New Tesla Model 3 Long Range 2021 review

Updates for 2021 make the all-electric Tesla Model 3 better than ever

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Verdict

Our former Car of the Year is still a winner with small improvements making it all the more impressive. The minor cosmetic tweaks have given it a sportier look outside and a more premium feel inside, while the continual software upgrades keep edging Tesla further ahead of its rivals on the tech front. With more pricey EVs turning up, it’s looking like decent value, too.

Tesla is the master of updates. Owners frequently find their cars have handy new functionality thanks to free over-the-air software updates, but for the 2021 model year Model 3, the company has gone a bit further with some cosmetic tweaks, too.

It’s nearly two years since the Model 3 was named Auto Express Car of the Year, and all the good stuff that still makes it one of our favourite electric cars still stands. But for 2021, it’s out with shiny chrome on the outside, and in with cool satin black trim.

The brightwork that used to surround the windows and mirrors is now satin black, as are the door handles and side repeaters – little things that, to our eyes, give the model 3 a sportier look.

Inside the minimalist look and spacious interior remain, but piano black surfaces have been replaced by matte black trim, the centre console now gets a big storage box with a sliding lid, the steering wheel buttons are now metallic and there are two microsuede-trimmed wireless charging bays for your smartphone and someone else’s.

If you want to charge the old-fashioned way with a wire, there are a couple of additional high-power USB-C ports, plus a USB-C socket in the glove compartment to plug a memory stick into so you can record footage from the car’s many cameras.

Equally important at this time of year is the addition of a heat pump – as has been installed in the Model Y to rave reviews from owners - that improves cabin heat up times and is more efficient. Finally, the electric boot door can now be opened from a button on the outside to reveal the big 542-litre boot.

Of course, existing owners need not be too downhearted as recent software updates will have tweaked the driving display on the 15-inch touchscreen so the driver can see more of the environment around the car. It proves that the Tesla is all seeing: it not only spots other vehicles around the car (including the size and type) but will also spot and display road signs and traffic lights – and even show you the colour. It’ll spot and show traffic cones, too.

The Tesla experience has always been about much more than just the drive, but that remains pretty special. The updated Long Range car that we’re driving, with its 75kWh battery pack, will get from 0-60mph in ‘just’ 4.2 seconds – 1.1 seconds slower than the Performance version. However, the pay off is range – hence the name. Our car will go for a claimed 360 miles on one charge – a claim that we didn’t feel was too unreasonable.

That performance, of course, is available at pretty much any legal speed with just a twitch of your right foot. It’s addictive, not least for the reaction you’ll get from unsuspecting passengers when they’re pinned back into their seats.

You can use standard or select chill mode if you want to go further with slightly less fun, but like the other modes you can play with (steering, for example), it’s best left in the standard setting.

That steering has plenty of heft if not much feel, while the Dual Motor four-wheel drive system ensures plenty of grip and stability so you can make the most of all the torque. It also lets you carry a fair amount of speed through corners, then slingshot out the other side.

You do feel as though the weight of the batteries is helping to pull you down into the road, which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just a slightly different sensation to driving an internal combustion engine car with similar performance.

Although this isn’t the Performance model, the ride is still firm – especially on the bigger (and a £1,450 option) 19-inch wheels. It’s not quite as unforgiving as Tesla’s new rival, the Polestar 2, but there’s no denying you’ll be jiggled about more than you would do in a BMW 3 Series – although that’s only available as a plug-in hybrid, not a full EV.

And being a full EV brings all sorts of running cost advantages to Model 3 ownership – both in terms of charging versus fuel costs, and in terms of various car-related taxes. Then there’s the advantage of Tesla’s bespoke Supercharger network – still a real boon, especially for anyone who’s ever had to battle with the UK’s public charging network.

Model: Tesla Model 3 Long Range
Price: £46,990
Engine: Two electric motors, 75kWh battery
Power/torque: 434bhp/493Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Top speed:145mph
Range:360 miles
Max charging:250kW
On sale:Now

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e
Fiat 500 vs Honda e vs MINI Electric
Car group tests

Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e

The new Fiat 500, MINI Electric and Honda e are three retro-inspired electric superminis - but which is best?
19 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX
Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review

VW ID.4 EV gets another electric motor and four-wheel drive in hot GTX form
21 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review
Volkswagen Caddy California MPV - front
Volkswagen Caddy

New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review

It’s a family hauler and weekend camper all rolled into one, but is the Volkswagen Caddy California any good?
21 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021