Layout, finish and space
Staying true to the Model S maxi-minimalist interior design, the Model 3 is just as stark. The dash is nothing but a slab of wood running the full width (less appealing plastic on the base models), a full-width air vent and a 15-inch touchscreen, landscape orientated, rather than the larger portrait screen in the S.
Scour the cabin and the only physical buttons you’ll find are two unmarked scroll wheels on the steering wheel, buttons for the electric windows, a button for the hazard lights above your head and a button on the grab handle to open each door, although there’s a physical lever below that.
The seats are comfortable, electrically adjustable but could do with better lateral support. Also, how Tesla manages to make real hide look like pleather is endlessly fascinating.
On the subject of equipment, here’s what you get as standard on the $35,000 (P1.8 million) model: 18-inch alloys, 15-inch screen, on-board Wi-Fi, sat-nav, 60/40 split folding rear seats, LED headlights and taillights, and a reversing camera. Not bad.
Space in the back seats is fine for anyone up to six feet tall, a bit cramped beyond that, but it’s worth it for the endless view out through the full-length sunroof that wraps right around and behind your head. It’s because of that infinity roof that the 3 isn’t a hatchback, although split folding rear seats mean you can fit longer objects in, too. Fallen on hard times? Drop the back seats and a double blow up mattress slots in perfectly.
The general idea is that the quarter closest to the driver is dedicated to information and controls you might need while driving. These include a visual representation of your autopilot situation and shortcuts to the trip computer, charge status, etc. The rest is dominated by a map or whatever you want to overlay, such as your radio or music streaming, climate control settings and phone status.
Although the basic driving controls couldn’t be simpler, this isn’t a car you fully understand in the first five minutes. Like a new smart phone, you need to commit some time to learning the shortcuts, locating the settings you might need and engraining them on your brain.
Once that’s done, you can have fun exploring some of Tesla’s ‘easter eggs’--modes that are there for no reason other to make you and your passengers laugh and prove Elon isn’t an evil genius from another planet, he has a sense of humor, too. Modes like the Mars button that turn the map into the surface of the Red Planet.