The Model 3 is the car that could make Tesla - or it might merely save the brand. It'll be interesting to find out which. It's all-electric of course - and much more accessible than the company's previous models, though you'll probably still need a £50K budget. Your next executive saloon? Middle managers who are early adopters of new technology should form an orderly queue.
We're looking forward to putting this car to the test but we can't help feeling that it starts off with some inherent issues. It has a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution and comes with the Long Range Battery for 329 miles of WLTP range (in 'Model 3 Performance' guise) and Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive for enhanced performance and traction in any weather. The Model 3 Performance version has a top speed of 162mph along with an exclusive feature, Track Mode, for enhanced performance.
The bulky battery pack means that this car can't be as agile as a European sports saloon. But the reduced size over other Tesla models means it can't fit in the really high range batteries of its Model S and Model X showroom stablemates. Still, the brand quotes a driving range varying between 248 miles (for the base 'Standard range Plus' version) to 348 miles (for the 'Long Range AWD' derivative) which should be enough for most buyers. The 'Performance' derivative will reach 60mph in 3.2s and reach 162mph flat out - though if you drive it like that, your range probably wouldn't even reach treble figures.
Most buyers will want the 'Advanced Autopilot' system, which acts as an adaptive cruise control set-up with lane-keeping assist that maintains your position on the road on the highway. You also get a graphical display on the centre-dash monitor showing you where other traffic is, using eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic monitors and a forward-facing radar. With all this kit on board, you believe Tesla when it says that this car is ready to operate completely autonomously, as soon as legislation permits it to.
The format here is similar to that Tesla has used before, so the batteries run along the floor and there's a body made of a mixture of steel and aluminium. The suspension design uses double wishbones up-front and a multi-link set-up at the rear, with coil springs all-round. Breaking from the hatchback, 7-seat body configuration of other current Tesla cars, the Model 3 is a five-seat saloon that measures in a 4.7m long - fractionally more than a BMW 3 Series. It's much more spacious inside than one of those; it would be of course. There aren't as many mechanical bits to fit in, freeing up space for the passenger compartment and the boot.
It's certainly very airy inside thanks to an uncovered sunroof at the front and a rear window that stretches up into the roof. That gives excellent rearward visibility too. There's the usual huge Tesla centre-dash screen and a smart wooden panel sweeps across the fascia. Fit and finish seem to be better than with previous models from the brand. To get in and start the car, you don't need anything as old fashioned as a key - or even a key fob. When you take delivery, simply download the appropriate app, then put a special credit card in your wallet and have it with you; that's all you'll need. A little disappointingly, the door handles are conventional, rather than automatically popping out to greet you as they do with larger Teslas.
A lot of people have a lot to say about Tesla and its co-creator Elon Musk. Here though, my job is to talk about the cars it makes, specifically this one, which has caused the brand more headaches than any other in its history. But then perhaps you'd expect that. It's one thing to build relatively low volume cars that sell in the £75,000 to £125,000 bracket. But quite another to make one for the volume market where per-unit profits are lower and product scrutiny much greater. The Model 3 is that car - and on initial inspection, I think the signs here are good.
Jaguar's I-PACE is its obvious key rival, but that car's an SUV - and costs slightly more. If this Tesla's cool, pared-back image appeals, then by all means try one. It brings all-electric motoring another step closer to the point of full credibility.Click here to find out more about our Tesla Model 3 range