Glamour model: Tesla 3
Tesla hit the headlines recently for what seemed like a sensational leap into the UK’s top ten new car sales chart. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a surprise listing at number three in the month’s most popular car buys for August, announced in September, was a model called “Other”. Of course, that fooled nobody, and headlines were instantly full of Tesla’s new Model 3 having suddenly accelerated up the rankings to tailgate the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf in the top two spots. Wow! That was a shock.
Actually, it wasn’t quite what it seemed. The 2,082 cars quoted for “Other” (bizarrely listed thus at the company’s request) included Tesla’s Models S and X, although it was certainly the Model 3 that revved the sudden huge growth in Tesla sales. This is the car that now puts driving California’s favourite EV within affordable reach of so many more drivers for the first time.
This is also the car that many people intrigued by Tesla have been waiting for, arriving seven years after the ground-breaking but loftily priced Model S. The Model 3 comes in three versions, the Standard Range Plus, Long Range, and top-spec Performance.
By far the most popular will be the standard car, with a WLTP official range figure of 254 miles and a £37,340 price that includes a £3,500 government EV grant. The Long Range version is said to be good for 348 miles, and the Performance – with a supercar-style 0-62 mph figure below four seconds – capable of 329 miles. All those ranges quoted are of course somewhat optimistic, relying on ideal conditions.
The standard Model 3 is already a quick-off-the-mark car, taking around six seconds on the benchmark 0-62 mph. It has a 50kWh battery pack, a good power output at 252 bhp, and strong torque at 277 lb ft. Like all electric cars, it’s a single-speed automatic. So what is it like to drive? Very likeable, with eager performance, agile handling and a decent ride quality. It’s an all-electric compact executive car, cleverly designed and highly desirable if you enjoy driving and want to be green.
The cabin has a cool modern design, dominated by the unusually big 15in display screen that is established as a key feature across the Tesla range. Oddly, there are no dials in front of the driver, it’s all focused on the central touchscreen. That is at times disconcerting, takes a bit of getting used to and it does seem odd having no display to view through the steering wheel.
There’s much else to like about the car, though, and Tesla clearly has a sense of humour. There are some odd details in the Model 3, such as the digital whoopee cushion that can be deployed via the touchscreen and a selection of arcade-style games to occupy you when you’re parked. Most novel of all is a device that lets you set the climate control and lock the car with your dog inside, with a notice displayed on the screen to reassure concerned passers-by that all is well, even on a hot summer day. Clever idea for dog-owning drivers.
Business savvy: Kia XCeed
South Korean car maker Kia has firmly established itself on the UK scene with a range of well-conceived models that serve up decent driving dynamics at a competitive price and with the reassurance of a seven-year warranty. Its popular compact hatch, the Ceed, has now appeared in a mildly pumped-up crossover-SUV version, oddly named the XCeed.
It is a slickly styled, modestly elevated car with a slight slope to the rear roofline that gives it a bit of a coupe look. Compared with the Ceed on which it is based, the XCeed rides higher with 42mm of extra ground clearance, and has some gentle cosmetic beefing as a result of additional body cladding. The result is a car that has some of the convenience of a crossover without shouting about it as much as some rivals.
For a car that is reasonably compact at 4.4 metres long and about 1.5 metres tall, the XCeed is a practical package with a 426 litres boot (31 litres more than a Ceed hatchback) and up to 1,378 litres of cargo capacity when the rear seats are folded. It is also usefully equipped with cruise control, climate control and a rear parking camera on every version.
On-the-road pricing starts from £20,795, which buys a one-litre petrol model with a 118 bhp power output in base level 2 trim. A popular mid-range option is the 1.6 litre diesel with 134 bhp and level 3 specification. The range tops out with the 1.4 litre, 138 bhp auto First Edition that comes in an extrovert shade of mustard yellow – the launch colour – that is carried into the cabin on the seat material and dashboard trim.
Diesel sales are down from their peak popularity, but the long-leggedness and superior economy of a diesel still makes it a savvy choice for many business drivers. The £25,345 XCeed 1.6 CRDi 3 has a WLTP economy figures of 64.2 mpg and CO2 at 116 g/km, with a 0-62 acceleration time in 10.2 seconds. It is an engaging car to drive with tidy manners and a good level of refinement. Around urban areas it is compact enough to make for easy manoeuvring, and on a motorway it is a relaxed cruiser. As a weekday company car or all-week family model it is a newcomer worthy of being on the shortlist for consideration, and the only car in its class with an industry-best warranty, good for 100,000 miles.