When Jonathan, a subscriber to my very interesting and useful tech newsletter The Sizzle, asked me if I’d like to swap my Hyundai Ioniq for a Tesla Model 3, I immediately agreed. He was awesome enough to trust me (someone he never met) with his new car, unsupervised for an entire day. I drove it almost 300km from Melbourne, to Castlemaine and Bendigo, then to Ballarat via Daylesford and back to Melbourne.
Just like how I recently compared the Nissan LEAF to the Ioniq, let’s compare the a day with the Tesla Model 3 to the Ioniq!
Some basics about the Model 3 out of the way for those that don’t already know: it’ll go 380km on a full charge with its 54kWh battery, can suck down 100kW from a Tesla supercharger or high powered CCS2 charger and pricing starts at $73,135 drive away in Victoria for the Standard Range Plus in white, which is what I drove. If you want a deep and thorough review of all the Model 3 features, these three videos cover basically everything you could want to know about the current version (much has changed between 2017 & 2019) Model 3:
Things I liked about the Model 3 compared to the Ioniq:
It’s fast, so much faster. Planting your foot into the Model 3’s accelerator when waiting at those flow control lights at a freeway onramp is so much fun.
Stiffer suspension. Taking roundabouts at speed and turning corners is way less wobbly than the Ioniq, which is a FWD city car tuned more for comfort than performance. The Model 3 doesn’t take bumps as well, but I don’t mind that trade-off.
The smartphone app actually works! It shows you the car’s battery level, charging rate, estimated time to completion – very basic things every EV should do, but doesn’t. When the Hyundai app decides to work (50/50 chance it’ll do what you want), it’s so slow to actually happen. The Tesla app is immediate. The app is a joy to use.
No scheduled servicing. My Ioniq requires 15,000km/12m servicing intervals where all they really do is plug in a diagnostic scanner, poke around under the car to check the wheels are still on, stamp my service log and charge me $160. Tesla on the otherhand don’t have a set schedule
That big touch screen. I was really put off by not having a traditional speedo and dials for the headlights and wipers but Tesla’s touch screen exceeded my expectations. Monitoring my speed wasn’t a problem, the big ol’ map was great to use and with a matte screen protector applied, glare was absolutely not a problem.
Built-in dashcam & Sentry mode. All those cameras it uses for Autopilot can record video to a USB drive in your dashboard, acting as a multi-cam dashcam. When the car is parked, it’ll even act a security camera, giving you evidence if someone fucks with your 80 grand vehicle.
Supercharger network. I got to go to Bendigo for the first time in a year as the Ioniq hasn’t got enough range to get there and there’s no chargers even remotely along the route. I suspect this will change in time as more CCS/CHAdeMO chargers come online in Australia (there’s already more non-Tesla than Tesla ones in NSW & QLD).
Extra range. The Ioniq’s ~200km range is fine for most of my driving, but every now and then I want to go somewhere I can’t because there’s no fast chargers on the route. With 380km range on the Model 3, it’s obvious that I can go to more places with it than I can with the Ioniq, or I can go somewhere and not have to charge along the way.
The minimalist interior. This is a matter of personal preference, but I found the lack of decoration and adornments quite refreshing versus a similar priced luxury car that’s full of design “flourishes” to justify all that money. I had no issue with the Model 3’s fit & finish either. The interior is certainly less noisy and creaky than my Ioniq.
Things I dislike about the Model 3 compared to the Ioniq:
No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. If I want to listen to podcasts in PocketCasts, I have to do it over Bluetooth and control it from my iPhone. Using Apple Music or Google Music is the same. The built-in navigation uses Google Maps, but if you want traffic info (something I use very often), you need the “Premium Interior” which is only available on the Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive variant that costs $22,423 more.
Autopilot. You gotta pay $8000 for the really cool stuff like Autosteer+ (steer you around bendy roads), Navigate on Autopilot (change lanes for you) and Smart Summon (the car drives to you slowly in a car park/garage). Without that package, all you get is adaptive cruise control and Autosteer (basic). Autosteer kept me scarily close to the cars in adjacent lanes, so I disabled it for the day I had it. The cruise control is great though and much faster and smoother to react than the Ioniq, however it was more likely to disengage than the Ioniq when going uphill or in direct sunlight. Overall disappointing.
Panoramic glass roof. It looks cool but damn it lets in a lot of heat. It’s certainly a warmer cabin than the Ioniq. I would much prefer a normal metal roof and the price cut by a few grand.
The price. The cheapest spec Model 3 is $73,135 in Victoria. A 2020 Ioniq is $53,026. $20,000 isn’t a small amount of money and $20,000 is the price of a nice second hand Toyota hybrid. I’d never, ever, consider spending $73,000 on a car and honestly feel like a bit of a wanker for contemplating it (working class Catholic guilt never goes away folks).
Should I buy a Tesla Model 3?
The Ioniq, let’s be honest, is basically a Hyundai Elantra with batteries. It looks like, drives like and feels like a petrol car. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it means everything is familiar with the drivetrain being the only difference. For those already skeptical of EVs, the Ioniq is a nice introduction.
The Model 3 however, is literally a computer on wheels. It’s very different to operate than a “normal” car, with all the car’s functions accessible via a touch screen. That’s probably why I love the Model 3 so much! It’s as if a bunch of computer nerds (aka me & you) designed this car. It isn’t for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed driving the Model 3. It’s also got more practical range, is way more enjoyable to drive thanks to the stiffer suspension and higher performance, the smartphone app works as it should and the touchscreen is second nature for a nerd like me.
I enjoed it so much, I am seriously thinking about selling my Ioniq and buying a Model 3 in 2020, even though I really can’t justify it financially. That’s how good it is. If you can afford $60,000 or more for a car, a sedan suits your purposes and you can get over the fact you’re giving money to Elon Musk, you’d be crazy not to test drive the Model 3.
Massive thanks again to Jonathan for letting me drive his car for an entire day and getting it covered in dead bugs. Also damn you for giving me a taste of the Model 3 when I can’t afford it!