Things we like

  • Model 3: Qualifies for best state EV incentives, satisfying performance, offers something for keen drivers
  • Model Y: Generous interior space, vast boot, still relatively good value

Not so much

  • Model 3: Rear seat not as roomy or comfortable as Y’s, fidgety low-speed ride, needs a head-up display (as with Y)
  • Model Y: Bumpier & noisier ride, reduced driving range & performance, restricted rear-view vision

Things we like

  • Model 3: Qualifies for best state EV incentives, satisfying performance, offers something for keen drivers
  • Model Y: Generous interior space, vast boot, still relatively good value

Not so much

  • Model 3: Rear seat not as roomy or comfortable as Y’s, fidgety low-speed ride, needs a head-up display (as with Y)
  • Model Y: Bumpier & noisier ride, reduced driving range & performance, restricted rear-view vision

Tesla dominates the Australian electric vehicle market with even more of an iron grip than Toyota dominates all other categories.

While around one in five cars sold in Australia comes from a Toyota showroom, more than half of the electric cars delivered so far this year were either a Model 3 sedan or a Model Y SUV.

But for those with their mouse hovering over the ‘Continue to payment’ button on the Tesla website – which at the moment is predicting your new car will be delivered between February and May next year regardless of which body style you choose – do you opt for 3 or the Y?

Before you click, have a read of this comparison. Though there are similarities, your priorities and needs will influence which Tesla is right for you.

Compared here are the entry-level rear-wheel-drive versions of the 2022 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.

Pricing and features

If you are looking to achieve maximum battery range for your money, the lighter and more aerodynamic Model 3 – from $65,500 before on-road costs and incentives – is the winner.

At entry level, the Model Y costs $6800 more than the equivalent Model 3 but its WLTP-rated battery range of 455km is 36km shy of the sedan; both are rear-wheel drive.

There’s an even bigger gap between the base models in states where rebates are applied for EVs costing less than $70,000 (exact thresholds vary slightly). In NSW, South Australia and Victoria, Model 3 buyers receive $3000 back from the government; in Western Australia it’s $3500.

Tesla Model 3 interior

There is also no mid-range Model Y offered as an equivalent to the Long Range Model 3 that has all-wheel drive and a massive 602km WLTP range figure, for $80,000 before on-road costs and incentives.

Both have all-wheel drive Performance variants, the Model 3 priced from $94,122 including luxury car tax but before on-road costs and the leap to an equivalent Model Y requiring a $7490 greater investment.

Again, the Model 3 comes out tops for WLTP range, at 547kM in Performance trim compared with 514km for the Model Y Performance.

Tesla Model Y interior

In addition to a bigger battery and more range, the more you spend on a Tesla yields increased performance.

The base Model 3 sends 190kW and 375Nm to its rear wheels and is claimed to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds whereas the most affordable Model Y takes 6.9s despite delivering a punchier 220kW and 420Nm. Put that down to the Y’s extra 157kg of mass.

A Long Range all-wheel drive Model 3 cuts the triple-digit sprint to just 4.4s courtesy of its 307kW/510Nm dual motor powertrain and has no direct equivalent in the Model Y range.

Topping the Model 3 line-up is the Performance grade that deploys 353kW and 639Nm to deliver a searing 3.3s 0-100km/h dash, with the Model Y taking four-tenths longer despite its 60kW/ 21Nm output advantage.


Tesla Model 3 and Model Y: Driving range, outputs, power and price

VARIANT RANGE POWER TORQUE 0-100km/h PRICE
Model 3 RWD 491km 190kW 375Nm 6.1sec $65,500
Model 3 Long Range AWD 602km 307kW 510Nm 4.4sec $80,000
Model 3 Performance AWD 547km 353kW 639Nm 3.3sec $94,122
Model Y RWD 455km 220kW 420Nm 6.9sec $72,300
Model Y Performance AWD 514km 413kW 660Nm 3.7sec $101,612

Despite the range and performance deficit, spending more on a Model Y brings more than just a bigger vehicle with more interior space.

For example, the Model Y RWD entry variant comes with 19-inch wheels where 18-inch wheels are standard on the base Model 3, as well as a 13-speaker ‘Premium’ audio system that’s an option on the base 3.

Among the shared features are electric front seats, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, and a full-length glass sunroof. Driver aids include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and forward collision assist.

There’s also a similar options list. White paint is standard; choosing black, silver, or blue (as per our test cars) costs $1500. You can also stump up $2900 for a multi-coat red.

On the Model 3, Tesla commands another $2200 for 19-inch ‘Sport’ wheels and 20-inch ‘Induction’ alloy wheels cost $2900 for the Model Y. You can also spend $1500 for a two-tone black and white interior on both, rather than pure black.

Tesla Model Y infotainment

Both models can be specified with the $5100 ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ package of driver assist functions comprising auto lane-changing, auto overtaking, and auto steering/accelerating/braking for freeway use, self-drive parking manoeuvres and Smart Summon that (theoretically, at least) allows owners to bring their parked Tesla to them in a car park via the smartphone app.

The questionably titled Autopilot system can be upgraded further to what Tesla calls Full Self Driving Capability, which includes all Enhanced Autopilot functions plus traffic light and stop sign recognition as well as technological upgrades that will enable high levels of autonomous driving when the software becomes available and legal in Australia.

Regardless of such a wait, the investment in either upgrade is questionable value.

Main rivals for both of these Teslas comprise the Hyundai Ioniq 5 (priced from $69,990) and our 2022 Wheels Car of the Year, the Kia EV6 (priced from $72,590) – both before on-road costs and incentives – although this is fairly moot given the hens-teeth availability of these two.

The Polestar 2 is more specifically aimed at the Model 3 than the Model Y, from $63,900 before on-road costs and incentives. The related Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is a direct rival to the Y and starts from $ 72,990 before on-road costs and incentives.

Kia’s second-generation Niro EV also enters the fray, if relatively pricey from $65,300 before on-road costs and incentives. More choice is coming, among which are the Toyota BZ4X and Subaru Solterra twins, the Hyundai Ioniq 6, Skoda Enyaq and Volkswagen’s ID.4 and ID.5.

SCORING

Model 3 Model Y
Pricing and features 8.5 8.5

Comfort and space

An update to the Model 3 that landed earlier this year has been inherited by the Model Y, so previously chrome trim is now black and in other areas matte black supplants gloss black.

There’s also a graphite finish for the seat controls, the steering wheel thumb-scrollers are metallic and the sun visor mirrors have magnetic snap-close covers.

The centre console includes a sliding lid front storage compartment, four USB-C ports (previously two), and there are now dual wireless smartphone charging trays with a suede-like backing. Not everyone will necessarily take a liking to the “All Vegan” vinyl upholstery, though.

Tesla Model 3 front seating

In both cars, the front seats are comfortable but the view forward is better in the Y than the 3, though the SUV’s rear vision is very narrow and its side mirrors are relatively small.

Fit and finish blemishes can still be found on both cars – a Tesla bugbear since day one – but this seems to be constantly improving.

Both these cars were much better than the Model 3 we tested in 2020, for example, where not even the insides of the doors were properly painted.

As expected for an SUV, you do sit higher in the Model Y, which has 27mm of extra ride height and raised front seat mountings – with the Y’s taller roofline still giving it extra headroom over the sedan.

For adults, the 3’s low rear bench creates a knees-up seating position, toe space is lacking, and the sloping ceiling restricts headroom. All of these are addressed by the Y, which has noticeably more headroom and legroom than its sedan counterpart.

Tesla Model Y interior

Legroom increases by a whopping 13.5cm in the back of the Model Y, partially achieved by its 1.5cm-longer wheelbase over the Model 3, as well as revised packaging that takes advantage of slightly shortened front legroom.

Whereas the Y’s roof is a seamless expanse of glass, the 3 features a middle beam. Both have UV protective glass but, with no built-in blind, some owners may want to opt for Tesla’s accessory sunshades.

Only the Y’s rear seats offer a choice of two recline positions. ISOFIX points and top tether anchors feature in the outboard positions of both cars to cater for child seats.

Tesla Model 3 rear seating

Shoulder room is virtually unchanged between the 3 and Y but, according to Tesla’s specs, hip space shrinks by 4.5cm in the Y despite its bodywork’s width puffing out by about 7cm.

A completely flat floor makes the middle seat viable for an adult in either of these Teslas, if still the short straw for longer journeys.

By far the biggest reason to be tempted into a Model Y over a Model 3 is found in the boot, not least because the automatic tailgate provides a far larger aperture than the opening of the sedan’s boot.

Storage space: Tesla Model v Tesla Model Y

Space Model 3 Model Y
Boot 561L 854L
“Frunk” 88L 117L

Quoted Model Y luggage capacity is a vast 854 litres, which is 52 per cent more than the Model 3’s 561L boot. That said, the Y’s impressive volume figure is measured to the roof rather than the window line (as with the 3’s figure).

For both cars, cargo capacity figures include underfloor storage and the Y posts another advantage here. It features a larger, wider tub nearest the boot opening, while an extra, shallower underfloor section behind that is useful for storing charging cables.

Another bonus is two electric release switches, which fold the 60:40 rear seats completely flat. The middle seatback can be also flattened individually for a ski hatch type set-up.

Unlike the Model 3, the Y will accommodate mountain bikes inside. There’s also a much bigger 117-litre ‘frunk’ (froot?) under the bonnet compared to the Model 3’s 88 litres.

Tesla Model 3 boot

There is a good chance that you are reading this as a first-time Tesla buyer; popular as they may be, and increasingly so, most Australians are yet to experience one.

A major thing to get to grips with is the huge touchscreen display that hoards virtually all car functions and can be daunting for first-timers, especially as all driving information – including the speedo – is on the screen.

Seat heaters, driver profiles and trip information are a bit too deeply buried in submenus, requiring more taps to access.

Although owners have more time to get accustomed to operations, familiarity doesn’t prevent the touchscreen from being a distraction at times on the road, as eyes are averted to press various icons or words that can be quite small.

Inclusion of a head-up display would do wonders – indeed there is a thriving aftermarket for them – but at least Tesla’s voice command system is effective.

Overall software design, layout and response are impressive, the Google Maps navigation a stand-out for its intuitive interface, rapidly predicting address inputs and then relaying clear and helpful route guidance.

The right side of the display provides a computer-generated graphic of your surroundings – including vehicles and lane markings – as recognised by the car’s front radar, exterior cameras and multiple ultrasonic sensors.

Peace-of-mind features enabled by this technology include a dashcam that records while driving and Sentry Mode that records when the car is parked and locked. Footage can be recorded to a storage key plugged into a USB-A port inside the glovebox.

Tesla Model 3 charging

An impressive number of in-car entertainment options are available for when parked, too. There’s an assortment of games and you can even stream Netflix or YouTube. It sounds gimmicky but can be handy for all sorts of scenarios, such as providing something to do while using a windswept public charging station on a long journey – especially at night.

After a 30-day complimentary subscription, owners just need to pay a monthly subscription ($9.99 at the time of writing) to retain some of these software features.

Both infotainment systems are constantly upgraded via Tesla’s over-the-air updates but the Model Y’s standard Premium audio system sounds excellent and is a welcome perk in return for your extra spend over the Model 3.

It certainly contributes to the Model Y winning the comfort and space part of this comparison.

SCORING

Model 3 Model Y
Comfort and space 8.0 9.0

On the road

Both of these Teslas will beat the majority of cars – including similar-priced EVs – away from traffic lights with their immediate power delivery and torquey punch.

The Model Y’s acceleration undoubtedly feels slower than the Model 3’s, yet the SUV remains sufficiently, and enjoyably, brisk.

Either is quicker than rear-wheel-drive versions of the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia EV6, as well as the front-drive Polestar 2.

Tesla drivers seeking more relaxed driving can select the ‘Chill’ mode via the touchscreen. So very Silicon Valley.

Less chilled is the way both of these cars ride, though. They would benefit from adaptive dampers or perhaps some local chassis tuning like that applied by Hyundai and Kia.

The Model 3 rides firmly at low speed and tends to fidget over uneven bitumen, while the Model Y – with its larger wheels and heavier body – struggles even more for compliance.

Suppleness increases with speed, though, and both Teslas feel especially comfortable on freeways where relaxed progress is complemented by the effortless electric motor and ‘Autopilot’ adaptive cruise control.

But regardless of surface, suspension noise in the Model Y can be intrusive.

The Model 3’s three-box design does seem to suppress some of these sounds better. We’ve yet to test the Model Y’s optional 20-inch wheels, which we suspect would further exaggerate the ride and noise issues.

Tesla first-timers might be confronted by the ridiculously quick steering of both these cars – barely two turns lock to lock –  and it can take time to become accustomed as the front end is reactive to just a small movement of the steering wheel off centre.

Responses to inputs are quick and precise, though, abetted by a front end that’s unencumbered by a heavy lump of metal under the bonnet.

Steering effort can be adjusted via the touchscreen. Sport mode adds resistance, Comfort is lightest, while the default Standard is predictably in between those settings – and our pick.

Of the two models, keen drivers will derive greater satisfaction from the Model 3.

The sedan’s lower kerb weight is obvious on a country road, and there’s far less body roll than you experience in the SUV.

If you can get your hands on a Kia EV6, though, the Korean electric SUV provides both a generally more relaxing and dynamic motoring experience.

SCORING

Model 3 Model Y
On the road 8.0 6.0

Ownership

When not using Tesla’s Supercharger network, the Model 3 and Model Y can be recharged via CCS ports that most other EVs utilise and are commonplace connectors on non-Tesla public charging stations.

Tesla’s $780 Gen 3 Wall Connector (not including installation costs) is claimed to add about 71km per hour of charging.

For models equipped with an LFP battery (such as the Model 3 and Model Y rear-wheel drive compared here), Tesla recommends sticking to a 100 per cent charge limit and fully charging the vehicle at least once a week.

All-wheel-drive models use a different, Nickel Cobalt Aluminium Oxide (NCA) battery chemistry for which Tesla recommends charging to 90 per cent.

Tesla vehicles come with a general four-year/80,000km warranty, which looks short compared with Kia’s seven-year/150,000km warranty, although Tesla hits back with an eight-year/160,000km battery and drive unit warranty for the rear-wheel drive Model 3 and Model Y (192,000km for all-wheel drive variants) compared with Kia’s seven-year battery coverage.

Tesla warranty coverage
Main warranty four years 80,000km
Battery and drive unit eight years 160,000km
*192,000km for AWD models
Roadside assistance complimentary through warranty period, including 800km towing distance

Roadside assistance is complimentary for the duration of the main Tesla warranty, covering towing (and transport costs up to 800km) in the event of a malfunction, lockouts, and flat tyres. The latter will be needed if you get a puncture, as neither Model 3 nor Model Y comes with a spare wheel – and an optional tyre repair kit no longer appears to be available.

Tesla claims to design its vehicles “with the goal of eliminating the need for service” and even says new or used vehicle warranties will “not be affected if recommended service is not performed”. However, it does list a number of recommended regular maintenance tasks for filters, tyres, brake fluid and air-conditioning.

A key pillar of Tesla ownership is the smartphone app, offering a currently unrivalled level of smartphone-based functionality – including booking service and maintenance.

It’s possible to make the key card redundant by connecting it to your phone, then using the lock/unlock function (otherwise entry is achieved by ‘scanning’ the car against the B-pillar).

You can press the respective parts of a birds-eye graphic of the car to open the tailgate or frunk, pre-heat or pre-cool the car before you get to it, and monitor battery life.

One of our favourite features is Location, which provides a map guide to the nearest Tesla Supercharger; select your choice and you can then send the route instructions direct to the Model Y’s navigation on the centre display.

SCORING

Model 3 Model Y
Ownership 9.0 9.0

VERDICT

Australia’s two most affordable Tesla models remain hugely compelling choices in an increasingly competitive EV market, and build quality concerns are diminishing rapidly.

More importantly, the utility and appeal of Tesla’s expansive Supercharger network should not be underestimated; buyers of other brands must make do with Australia’s lacklustre (if slowly improving) public charging infrastructure if planning longer journeys.

Of the pair compared here, the Model Y goes a long way to justifying its higher price with additional interior space over is sedan stablemate – not to mention most medium SUVs battery-powered or otherwise – as well as a small but appreciated uplift in standard equipment.

The Model 3 is still relatively practical for a sedan and, despite no longer being priced below $60,000, it still looks something of a bargain for the performance and range it offers.

Its lighter and lower body also allows it to accelerate faster, drive further, and feel more composed on the road – including a quieter and slightly less troublesome ride – compared with its SUV spin-off.

The entry Model 3 is the best Tesla currently available in our book, but we’re also confident buyers opting for the Model Y won’t be disappointed.

OVERALL SCORING: 2023 Tesla Model 3 v Tesla Model Y

Model 3 Model Y
Pricing and features 8.5 8.5
Comfort and space 8.0 9.0
On the road 8.0 6.5
Ownership 9.0 9.0
Overall score 8.5 8.0

2022 Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model Y specifications

Tesla Model 3 RWD Tesla Model Y RWD
Body 5-door, 5-seat medium sedan 5-door, 5-seat medium SUV
Battery 60.0-62.3kWh (estimated) 60.0-62.3kWh (estimated)
Drive rear-wheel rear-wheel
Engine electric rear motor electric rear motor
Transmission single-speed reduction gear single-speed reduction gear
Power 190kW 220kW
Torque 375Nm 420Nm
0-100km/h 6.1 seconds (claimed) 6.9 seconds (claimed)
Range 491km (WLTP) 455km (WLTP)
Weight 1752kg 1909kg
Suspension double wishbones, coil springs (f) / multi-links, coil springs (r) double wishbones, coil springs (f) / multi-links, coil springs (r)
L/W/H 4694/1933/1443mm 4751/1921/1623mm
Wheelbase 2875mm 2890mm
Tyres Michelin Pilot Sport 4 (235/45 R18) Hankook Ventus S1 Evo 3 (255/45 R19)
Wheels 18-inch alloy 235/45 R18 (optional mobility kit) 19-inch alloy
Price $65,500 + on-road costs $72,300 + on-road costs

Scores from single car reviews

Model 3 Model Y
Safety, value and features 9.0 8.0
Comfort and space 8.0 9.0
Engine and gearbox 9.0 8.0
Ride and handling 8.0 6.0
Technology 9.0 8.5

COMMENTS

Keyword: 2023 Tesla Model Y vs Tesla Model 3 comparison review

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