Tesla has listened to feedback: the mid-life facelift of the Model 3 addresses a wide range of criticism to tremendous effect. This is a much better car
It shouldn’t be surprising, but it turns out that Tesla does listen to feedback. There’s no other way to explain the swag of worthwhile upgrades to the 2024 Model 3 sedan, nearly all of which address key shortcomings of the old car.
A subtle facelift has made the Model 3 more handsome for the back half of this first-gen EV’s life, but the aesthetic changes conceal what is, beneath the skin, an update grounded in substance rather than glitz.
Simply put, the 2024 Model 3 is easier to live with. Prices are slightly up, but ride quality is substantially better, the cabin is quieter and made from more solid materials, and range is improved (slightly). This stuff matters.
Tesla has not needed to mess with the basic Model 3 formula: Australia’s second-most popular EV accrued 17,347 deliveries in 2023 in recognition of a broad swathe of talents. This sedan is a good size and the pricing, which varies, has been fair.
Excellent value continues to be found in the most basic variant of Model 3 and the subject of our test: the $61,900 Rear Wheel Drive model, which deploys a 57.5kWh-usable battery and a single motor mounted to the rear axle.
Opting for classic RWD means you get the most pure dynamics, but it doesn’t mean slow (our 0-100km/h test yielded 5.80 seconds) or even poor range: Chasing Cars real-world testing netted a realistic 453km in urban driving and 442km on the highway.
Those results were thanks to great efficiency, not a large battery. The basic Model 3’s 13.0kWh/100km highway economy on our set loop north of Sydney was the leanest we’ve ever seen from an EV.
Shying from a really big battery prevents the most affordable Model 3 from offering seriously long touring range, but it has an advantage: relatively low weight – compare the 1836kg Tesla to the 1985kg Hyundai Ioniq 6 or the opulent but portly 2405kg Mercedes-Benz EQE300.
So it’s not surprising that the Model 3 feels dartier and lighter on its feet than those cars, even if the lifeless steering rack and very conservative stability control tuning prevent drivers from ever finding much engagement or fun with the Tesla’s capable chassis.
Rather than being fun, driving the updated Model 3 is satisfying: it is a willing partner in virtually any driving environment. It is a fine handler and the recent range of upgrades really quieten it down on the highway or while commuting.
The ride quality, once fidgety and basically unpleasant – something you merely put up with because the Model 3 was compellingly priced – is essentially fixed. It remains somewhat firm but the damping has been given more than a once-over; bumps are now rounded off nicely.
It did help that our tester was unoptioned apart from $1500 blue paint. As a result, our car ran on 18-inch wheels, which do give you a bit more tyre sidewall, helping the ride further. We’d recommend going this way, given the state of many Australian roads.
Acceleration is quite swift without being ludicrous – we like the balance in this car – though not all will love the unchangeable, heavily regenerative ‘one-pedal driving’ that requires careful modulation of the throttle while slowing down.
Emergency braking from 100-0 km/h is effective enough, though: Chasing Cars testing saw the Model 3 RWD stop from triple digits in 35.58 metres.
Because there were no more options, the cabin of our Model 3 was upholstered in the black vinyl theme. Before the facelift this would have triggered deeply unpleasant sweats on even a warm day due to the standard-fit (tinted) glass roof without sunshade.
No longer: Tesla has adopted the call made by us (and others) to add ventilated front seats as standard equipment. This active cooling feature makes the black interior totally liveable even on a warm Australian summer day. It makes a huge difference.
Still, we’d probably spend up (by $1500) on the ‘black and white’ interior theme that really brightens matters further. Various YouTube videos show just how durable Tesla’s interiors are so we would not be afraid of the light seats.
The front chairs themselves have had their shape adjusted, and while we still don’t find them as ergonomic as Hyundai Ioniq 6 or BMW i4 seats, they’re better than before and power lumbar helps get enough back support.
Model 3 still sports a very minimal interior with no heads-up display or dedicated driver screen, so observing your speed still requires glancing over at the 15.0-inch central touchscreen.
It’s a quirk we are now used to but don’t love. We do, however, praise plentiful small upgrades to the layout of the touchscreen’s software which brings some common settings closer to the top of the menu structure than before.
Some previous Model 3 traits, such as the inclusion of very good stereos even on the base car, carry over here. Just don’t go looking for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as they aren’t available – though the Tesla system offers a broad array of apps, but not Waze.
Many cabin materials feel improved and there is a noticeable ‘thunk’ to the doors that was not present before.
But the back seat remains compromised with a high floor and inadequately supportive seat base. Tesla’s Model Y crossover doesn’t fare much better – look for packaging improvements for the second-gen cars due later in the decade.
A pie-in-the-sky aspiration for the 2024 Model 3 facelift was that it might become a hatchback. It looks like one from the outside but this is a traditional sedan with a regular sedan boot, limiting its opening aperture.
Space in the boot itself is plentiful (at 594 litres) while there is also a sealed frunk (88 litres) that gives you room for another suitcase, or perhaps charging cables for a road trip away.
Speaking of charging, Tesla still maintains most of its Australian ‘Supercharger’ network for the exclusive use of its owners. That’s a key advantage to buying this car, because unlike so-called ‘public’ networks, Tesla chargers are reliable.
They are certainly not the cheapest but if you roll up to a Tesla charger mid-road trip – and the navigation automatically routes to them – there’s a very high chance it will work.
Tesla also runs a deeply elegant system whereby billing is managed through your personal account on file. Plug in the charger and it begins charging – no messing around with apps or RFID cards.
The base Model 3 has a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery with a nominal peak charging speed of 170kW but this is bumped very briefly. Expect to be charging for half an hour or so. Naturally, overnight charging is possible with an AC wallbox at home.
A disappointment: Tesla is sticking to a four-year/80,000km vehicle warranty in Australia, trailing far behind the standard of five years/unlimited km or the seven years some manufacturers splash out on.
Tesla is no longer the only game in town in this segment, and we’d recommend test driving the Hyundai Ioniq 6 (Chasing Cars car of the year 2023, from $65,500), as well as the BMW i4 eDrive35 ($85,900) and BYD Seal (from $49,888) if you’re in the market for an EV sedan.
But with sharp pricing, tastefully upgraded dynamics and materials and a genuinely reliable charging network, it remains difficult to walk past the Tesla Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive. This is a seriously well-rounded product.
The Seal Performance pairs astonishing acceleration with comfy, laid-back dynamics. It’s an interesting mix – but the RWD models could be sweeter
Key specs (as tested)
About Chasing cars
Chasing Cars reviews are 100% independent.
Because we are powered by Budget Direct Insurance, we don’t receive advertising or sales revenue from car manufacturers.
We’re truly independent – giving you Australia’s best car reviews.
Huge supply of Tesla Model 3s rockets EV sedan up the sales charts, trails only Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger
The estimate provided does not take into account your personal circumstances but is intended to give a general indication of the cost of insurance, in order to obtain a complete quote, please visit www.budgetdirect.com.au. Estimate includes 15%^ online discount.
Budget Direct Insurance arranged by Auto & General Services Pty Ltd ACN 003 617 909(AGS) AFSL 241 411, for and on behalf of the insurer, Auto & General Insurance Company Limited(ABN 42 111 586 353, AFSL 285 571).Because we don’t know your financial needs, we can’t advise you if this insurance will suit you. You should consider your needs and the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision to buy insurance. Terms and conditions apply.
Indicative quote based on assumptions including postcode , 40 year old male with no offences, licence suspensions or claims in the last 5 years, a NCD Rating 1 and no younger drivers listed. White car, driven up to 10,000kms a year, unfinanced, with no modifications, factory options and/or non-standard accessories, private use only and garaged at night.
^Online Discounts Terms & Conditions
1. Discounts apply to the premium paid for a new Budget Direct Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance, Third Party Property Only or Third Party Property, Fire & Theft Insurance policy initiated online on or after 29 March 2017. Discounts do not apply to optional Roadside Assistance.
2. Discounts do not apply to any renewal offer of insurance.
3. Discounts only apply to the insurance portion of the premium. Discounts are applied before government charges, taxes, levies and fees, including instalment processing fees (as applicable). The full extent of discounts may therefore be impacted.
4. We reserve the right to change the offer without notice.