The Tesla Model Y offers all the benefits of the Tesla Model 3, including a long electric driving range and use of the Tesla Supercharger network, but with more space and practicality.
Tesla appeared from nowhere and disrupted the global automotive industry with its electric-only Roadster, Model S, Model X and then the Model 3. The Model 3 has been a huge sales success, but for many UK car buyers, there’s one problem: it has a boot rather than a hatchback. This issue has now been overcome with the Model Y, which is essentially a Model 3 on steroids, with a larger SUV body and a hatchback, so offering more space and practicality.
The Model Y looks like a Model 3 but with an SUV body style and higher ground clearance. We think it looks good, but many people who came up to chat about the car thought it looked too much like the Model 3 and the Model X.
The interior is virtually identical to the Model 3, which means there are absolutely no controls on the dashboard, as they’re on the central touchscreen, which is the only single visual item of interest in the interior. Does that work? Read on to find out.
The main advantage of the Model Y over the Model 3 is the hatchback body style, making it much more practical than the Model 3 for carrying all the paraphernalia of modern life including kids, dogs, bikes, etc etc. The boot has 854 litres of luggage space, or 2,158 litres if you fold all the three rear seats flat. There’s even a large space under the boot floor to store the charging cable, as well as a storage area under the bonnet.
Under the skin is an 82 kWh battery (75 kWh usable capacity) and two electric motors giving 433 hp and all-wheel drive.
Because the Tesla Model Y is based on a Tesla Model 3, it shares many of its driving characteristics with the Model 3. This means instant responses when accelerating; the 0-60 mph time 4.8 seconds would have been seen as sports car statistics before Tesla made this part of everyday life with an EV. And strong performance is on offer at all times – delivered with near-silence and refinement.
There’s also lots of grip thanks to the twin motors delivering all-wheel drive.
With the battery in the floor, handling is good: the Model Y has minimal roll when cornering, despite a higher body than the Model 3.
So the driving experience is generally all good, except for one thing: ride quality. Based on our previous drives of the Model 3, we suspect that the basic ride quality isn’t the best in class, but this was massively compounded by our test car having 20-inch alloy wheels with low profile tyres.
On smooth roads, this isn’t a problem, when the Model Y is enjoyable to drive enthusiastically (although you’re conscious of the two-tonne weight). But when faced with the surface of South Manchester’s roads, which more closely resemble crumbling roads in a war zone than UK suburbia, the ride quality of the Model Y was, at best, uncomfortable. When faced with long stretches of roads with the sort of craters that you’d expect to find on the moon, the whole car shudders, with no feeling of any absorption of the impacts by the suspension. There were also various rattles from the rear seat area accompanying the movements of the car.
The same stretches of road were driven in a BMW iX3, when you couldn’t feel any of the potholes at all. Following on from the Model Y test, we did an updated review of the Model 3, and the ride quality was much better with higher profile tyres, so our advice would be to stick with the 19-inch wheels rather than specifying 20-inch wheels for a Model Y unless you live in an area with roads as smooth as a race track.
So what about the ability of the driver to control the Model Y? There are absolutely no physical buttons on the dashboard, all controls are in the central 15-inch touchscreen. Many other manufacturers have copied Tesla with moving buttons previously found on the dashboard to the touchscreen. However Tesla has taken things further.
When you get the in car, to move the steering wheel, you have to start this process via the touchscreen, before using the scroll wheels on the steering wheel to move the steering column. It’s the same with moving the mirrors.
And you even have to use the touchscreen to adjust the wipers. When you’re driving in the dark on country roads and the car is in control of the wipers, putting them on intermittent, and the vehicle in front hits a huge pool of standing water in the road which then gets thrown on to your windscreen, it seems that a long time passes before you’re able to look away from the road to the touchscreen and find the correct button to press, amongst an overwhelming collection of icons, to put the wipers on the correct setting.
The screen has lots of small buttons, meaning many controls are hard to find, especially when driving. And there’s no button for the map, you just have to press the button for eg. the radio (if you can find it) for a second time to get rid of that screen and to revert to the map.
At the top of the screen is a small read-out of your battery charge – or you can press this read-out to show the remaining range – but you can’t view both at the same time.
And because all information is on the central touchscreen, there’s no read-out of your speed in front of you – you always have to look to the centre of the car to see this – which isn’t ideal.
One thing that touchscreens are useful for is to display a map. When Teslas first appeared the huge map on the central screen was amazing, but the grey-on-grey mapping with few place names is now well behind the quality of that found in Audis and BMWs – and with the German marques you also have the ability to view the mapping in the instrument display in front of the driver, as well as having the option to see satnav instructions in a head-up display.
There are no buttons to select different drive modes, and no flappy paddles to adjust the level of regenerative braking. But you can adjust items such as the steering weight using buttons on the touchscreen.
One impressive feature on the screen is that it shows other vehicles – or people and other hazards – around the car. This isn’t much use for the driver, but at least it shows that the car knows what’s around it when on Autopilot. Thanks to numerous cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, the car can see 250 metres ahead.
If you’re the owner of a Model Y then you’ll have a Tesla app to control certain aspects of the car, such as locking and unlocking the doors. Without this app, you’ll need a key card, and certain actions are more difficult than having a traditional key, including having to use the touchscreen to unlock the charging cable.
The Tesla Model Y Long Range Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive has an electric driving range (WLTP) of 331 miles. This is better than virtually all rivals. And it gets better still – the real-world range during our week with the car was 328 miles.
Aside from the range, another key benefit of driving a Tesla is that you can access the excellent Tesla Supercharger network, so at motorway service areas you can drive past the non-Tesla EVs queuing for two chargers and enjoy the 10 or 12 Tesla chargers. The Model Y can rapid-charge at up to 210 kW DC, delivering up to 370 miles per hour, or 150 miles of range in 15 minutes.
The Tesla Model Y Long Range Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive costs £54,990. There’s also the Model Y Performance for £64,990, which delivers a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds, a top speed of 150 mph, and a driving range of 319 miles. The Model Y Performance also has 21-inch wheels, which must deliver a worse ride quality than our test car with 20-inch wheels.
The Tesla Model Y has just a 1% Benefit in Kind tax rate for company car drivers, and it will be much cheaper to fuel the Model Y with electricity than it would be to fuel a similar SUV with petrol or diesel.
The Model Y is a Tesla so it does all the things well that Tesla does well. This includes having a long driving range and lots of performance. And access to the Tesla Supercharger network is also a big benefit.
It’s also more practical than the Model 3, with a hatchback and more luggage space.
Some people might like all the controls being on the large central touchscreen; some people may not.
But one thing that many other EVs do better is ride quality; the 20-inch wheels really do spoil the enjoyment of the car. A recent Model 3 that we drove had much better ride quality and build quality than an early Model 3 that we tested; so we’re hoping that the rattles on the Model Y were due to it being an early right-hand drive car.
So until issues such as the ride quality improve, the Tesla Model Y Long Range Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.