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Tesla Model 3 release date, price, news and features

Tesla Model 3
(Image credit: Tesla)

The Tesla Model 3 is the cheapest Tesla electric car you can buy. It's also the smallest, and while its price tag is lower than its siblings, it's not a budget buy.

It's a smaller version of the Model S, while also sitting below the Tesla Model Y and Model X SUVs. 

While Tesla has used letters for the names of its other cars, it was forced into swapping from an E to a 3 with this one. According to Fortune, Tesla dropped an application for the Model E after a dispute with Ford who have an on-off relationship with the letter, in use on its E-series of vans.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Tesla's most affordable electric car
  • What's the range? Up to 348 miles
  • How do I buy one? Tesla store or website
  • When it is out? Out now
  • What does it cost? Starts at $39,990 (£40,490, AU$73,900)
  • How fast is it? 0-60 mph is 5.3 seconds

Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)

Tesla Model 3 price and availability

The Tesla Model 3 is available in a number of countries around the world, including the US, UK and Australia and is the firm's first 'affordable' electric car.

The Model 3 price starts at $39,990 (£40,490, AU$73,900) before any government tax incentives.

If you're in the US, depending on the state you live in, various incentives are available to bring the price down. In the UK there are also numerous electric vehicle incentives, so it's worth checking these out if you're thinking of purchasing the Model 3.

You can buy the Tesla Model 3 from a Tesla showroom or, you can opt to purchase the car completely online via the Tesla website.

It's available in three models; Standard Range, Long Range and Performance, with the latter providing the highest top speed and quickest 0-60mph time, while Long Range will get you the most miles per charge.

US: Tesla Model 3 specs
Standard RangeLong RangePerformance
Price from$39,990$48,990$56,990
Range (miles)250322299
Top Speed (mph)140145162
0-60mph (seconds)5.34.43.2

UK: Tesla Model 3 specs
Standard Range+Long RangePerformance
Price from£40,490£46,990£56,490
Range (miles)254348329
Top Speed (mph)140145162
0-60mph (seconds)5.34.43.2

AU: Tesla Model 3 specs
Standard Range+Long RangePerformance
Price fromAU$73,900AU$87,900AU$95,900
Range (km)460620560
Top Speed (km/h)225233261
0-100km/h (seconds)5.64.63.4

What is the Tesla Model 3?

The smallest car in Tesla's fleet, the Model 3 is a typically sized family car with seating for five adults and a cargo volume of 15cu ft / 542 liters.

The entry-level Tesla Model 3 is claimed to give you 250 miles from a single charge, which comfortably puts it in the mix with the range on other affordable electric cars.

There's fewer options for configuration with the Model 3 - less than 100 in fact - compared to the Model S that has over 1,500 possible configurations. 

Another thing worth noting is Model 3 owners do not benefit from free charging at Tesla Supercharger charging stations - something which was offered originally with sales of the Model S and Model X. 

Prices for using Tesla Superchargers vary by location and can be found on the Tesla website.

Tesla Model 3 design

The Tesla Model 3 is a smaller version of the Model S, and softens the styling of its bigger sibling while also reducing the footprint.

As far a safety is concerned, the Model 3 scored a 5-star NHTSA rating in the US, and it's roof is strong enough to support the weight of two adult African elephants.

Climb inside and you'll find seating for five adults, and a large, panoramic glass roof which floods the car with light, but also provides UV protection against the sun.

Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)

Tesla Model 3 performance

The standard range, rear wheel drive Telsa Model 3 can do 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds - slightly faster than the 2015 BMW 228i Convertible - with a top speed of 140mph.

That's an extremely quick time for a family car, and if you opt for the all wheel drive performance model, 0-60mph drops to a supremely swift 3.2 seconds and the top speed leaps to 162mph.

In short, the Tesla Model 3 is no slouch, even at its base configuration.

The Tesla Model 3 range is also promising. The standard range model should get you around 250 miles on a single charge (depending on your driving style), while the extended range Model 3 significantly ups the distance to between 320 and 350 miles.

If you opt for the performance model, the Tesla Model 3's range sits just below the extended range model, with an estimated range on a single charge of 300-320 miles.

Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)

Tesla Model 3 technology and charging

The Tesla Model 3 has a large touchscreen taking up most of the space above the center console.

The 15-inch landscape screen has the same orientation as the panel in the Model Y. It provides access to infotainment services such as the radio, Spotify and navigation, and also controls for climate, seats and a host of other features.

There's Bluetooth connectivity for your smartphone, allowing you to stream media to the car, and you can set up multiple driver profiles, which can save personalized seat and steering wheel positions, as well as various audio and other settings.

In the center console you'll find storage, 4 USB ports and docking space for two smartphones. As for audio, the Model 3 packs in a 15 speaker system in its premium interior level. You'll be sitting in comfort too, with front and rear heated seats, plus heated side mirrors.

When it comes to recharging the Tesla Model 3 you'll find it still falls way behind traditional cars in terms of the time it takes to refill.

However, Tesla has an extensive network of 'superchargers' across North America, Europe, the UK, and a number of other countries around the world, which provide super-fast charging.

Usually found at rest stops and service stations, but also in cities, a Tesla supercharger will be able to recharge a Tesla Model 3 by 170 miles in 15 minutes in the US, while in the UK the same amount of range will take you 30 minutes.

You can also charge the Model 3 at home by plugging it into an existing power socket (for an extremely slow top-up), or by installed a home-charging point which is faster than a standard socket, but won't reach the same speeds as a supercharger.

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Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)
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Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)
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Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)
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Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)

Tesla Model 3 self-driving capability

The Tesla Model 3 has the technology to be able to drive itself, but fully autonomous self-driving isn't provided as standard - instead, it's a costly optional extra.

However, you don't completely miss out if you don't want to opt for the additional cost. You get Tesla's autopilot technology included as standard, which "enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane". 

Autopilot is for use on highways and multi-lane carriageways, and requires the driver to remain alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel. If the Model 3 senses that you're getting distracted it'll cancel the autopilot mode (after a few warnings) and return to manual control.

However, for those of you who like the idea of an autonomous car – and live in a location where it's legal to drive autonomously – you can opt to add full self-driving capability to your Tesla Model 3 for the princely sum of $7,000 / £5,800 (around AU$10,000).

The features of this technology do vary depending on where in the world you are.

In North America, the Full Self-Driving Capability on the Model 3 allows for the following:

  • Navigate on Autopilot: automatic driving from highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and overtaking slower vehicles
  • Auto Lane Change: automatic lane changes while driving on the highway
  • Autopark: both parallel and perpendicular spaces
  • Summon: your parked car will come and find you anywhere in a parking lot
  • Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control: assisted stops at traffic-controlled intersections

Coming later this year to Tesla's US Full Self-Driving Capability:

  • Autosteer on city streets

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Full Self-Driving Capability features are a little more limited.

  • Navigate on Autopilot: automatic driving from motorway on-ramp to off-ramp including interchanges and overtaking slower cars.
  • Auto Lane Change: automatic lane changes while driving on the motorway
  • Autopark: both parallel and perpendicular spaces
  • Summon: Automatically park and retrieve your vehicle

Coming soon to Tesla's UK Full Self-Driving Capability:

  • Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control: assisted stops at traffic-controlled intersections
  • Automatic driving on city streets
  • Enhanced Summon: your parked car will come find you in a car park

If the additional cost for the Full Self-Driving Capability on the Model 3 is a little steep at the point of you buying the fully electric SUV, you can add the Full Self-Driving Computer at a later date.

However, as Tesla releases more features for its self-driving tech, the post-purchase price of this computer will likely increase as time goes by.