A top performer. Electric cars are quickly gaining mainstream acceptance, but the 2021 Tesla Model 3 remains at the forefront. We wouldn’t quite call it affordable, but it’s the closest you’ll get to an everyman’s Tesla.
The Model 3’s greatest virtues are its range and efficiency. 2021 brings a range upgrade to the whole lineup, which means that even the base model can now cruise for 263 miles on a charge. Bump up to the Long Range version, and you’ll unlock a class-leading 353 miles. Tesla’s network of charging stations is another major perk, although the competing electric infrastructure is starting to catch up.
The Model 3 isn’t just about efficiency — it’s fast, too. Power ranges from 283 to 450 horsepower, but boatloads of instantaneous electric torque make the 3 quick off the line. Steering is precise, and the suspension strikes an admirable balance between comfort and responsiveness.
Attractive...from afar. The 2021 Model 3 sees a few minor styling updates, most of which come from dialing down the chrome on the exterior. It isn’t quite as attractive as the Model S, but the Model 3’s smooth roofline and the flush door handles are appealing enough. The Model 3 lacks any imitation of a grille, and its blank nose will ensure that the world knows you’re driving an electric.
If possible, the interior looks even more modern. All the conventional dials and switchgear — including the driver’s gauge cluster — are absent, replaced by a single 15-inch touchscreen. It’s either minimalist or monotonous, depending on your preferences.
Up close in the cabin, the Tesla isn’t as modern or as premium as the price tag would suggest. Fabrics and panels feel cheap, and it’s clear where Tesla had to cut corners to make the Model 3 more affordable than the Model S. Even without the din of a combustion engine, road noise is intrusive.
Futuristic to a fault. The Model 3 benefits from Tesla’s impressive array of safety tech, including standard features like adaptive cruise control. The most sophisticated autonomous features still cost extra (a lot extra, in some cases), but they add nifty perks like the ability to summon your Tesla in a parking lot.
The central touchscreen is more polarizing. It’s bright and responsive, and the menu system is intuitive enough. Voice commands work fairly well, too.
But while the technology is impressive, it sometimes feels like a bit much. Checking the screen for your speed takes getting used to, and using it for functions like mirror adjustment seems silly at times. The system isn’t compatible with either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, either.
A car for all seasons. The Model 3 lineup covers a variety of bases, depending on your climate and range needs. The Long Range and Performance models both come with all-wheel drive and do an admirable job living up to their badges. With a good set of tires, Tesla’s all-wheel-drive system performs well in inclement weather.
If you can live without all-wheel drive, though, the base Standard Range Plus is the best value. Standard features are impressive, including navigation and heated seats. With the newly extended range, it’s more versatile than ever.
The Standard Range Plus remains the most efficient electric car on the market, earning an astonishing rating of 141 MPGe from the EPA. Plus, it gets one of Tesla’s best features: a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, which extends double for the batteries.
Final thoughts. The Tesla Model 3 still feels like the car of the future. It looks the part, it’s overflowing with tech, and its range continues to improve. The biggest downside is the build quality, which remains poorer than we’d like for the price. All the same, the Model 3 is a remarkably capable and versatile car — and the reasons not to buy an electric are dwindling.
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