Tesla Model 3


The Model 3 is the cheapest car in Tesla’s range


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Tesla Model 3

They both offer driverless technology and 200-plus miles on a single charge

In Depth

Monday, February 12, 2018 – 3:04pm

Electric vehicles are becoming much cheaper to own, with many major carmakers offering budget versions that cost around the same as a combustion-engined hatchback.

Two of the biggest names in the market are Tesla and Nissan, both of which have budget EVs hitting the UK in 2018. 

Tesla’s Model 3, its cheapest production car yet, was launched amid fevered anticipation in March 2016. While it’s already available to buy in the US, WhatCar? says buyers in the UK won’t see it until the end of 2018. 

Its biggest rival is the new Nissan Leaf, which is available to order now. It’s the follow-up to the company’s first electric car from 2010, which Autocar says is currently the “world’s best-selling electric car”.

Both are sure to be very popular in the UK’s electric car market, but how do the two compare and which one should you choose?

Design and practicality

The Tesla Model 3 bears an almost identical four-door saloon silhouette to the company’s range-topping Model S. The budget EV incorporates the same boot spoiler and headlight design as the Model S, as well as the chrome accents around the windows.

The most noticeable difference between the two is that the Model 3 has a different front bumper, which doesn’t feature a grille and is more rounded than its sibling. 

Meanwhile, the Nissan Leaf is a five-door hatchback with a more angular look when compared to the Model 3. 

Despite its “sharper” and “quirky” styling, Teslarati says the Model 3 boasts a “timeless” look that’s both attractive and practical. 

Driverless tech

While the Model 3 is the cheapest vehicle in the Tesla line-up, it’s still available with the company’s Autopilot driverless mode. 

At launch, WhatCar? says Autopilot systems allow the car to “match its speed to traffic conditions and change lanes automatically”. Tesla plans to update the car with “full self-driving capability” in the future, but it’s not yet known what features will be included.

Nissan has equipped the Leaf with its new ProPilot system. Auto Express says the system can steer, brake and accelerate autonomously. Plus, the magazine says, the system can drive the car at speeds of up to 62mph while in motorway queues. 

Battery and performance

You can expect a range of around 235 miles on a single charge from the new Leaf’s floor-mounted 40kWh battery, says Autocar. Charging the battery to 80% capacity takes around 40 minutes using the UK’s rapid-charge network. 

On the other hand, the entry-level Model 3 can be driven for 220 miles before it needs charging, although Tesla offers a range-topping version with a 310-mile range battery. 

The Model 3 also accelerates faster than the Leaf as it is able to go from 0-60mph in 5.4sec compared to the Nissan’s eight-second time. 

Price and release

With a price tag of just £21,990, CarBuyer reports, the Nissan Leaf is the cheaper of the two cars. Range-topping models sell for £27,490 and come with better interior options, including an upgraded infotainment system.

UK pricing has yet to announced for the Model 3, but Auto Express says it expects prices to start at around £35,000.

However, Tesla has missed manufacturing deadlines for the Model 3 for the past four months, with production woes delaying the company’s target of building 5,000 examples per week. So far, the budget EV is still expected to launch in the UK later this year.

Meanwhile, the Leaf should be easier to order as Nissan has already begun delivering the new EV to customers who pre-ordered the car.

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