Functional futurism. Entering its second year on the market, the 2021 Tesla Model Y is the second crossover in the Tesla fleet. Smaller and more affordable than the Model X, the Model Y faces competition like the Polestar 2 and the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
The styling isn’t as daring or sophisticated as other Teslas — you won’t find the creased elegance of the Model S or the bold gull-wing doors of the Model X. The egg-like shape isn’t unpleasant, but it lacks panache.
The upside is a highly practical package. A small frunk and a spacious cargo hold combine for up to 68 cubic feet of storage, and headroom is spacious in both rows. The Model Y even offers an optional third row, although it’s best reserved for children.
Victory by numbers. In an increasingly competitive field of electric cars, the Model Y’s range is one of its greatest assets. Long Range models can travel up to 326 miles on a charge, and even the Standard Range manages 244. Those numbers comfortably outstrip all rivals save other Teslas.
Tesla’s Supercharger network is another perk, although infrastructure is improving in many areas. The right charging station will restore up to 162 miles of range in 15 minutes, which makes the Model Y much more appealing as a road-trip vehicle. Needless to say, efficiency is stellar — Long Range models earn a combined rating of 125 MPGe from the EPA. That’s the best you’ll find in an electric crossover.
These aren’t the only numbers worth celebrating. Performance trims rip from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, on par with many supercars. A low center of gravity helps keep the Model Y level in the corners, though the suspension may be too firm for some tastes.
There are a few areas for improvement. The Model Y’s 6.6 inches of clearance is an improvement over the Model 3, but it won’t be enough for any real off-roading. Tesla offers a tow package for a capacity of up to 3,500 pounds, which still falls short of many gas-powered crossovers.
Not quite luxurious. Tesla’s interior design is an acquired taste. Every button, switch, and toggle has been wiped away, leaving only a single 15-inch touchscreen dominating the dash. Even the driver’s instrument cluster is gone — speed is displayed on the screen with the rest of the vehicle information.
The system is smooth and intuitive, and it has some nifty perks (you can watch Netflix while the car is stationary). Along with a standard glass roof, it makes the Model Y feel futuristic when you step inside.
The illusion ends on closer inspection. Interior trim is better than the Model 3, but still not on par with other vehicles in this price range. Both the 3 and the Y have been dogged by reports of shoddy build quality, an unfortunate reminder that some corners had to be cut to lower MSRP.
Autonomous...ish. Tesla prides itself on its infamous “autonomous” driving tech. Don’t believe all of the hype — even the Full Self-Driving package adds autonomy only on highways, and it costs an extra $10,000. Summoning your Tesla in a parking lot sure looks cool, but we’re not sure it’s worth the cash.
The rest of the Model Y’s tech suite is impressive. Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors are included on all vehicles, and the Autopilot adaptive cruise control system is sophisticated.
The Model Y earned a five-star rating from the NHTSA, and the related Model 3 earned a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. Combined with its array of modern tech, those scores make the Model Y a safe bet for families.
Final thoughts. The Model Y falls short of perfection, and persistent build quality issues are worrying enough that competitors like the Polestar 2 deserve a look. Still, the Y redeems itself with range, performance, practicality, and unbeatable efficiency. If you can live with a giant touchscreen, the Model Y provides plenty to like.
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