Tesla Model Y review - Interior, design and technology
With an exterior look and cabin design that is undeniably Tesla, the Model Y’s real strength is its first-class on-board technology
To all intents and purposes, the Model Y is the high-riding SUV version of Tesla’s Model 3 hatchback, as both use the same basic architecture and bar of soap-like styling. The most noticeable differences between the two are the Model Y’s increased ride height, taller roof line, a little extra bodywork, and black plastic trim around the door sills and wheel arches.
It’s the same story inside, with the Model Y borrowing its little brother’s 15.4-inch central touchscreen that takes pride of place in the smart but spartan cabin, where the only physical controls you’ll find are on the multi-function steering wheel, the column stalks and the electric window and door opening buttons.
Teslas are not renowned for their build quality or materials, and while the EV manufacturer has made some improvements in this department, there’s still a long way to go in our opinion. When we put the Model Y head-to-head against the VW ID. Buzz, we found the Tesla’s trim panels felt flimsy and brittle even beside the VW’s, which doesn’t boast the best interior quality to begin with.
The join between the top of the windscreen and the huge glass sunroof was also wavy in the Model Y we drove, as if one or the other had been forced into a housing it wasn’t quite designed to accommodate. Either way, once you interact with the Model Y, it becomes clear that build quality isn’t really up to scratch for a £50,000-plus car.
Tesla’s Autopilot system is included with the Model Y, although most of its functionality is made available via extra payment options. The tech uses a host of cameras and sensors that are able to scan your surroundings and feed information into advanced cruise control programmes, but during our own test we felt that the standard adaptive system worked well enough.
For a brand so vocal about tech, we’d expect better door mirror cameras. They activate with the indicators or when reversing, similar to those on the Hyundai Ioniq 5, but the low-res, sepia-like images look out of place on the Model Y’s superbly sharp touchscreen.
One clever feature of the Model Y is that, as long as you’re logged into your car with the smartphone app, it will unlock and turn on when it detects your phone. In case you lose your phone, Tesla gives its buyers ‘smartcards’ instead of a key fob that unlock the car when you hold them up to the B-pillar.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Model Y’s crisp 15.4-inch landscape screen is the focal point of the whole car, and once you’ve signed in with the Tesla smartphone app, the system works smoothly and is responsive to your inputs. And thank God it is, because the central display operates everything from the climate controls to adjusting the mirrors and opening the glovebox, although the latter seems a bit fiddly when you could just have a button on the lid.
The right-hand side of the screen also displays your speed and what the car’s sensors and cameras are detecting, so the set-up can be quite distracting while on the move. At least Tesla fits a smart voice control system that displays your oral commands on-screen so you can see its accuracy.
You also get Spotify music streaming as well as Bluetooth and a DAB radio, plus you also have the ability (while parked) to watch YouTube, Netflix or Disney+, play games and operate assorted novelty functions in the Toybox. What’s not offered is Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but you quickly forget about that after living with Tesla’s infotainment system and the built-in apps for a while.
When we tested the Model Y against the VW ID. Buzz, the Tesla’s navigation system stood out because of how quickly it loads, the gorgeous mapping, and how well it responds to swiping motions across the display. Plot a route, and the Model Y will tell you how much charge you’ll have left when you get there (plus how much will remain after the return trip). If the car won’t make it, then it points you in the direction of the most convenient Tesla Supercharger on route, preconditions the battery for fast charging and tells you how long you need to charge for. The efficiency graphs and on-board games are a little more gimmicky, but show the system’s versatility.
In this review
- 1Tesla Model Y reviewThe Tesla Model Y is an all-electric family SUV that offers plenty of kerb appeal along with useful interior space and practical touches
- 2Electric motor, drive and performanceThe Model Y’s ride is now significantly less firm than it used to be, and the range-topping Model Y Performance could be the ultimate all-electric sleeper
- 3Range, charging and running costsThe Tesla Model Y has a reliable range and class-leading rapid charging capabilities, but it’ll be pricey to insure
- 4Interior, design and technology - currently readingWith an exterior look and cabin design that is undeniably Tesla, the Model Y’s real strength is its first-class on-board technology
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceFeaturing good storage space, plenty of room for passengers and lots of useful kit, the Model Y is ready for family life
- 6Reliability and safetyThe Model Y shares much of its tech with the Model 3 hatchback, which means the family SUV should be dependable and safe