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At its 2018 introduction, the Tesla Model 3 compact sedan was the brand’s most affordable vehicle to date, conceived to capitalize on the splash the company had made with its larger and more upscale Model S sedan and Model X SUV. And it worked: In 2021, the Tesla Model 3 was Canada’s best-selling BEV, thanks to its combination of relatively affordable pricing and impressive performance.
The Model 3’s drivetrain starts with a single-motor, rear-wheel drive setup, while a dual-motor option adds a front drive unit for AWD traction. A base RWD Model 3 is rated for 258 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque.
Tesla has been inconsistent about publishing power output for the Model 3’s full set of powertrains, so the company’s claimed acceleration times are the only useful metric for demonstrating performance differences between the various versions of the car: Standard Range and Standard Range Plus can do 0-100 km/h in about six seconds, Long Range versions in about 4.5 seconds, and Performance in the low- to mid-three-second range.
Depending on the year and drivetrain, Tesla’s energy consumption estimates for the Model 3 range from 1.6/1.8 Le/100 km (city/highway) in Standard Range configuration to 2.0/2.2 Le/100 km for the Performance package.
The Standard Range model promises just 151 km of driving range and was initially offered at a price that qualified for the federal government’s iZEV electric vehicle incentive program.
Performance-wise, the more realistic starting point is Standard Range Plus, which offers 386 to 423 km depending on which model year you choose. The Model 3 Long Range is good for at least 500 km, with later cars promising as much as 568 km on a full charge.
According to Carfax Canada, average used Tesla Model 3 values range from $42,222 for a 2019 Standard Range version to $79,970 for a 2021 with the Performance package. Carfax says you can pay well over $100,000 for a well-optioned 2021 Model 3 with either the Long Range or Performance packages.
Trim levels and features
In 2019, the Model 3 Standard Range’s features included 18-inch wheels, central touchscreen with navigation, parking sensors, a glass roof, auto-dimming/power-folding side mirrors, parking sensors and satellite radio.
Standard Range Plus added 12-way power front seats, upgraded cloth upholstery, and smartphone docking stations.
Long Range configuration came with heated rear seats, an upgraded stereo, media streaming, internet browser, and LED fog lights.
In later cars, the Model 3’s standard kit also included traffic sign recognition, 360-degree camera views, and vegan leather upholstery.
Listen for these noises during your test drive
In this thread, Model 3 owners discuss various noises their cars make when being driven.
Here, several owners agree with the original poster’s complaint about a high-pitched sound that seems to come from the car’s rear drive motor. Some drivers say Tesla has told them the noise is normal.
In this owner’s case, a creaking suspension noise was resolved by replacing the front upper control arms, which Tesla did under warranty. Here’s another driver’s account of creaking caused by worn upper control arms.
About half of the owners in this discussion say their cars make a clunking sound when accelerating from a stop, especially when going up a hill. At least one Model 3 driver was told by Tesla that this is caused by “gear lash” and is normal.
Don’t rely on driver safety aids or Tesla’s autopilot system
There are many threads in Tesla forums started by drivers who feel the Model 3’s collision mitigation features and autopilot system either malfunctioned or didn’t do enough to avoid a potential collision.
Here, a Model 3 owner drove into a highway barrier after admitting they dozed off while using Tesla’s autopilot function. And in this case, the driver had to take over from autopilot when they noticed the car was about to drive under a semi-trailer.
This driver says they had their hands on the wheel, but the lane departure prevention system “panicked” and tried to steer the car out of its lane, which almost caused a collision rather than avoiding one.
Does the Model 3 sometimes go forward when shifted into reverse, and vice versa?
Some owners say their cars have done this, but others think these are cases of user error and drivers who are not accustomed to the way the Model 3’s drivetrain works.
The Model 3 has a “creep” function that will move the car after it’s shifted into gear and the driver releases the brake, but without any accelerator pedal input, which mimics the way a combustion-powered car with an automatic transmission behaves. However, you can turn creep mode off, and some Tesla afficionados say that if you do so, the car may roll forward down a gentle slope even if it is in reverse (or vice versa) when you lift your foot off the brake.
Here’s a 2018 discussion about this phenomenon and another from 2021.
That ‘bang’ it makes when plugged into a Supercharger
We can’t say whether it’s normal, but it apparently happens to a lot of Model 3 owners, who say the sound is like the bang a metal baking sheet makes when placed in a hot oven.
In some cases, the sound happens while the car is moving, but other Model 3 drivers say they hear it more often while the car is connected to one of Tesla’s superchargers. Here’s another discussion about the mysterious banging sound. And according to this discussion, Tesla told one owner that, as of 2018, the company was aware of the phenomenon but didn’t have a solution for it.
Turn on the A/C to see if it smells funny
We found a couple of Model 3 forum discussions about smelly air conditioning systems, like this one, where an owner says their cars’ A/C developed a moldy vinegar odour. In this thread, another owner with a stinky Model 3 wonders if the problem could be caused by parking the car on a slight uphill angle.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Tesla Model 3 provides excellent crash protection for its occupants.
The IIHS gives the Model 3 the top “good” rating in all of its crash tests, including small- and moderate-overlap frontal crash tests, a side impact test, headlights, and collision prevention features. The IIHS’s only caveat is the possibility of lower leg or foot injury in the driver’s side small-overlap front crash test.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA gives the Model 3 five stars (the best possible rating) in its frontal and side impact crash tests, and a rollover test that evaluates how likely the car is to flip in a single-vehicle incident.
Transport Canada and Tesla have issued a number of safety recalls for the Model 3. Three of them involve bolts that may not have been properly tightened during assembly, affecting the seatbelts, suspension, and brake calipers.
Tesla mounted another campaign to fix a software problem in a small number of cars that could cause the automatic braking system to activate unnecessarily, but Transport Canada says all of the affected cars have been fixed.
Two recalls have been issued for the backup camera; one fixed wiring in the trunk that could have been damaged, and the other addressed a software flaw that delayed the backup camera coming on when the car was shifted into reverse.
Finally, Tesla issued a recall to fix a software problem that could cause a loss of cabin heat during cold weather.
You can find the full list of Tesla Model 3 recalls here.