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My Review of Tesla Model 3 and Model Y Test Drives

I don’t have the luxury of a nearby Tesla store where I can casually stop by and take a test drive here and there. I’ve only driven Teslas officially three times. Once in 2016, a Model S, just for fun. Then 9 months ago I test drove the Model 3 and Model Y on the same day. It was a Saturday and had family with me, so it was more of a social day.

Since today was a sunny but cool day I took the afternoon off and drove the two hours from Louisville to my nearest Tesla store in Cincinnati. My mission was to help clarify whether my new Tesla would be a Model Y or a Model 3. Secondary would be to get a feel for my color preferences, exterior and interior.

There’s been a bit of a sense of urgency on my part to get some clarity. Last week I put down a deposit for a standard range Model Y. On Friday I’d had the configuration page for that car open in my browser. On Sunday word spread that they’d pulled the SR. On Monday I threw caution to the wind and put down a deposit, because it let me. I was surprised. So keep that in mind, as I was still on the fence on the Model Y vs the Model 3, but didn’t want to miss out on a standard range option.

I had hoped to compare the Model 3 Standard Range Plus with the Model Y Standard Range. Unfortunately the Model 3 was a Long Range AWD, but it was close enough. They did have the Model Y Standard Range.

First I drove the Model 3. Then I came back and drove the Model Y. I really liked the added legroom for the driver with the higher seating position. On the Model 3 I wasn’t sure what to do with my left leg when it wasn’t stretched out. If I pulled it up so my ankle was against the seat it gave the feeling I was sitting on the floor, and there weren’t many comfortable positions to rest it. On the Model Y I felt much better about all of that.

So when I was done with that drive I was thinking I’m a Model Y guy. But, since it’s such a big decision my opportunities to test drive are quite limited, and since they weren’t too busy, I asked to take the cars out again. Glad that I did. There wasn’t anything earth shattering on the second round, it was just more experience. After I was done and now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’m leaning heavily toward the Model 3.

Save for the legroom issue, I like everything else about the Model 3 over the Model Y.

Here’s the breakdown.

Why I like the Model Y

Driver’s legroom - the Model Y wins here. I had taken photos while I was seated. The Model Y was more comfortable, but looking at my pictures the contrast between the two vehicles seems minimal. Plus, I usually had the steering wheel at it’s lowest setting.
Cargo capacity hatchback style - everyone knows that when you raise the hatch and need to load lots of stuff into the car the Model Y excels. Seeing this again in person did not disappoint.
Great sound system - on my last drive I cranked up some tunes. It sounded great. The SR Model Y has the premium sound package, vs the SR+ Model 3 which does not. Didn’t get to compare a SR+ Model 3, so it’s an unknown. However, a fabulous sound system isn’t a high priority as I listen mostly to news, talk and podcasts and audiobooks much of the time.

Why I like the Model 3

Cool styling - I’m a guy. What can I say. I want a car that I think looks cool. And the Model 3 looks cool.
Sporty driving - I like the sedan feel closer to the ground. The Model Y drove nice too, but knowing what I know I think the driving characteristics are going to be slightly better overall in the Model 3
Decent rear visibility - using the rear view mirror I can see out the rear window pretty clearly. It’s not like the best I’ve ever driven, but compared to the Model Y… see below.
Economical - mainly this has to do with the purchase price. It’s $3,000 to $4,000 cheaper than a similar Model Y. $4,000 in my case as based on my color choices for each.
Decent range - at 263 miles its enough for my needs and enough to get me into an EV.
Trunk space - more room than I currently have in my Honda Accord Hybrid. Lots of usable space with the lower area beneath the deck, plus the trunk itself is pretty spacious. Fold the seats down and it’s very impressive. A friend of mine hauled a 55” TV in his.
Good visibility - I can see the hood of the car and see the front edges. Nice big windshield.

What I don’t like about the Model 3

Driver’s legroom - as stated already, the Model Y has the edge and this feels a little confined, the only mark against the Model 3 for me. Might be overthinking it. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Cargo capacity - it’s actually fine, but feel like I’m missing out since it’s not as good as the Model Y. It would be nice to have the Model Y’s capacity here, but its not really that important for me. We have another car in the family that’s a small SUV if I need that in a pinch.
Overall size - I’m an Accord guy and in general the car is more Civic size

What I don’t like about the Model Y

Styling - sorry, but from most angles I think the Model Y is kinda big, dorky and sometimes ugly. Every now and then I catch an angle where it looks decent. But overall I don’t think the car is very appealing visually, from the outside.
Rear visibility - TERRIBLE. Looking through the rear view mirror out the back window was like looking through a ship’s portal. I’d heard other reviewers mention this and it was worse than I imagined. I tried turning on the backup camera while driving but it wasn’t a good substitute.
Heavy - the car is bigger and heavier than the Model 3. They’re both heavy. But it seems like the Model Y is carrying around a lot of weight which likely effects its overall efficiency.
Range - 244 miles EPA with real world, especially in colder months, feels like I’m cutting it too close. Yes, the Model 3 is only 263, but that’s almost 10% more. It just seems to me that given the size and weight of the car, it’s just not enough. Even though I’m not going to be road tripping in this, I’m just a little unsure of this. Maybe Elon is living rent free in my head with his 250 mile range comments.
Cargo separation - because I carry lots of stuff for my work in the trunk I think I’d prefer it’s separated or segmented from the rest of the car. I know you can get a cargo cover. But, it’s just a nit pick - kind of like separating home and work life.
Side of seat gets crushed - I liked the easier entry and exit on the Model Y. But one weird thing appeared. When getting in and out the seat cushion on the top left side (above where the controls are) would smash down and I’d feel the lower plastic frame, and drag across that. Not a deal killer, but it was kind of odd.

Other thoughts

The hard regeneration when taking foot off the gas takes some getting used to. Often I’d let off the gas and start leaning forward or back as a learned reaction from driving my car. It’s something I’d get used to. I did like how it would bring you to a stop and hold.

The other cool thing was the traffic light recognition. It could see the traffic lights. If I was sitting at a red light, I’d hear a tone when the light turned green. (I thought that was a FSD feature, but rep said they all have it)

Think that I’m convinced that I like the black interior over the white. The white looks super cool when looking at the car from the outside, especially when the car is blue or red or black. The contrast is really attractive. BUT, living in it and driving it I think it became too bright and overwhelming and maybe even stressful. Kind of like being in a brightly, starkly lit department store. When I sat in a showroom Model Y that had a black interior it seemed to envelop me. It felt more luxurious.

Full satellite view on maps for navigation was pretty awesome

In summary, overall it was a productive day. I’m about 90% sure I’ll go with a Model 3 with the black interior. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow :D
The other cool thing was the traffic light recognition. It could see the traffic lights. If I was sitting at a red light, I’d hear a tone when the light turned green. (I thought that was a FSD feature, but rep said they all have it)

I am pretty sure that's only FSD, and in my experience with car reps, I am usually more right than they are even when I am not sure.

Others will confirm
That is why originally Elon didn't want to release a Standard Range Model Y. Range is just too short.

The proportions of the Model 3 is better than the Model Y. I really wanted a smaller Model S design for either the Model 3 or Y. The Model S design still looks great to this day.
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Really appreciate your insightful comments here. Earlier this year, I was going through the same dilemma and actually ended up choosing the Model 3. But in contrast to your experiences, I actually felt the legroom was better in the Model 3.

The seats in the Model Y definitely are taller and this makes your legs rest in a more downward position more similar to a regular chair. I think this especially benefits passengers in the back, and I felt the rear legroom was much more than the Model 3. But it appeared that in the front the seat on the Model Y didn't go as far back as the 3. I think this is to retain leg room in the back, but as a 6'3 person I put the seat all the way back in pretty much every car I drive. In this area, the Model 3 seemed to have more leg room. The maximum distance from the seat to the pedals definitely seemed longer in Model 3 than the Model Y though you sit lower to the floor. Maybe if you end up ordering the Model 3, you'll get used to it pretty quickly.
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yes FSD only. When I test drove a Model 3 with FSD it made the notification sound, but in my own car without FSD it doesn't

I think the green light tone is a setting in the menu (I have it turned off in my own car).

I am pretty sure that's only FSD, and in my experience with car reps, I am usually more right than they are even when I am not sure.

Others will confirm

Yeah, traffic light recognition is FSD only. The tesla rep is either being misleading on accident, or on purpose. All new teslas have hardware 3.0 so they all have traffic light recognition "CAPABILITY", but in order to actually enable / see it, a person has to have FSD. So "they all have it (the capability) but they dont all have it (the actual feature).
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The SRs are getting LFP batteries which are problematic, you might want to consider a LR for that reason. The upside of the LFP batteries is that they are very longlifed and they can be charged to 100% on a regular basis, the NMC batteries should only be charged to 90%. The downside of the LFP batteries is terrible cold weather charging speeds, European MIC SR+ users on the Tesla Forum have reported Supercharger speeds that are little better than Level 2 speeds. Supposedly Tesla released a software update last week that fixed the charging problem but I'd post a thread for European MIC SR+ owners to confirm that it's fixed before I bought an SR+.
I was baffled by the headroom for rear passengers on model Y - the C pillar is right above the neck cushion so if anyone more than 6 feet sitting in the rear the back of their head will be resting on the pillar instead. This is actually pretty dangerous for rear passengers. In accidents, the whiplash could cause serious injuries.
Are the LFP batteries in the US yet? I haven't seen any indication that they are or are coming right away. I presume they will come over time but my take was it was going to be quite a while.
It's an unknown. The only information is an Elon Tweet, he said that they are gong to do it but of course he didn't say when. If you live in the south or in California I wouldn't worry about getting LFP batteries, the problem is with cold weather charging. It's possible that they've fixed it with a software update, although it's also possible that it's not completely fixable. The LFPs are a prismatic rather than cylindrical which will have heating/cooling ramification.
If you don’t NEED the space, 100% get the 3.

That said, we are in the opposite camps on driver comfort. I hated the Y driver position. Hated. Felt like I was driving a bus. But loved the 3 position as I like sitting on the floor, but that is coming from a line of low slung sports cars and sedans that sat low. I prefer this.
I do hear you on the dead pedal tho. It should be 3-4” deeper in the well, but after 2 weeks of driving it fits me like a glove and I’m 6’3 and change. I have the seat back and as low as possible, and the wheel all the way out with it almost as low as it goes. I slide into my cockpit and love it.

So, beyond driver position, why do I say 3 (if cargo space is not your priority; if it is, I agree you get the Y. I’ll likely buy a Y for my wife)

1) Looks. The 3 is a great looking car. The Y is only attractive from the rear (I really like the back hatch lines tbh). Sorry guys. The front looks swollen and awkward to me.

2) Handling. The Y handles great for an SUV, but the 3 handles great period. Again, coming from sports cars and sport sedans here. The digital steering on either takes a touch to get used to, but my model 3 performance is flat on rails. It’s low, quick, and grippy. It feels lighter than it is. The Y cannot compare here.

3) Range. We know the numbers on the 3 are better, but the 3 also gets closer to advertised. It’s lighter and more aerodynamic.

4) Price. If you don’t need the space, you can get the dual motor 3 for much less than a dual motor y. I 100% recommend getting the dual motor. AWD is fabulous and you will regret not getting it. If you can swing the dual motor 3, get it.

5) Speed. Light equals fast. The 3 is a joy to drive. The performance Y I drove was very very fast, but it can’t even compare to this 3.

The car is great. Enjoy whatever you choose. But if you don’t need the space, you won’t miss it.
Range says 244, I beg to differ!

I’ve got both the SR+ and SR MY and the only thing I agree is that the SR MY is much heavier(Oh, and the SR MY sound system is head and shoulders above the SR+).

It is also false that they are the same in the 0-60 times. No way is the SR MY as quick as the SR+. Other than that, I really enjoy the SR MY. I’ve had no issues with the range. I don’t do road trips(I rent or just fly), therefore, range anxiety is a myth if you own more than a single car.

I’m only a few hundred miles into the car but once I get it up to at least 500-1000, I’ll write a more comprehensive review on both.
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