people who worry about quality. Like me. I worry about quality.

Check out the interior images below for a glimpse at the cabin and its minimalist design. 

How practical is the space inside?

If you’re aware of the Model 3, you’ll know it has some storage advantages that conventional cars can’t really match.

That’s because it has no engine in its engine bay. Suffice to say that Tesla calls the area under the bonnet the ‘frunk’ (front trunk), and it gives you 117 litres of cargo storage. That’s in addition to the regular trunk - or boot - which has 425L of cargo capacity, and also has a hidden storage section below the floor to store cables or luggage. All told, the total is 542L. 

The cabin is practical, too. There are door pockets with bottle holders all around, cup holders in the rear centre armrest, plus cupholders between the front seats. Then there’s the storage caddy between the front seats, which is huge, and there’s a glovebox which opens using the touchscreen. Why? Because it can, I guess.

Combined, the two trunks hold a total of 542L. Combined, the two trunks hold a total of 542L.

Occupants have electric seat adjustment and heating up front, while in the back the seat is fixed and not heated (it is in the models above). Rear occupants still get air vents and two USB ports (plus there are two more up front), but the actual space in the back is tight for larger adults.

Sitting behind the driver’s seat in my position (I’m 182cm) there’s limited toe room, and knee room could be better - plus you sit in a bit of a knees-up position, too. Headroom isn’t terrific because of the angle of the roof (watch your head getting in and out) and as it is purely glass above, it could get hot back there.

The centrally-mounted 15.0-inch touchscreen has its pros and cons. A lot is controlled using the touchscreen, from setting the position of the side mirrors and the steering wheel (which you can save to your driver profile), to the Bluetooth audio streaming and phone connectivity. It doesn’t have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The actual space in the back is tight for larger adults. The actual space in the back is tight for larger adults.

You might appreciate that the screen can also act as an entertainment source - there are games you can play and different modes you can engage (including a whoopee cushion and Mars mode for the sat nav). That’ll appeal to a certain type of buyer, but it doesn’t to me.

For the driver, the gear selector stalk doubles to engage the cruise control or Autopilot (two quick taps of the gear selector) and there’s a windscreen washer stalk, plus there is a volume scroller on the steering wheel. But the fact you have to look to the top edge of the screen for your speed readout - there is no head-up display - could be a concern for people who live in places around Australia where the police will ping you for less than 3km/h over the limit.

A lot is controlled using the touchscreen, which can take some getting used to. A lot is controlled using the touchscreen, which can take some getting used to.

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

The Australian Tesla Model 3 line-up kicks off with this rear-wheel drive Standard Range Plus, priced at $66,000 (before on-roads - drive-away pricing varies state by state).

Standard equipment on the entry grade car includes 18-inch aero alloy wheels, 12-way power adjustable and heated faux-leather front seats, a 15.0-inch multimedia touchscreen that doubles as the car’s dashboard with Bluetooth and built-in sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, LED front lighting, and a fixed glass roof. 

There are four USB ports, auto-dimming mirrors (with auto folding and heating for the side mirrors), a key card (but no proximity entry), driver profile setups, and smartphone app controllability.

The fixed glass roof comes standard on the Model 3. The fixed glass roof comes standard on the Model 3.

Options available include metallic paint (from $1400 to $2800 depending on colour) and there’s Tesla’s Full Self Driving Capability option ($8500) which will include a tech rollout later in 2019 encompassing auto lane change, auto parking, the ability to recognise and act upon red lights and stop signs, automated driving on city streets, the company’s Summon system (where your parked car will come and find you autonomously) and navigation-linked Autopilot.

Rivals you might consider against the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus include the Hyundai Kona Electric (from $59,990), Hyundai Ioniq Electric (from $44,990), Renault Zoe (from $47,490), Nissan Leaf (from $49,990). None of those electric cars can match the range of the Model 3, though. 

If you believe Telsa, the Model 3 is actually a competitor to established luxury car nameplates like the BMW 3 Series (from $64,900), Mercedes-Benz C-Class (from $63,700) and Audi A4 (from $56,100). 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Tesla is strangely secretive about the battery pack and power outputs of the Standard Range Plus, but our research suggests this variant’s rear-wheel-drive powertrain consists of a 55kWh battery pack and an electric motor capable of producing 225kW - but at the time of writing, Tesla refused to confirm the outputs of this grade of Model 3. It has a single-speed (reduction gear) transmission.

The Standard Range Plus has a quoted 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds. It is capable of a top-speed of 225km/h.

How much fuel does it consume?

Nothing at this price point has anywhere near the claimed battery range as the Model 3 Standard Range Plus.

It has a claimed NEDC range of 460km, according to Tesla’s site, and according to the Green Vehicle Guide, the entry-level version is said to have a claimed energy consumption figure of 18.8kWh per 100 kilometres. 

We saw consumption on test of 18.48kWh/100km, and that calculated out to a real-world driving range of 298km. 

Given the claimed official range is 460km, it’s well short. Another way of looking at it is that on test it would have achieved just 64.8 per cent of its NEDC claimed range.

What's it like to drive?

If you genuinely do a lot of urban driving and don’t often head out of town, or you’re considering a Tesla as a second car, you could actually save some money and buy a Hyundai Ioniq. I mean, if you can deal with that badge.

But a lot of people want to buy a Tesla because they’re true believers, they buy into the mindset, they appreciate what the brand stands for, or they just want an electric car with lots of range. Or all of the above.

And while we didn’t experience mind-bending range on this test based on the route we drove (158km of urban, country, coastal and highway driving, with just 42 per cent of the battery left and a calculated range of a bit under three hundred kays), the fact is that it does have the best real EV range you can get at this price point at the time of writing. 

The fact is, though, that we had enough range to go for a lovely drive all day down south of Sydney and into the Southern Highlands, and still had enough battery remaining for the return trip in to town. 

The acceleration may not be as insane as in the Performance model, the Standard Range Plus is hardly a slouch. The acceleration may not be as insane as in the Performance model, the Standard Range Plus is hardly a slouch.

That drive included a jaunt up a mountain pass, and the rear-wheel drive layout of the Model 3 was its most engaging element. Sure, we didn’t thrash it or drift it, but the balance it displayed in linking tight corners together was impressive. And in RWD guise, the steering is more pure and predictable, where in the AWD model there’s a level of numbness as the front wheels have to both drive and steer. 

The acceleration may not be as insane as in the Performance model (which does 0-100km/h in just 3.4 seconds), but with acceleration of 5.6sec the Standard Range Plus is hardly a slouch. In fact, that’s in the realm of some pretty impressive sports cars. That's part of the reason we think it has 225kW of power (and maybe about 400Nm of torque, too)... but old Mr Musk keeps his cards close to his chest.

But the fact you can have the car run in Chill mode, which makes it considerably more sedate and manageable in its acceleration, or in Sport mode, which is considerably quicker (almost like you flick a switch), is an advantage. Plus if you want more performance, you can get it if you pay for it - a lot of the other electric cars out there don’t have go-fast variants, so if that’s your thing, then Tesla will no doubt appeal to you. 

We had enough range to drive down into the Southern Highlands, and still had enough battery remaining for the return trip in to town. We had enough range to drive down into the Southern Highlands, and still had enough battery remaining for the return trip in to town.

Our biggest annoyance with this grade of Model 3 was the ride comfort. The suspension offers up a brittle, crunchy ride at times, especially over lumpy urban roads and pockmarked country patches. 

Part of that comes down to the lack of any adaptive element to the suspension dampers, which can be flummoxed by repetitive bumps and ripples in corners. Some of it is also down to the 18-inch wheels - plenty of EVs have smaller, skinnier wheels and tyres to help with aero efficiency, but the Model 3’s standard rims are larger than you get on a Hyundai Kona EV, for instance.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Model 3 achieved a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2019, and as part of the breakdown it scored 94 pert cent for Safety Assist tech (the highest ever for that part of the ANCAP testing regime), and it also scored 96 per cent for adult occupant protection.

There are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top-tether restraints, but parents take note: because the rear seat has integrated headrests, your baby seat may not be able to be fitted as tightly as you’d like in the outboard rear seats. This is a common complaint when the headrests aren’t removable.

All Model 3s come with six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), plus an advanced safety suite consisting of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that works at city and highway pace and has pedestrian and cyclist detection. There’s also blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and that’s all wrapped up in the ‘A’ word… Autopilot.

The aforementioned “Full Self-Driving Capability” option ($8500) adds even more safety and more than a hint of added convenience, too, if that’s what appeals to you. And while it’s best to option it when you lay down your deposit, you can have it retrofitted at a later date, possibly at a higher cost.

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

The Model 3 has a four year/80,000km warranty for the car itself, which isn’t as good as it used to be (the brand recently quietly rolled warranty cover back from the previous eight years/160,000km). 

The powertrain warranty for this RWD model it’s eight years/160,000km - if you option up to an AWD version, you get eight years/192,000km cover.

The Model 3 has a four year/80,000km warranty for the car itself, which isn’t as good as it used to be. The Model 3 has a four year/80,000km warranty for the car itself, which isn’t as good as it used to be.

Tesla doesn’t offer maintenance plans anymore - it used to have a selection of three- or four-year cover plans, but the brand says its maintenance requirements are so minimal it doesn’t need to have that level of cover anymore.

The brand does have an inspection checklist customers should abide by. Every two years the cabin air filter and brake fluid should be seen to, while the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter requires checking every three years, and the air conditioner needs service every six years, too. 

There are wheel balance/alignment/tyre rotations to consider, too.

I believe the Telsa Model 3 Standard Range Plus is the best Model 3 you can buy. Apart from its brittle, unpolished ride, it offers a lot of capability and capacity for occupants and luggage, and enough usable battery range to allow you to escape the city if you want to.

$66,000

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5
Price Guide

$66,000

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data