2024 Tesla Model 3: Now That’s a Real Car

Strong points
  • Significantly improved build quality
  • Outstanding range and efficiency
  • High-tech content
  • Fun driving experience
Weak points
  • Ergonomic issues (turn signals, windshield wipers)
  • No rear hatch, small trunk opening
  • Depreciates faster than Model Y
  • Can’t buy the car after leasing it
Full report

The highly anticipated 2024 Tesla Model 3, codenamed Highland, has finally arrived. As a matter of fact, sales began in Europe well before North America, a first for Tesla. Units for the Canadian market will be built both in the U.S. and China, another first.

Whichever plant the updated Model 3 comes from, we’re happy to report that build quality is significantly improved. The company didn’t just tighten a few nuts and bolts.

The Model 3’s top competitor is arguably the Tesla Model Y, which now carries the same base price of $53,990 (MSRP) but proves way more practical, hence the higher sales numbers. However, the popular crossover has yet to receive a similar update to the sedan that’s currently entering its seventh year and showing more maturity. There’s no doubt the latter will attract more customers than in years past.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Beyond the Headlights

From a design standpoint, the 2024 update is about more than the headlights. The front end is almost entirely new, while the rear end shows changes to the bumper and trunk lid. New wheels are part of the mix, too, again measuring 18 inches as standard or 19 inches optionally ($2,000 extra).

The most notable improvements can be found in the body structure, starting with the doors which benefit from reinforced hinges and latches, plus a triple-catch system to resist impact effectively. The result is a much more solid body and hardware.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Next up, the chassis has been made stronger, including a more robust sub-frame made from a single piece of aluminum to reduce NVH levels and enhance ride quality. Alas, in the event of a major collision, the car will be extremely expensive to repair and more likely to be considered a total loss.

Elsewhere, wind noise has been considerably reduced, making the Model 3 as quiet as a large premium sedan. We can’t really tell you about road noise since our tester was still riding on winter tires. Even so, the interior felt remarkably insulated, with the improved door structure making up for the frameless windows.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Two New Colours, Sort of

Ultra Red and Stealth Grey replace nearly identical colours in the Model 3 lineup for 2024. Other options include Solid Black, Pearl White Multi-Coat and Deep Blue Metallic. Inside, white leatherette is available for an additional $1,300 in lieu of the standard black upholstery. If you ask us, a green, silver or dark red interior would have looked awesome, but Tesla prefers to keep things simple on the assembly line. It’s also why the company is eliminating more and more components.

The latest victims include the shifter and turn signal stalks, as well as the windshield wiper controls. Now these functions go through buttons on the steering wheel or the centre touchscreen. It’s not entirely surprising coming from Tesla, but the move raises some ergonomic issues as it does not make for intuitive use. By the way, in case the touchscreen starts acting up or fails, you’ll find an overhead panel near the rear-view mirror with touch-sensitive PRND buttons.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Only the new 15-speaker, dual-subwoofer audio system cannot be had in the single-motor Model 3. Music lovers need to turn to the dual-motor variant, which increases range from 438 km to 548 km and boosts output by 159 horsepower. The result of these upgrades is a premium of $10,000 (from $53,990 to $63,990).

Standard content includes a glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a new rear-seat display that allows occupants in the second row to adjust HVAC settings and watch videos on YouTube or Netflix. Incidentally, the rear seats are now heated, too, with the controls found on that aforementioned display.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

The highlight of the interior is the new 15.4-inch centre touchscreen with crystal-clear definition and a myriad of information. If you’re not familiar with Tesla vehicles, prepare for a steep learning curve. Navigation proves easy, and the screen is configurable in many different ways depending on the menus and functions you prefer using, which is a good thing. On the other hand, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration is still missing.

One last thing: Tesla’s mobile app enabling drivers to monitor and manage the car remotely works better than similar apps from the competition. Your smartphone can even serve as a digital key.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Spacious and Luxurious

Material selection has improved including premium, soft-touch fabric instead of wood on the dashboard. A colour-adjustable LED light strip beautifully wraps the cabin, while the modular centre console is much more convenient than the previous one. There’s generous headroom and legroom for four adults along with superb levels of comfort.

Other than the elimination of the shifter and turn signal stalks on the steering column, complaints include not-so-good visibility through the rear window and a small trunk opening behind. We’re not surprised that more people turn to the Model Y crossover because it has a rear liftgate.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Our Model 3 tester looked pretty sharp dressed in Deep Blue Metallic and riding on the available 19-inch wheels. We received many thumbs-up from other Tesla drivers laying their eyes on it and spotting the subtle changes. With the dual motors and all-wheel drive configuration, acceleration is electrifying to say the least. In fact, if you ask us, the company wouldn’t even need to bring back the Performance model.

Capable of 0-100 km/h sprints in 4.4 seconds, this little Tesla makes everything too easy. On top of that, handling is exceptional thanks to precise and lively steering. Driving the Model 3 is more fun than before—it feels more solid, more refined and more capable overall, with no unpleasant noises or harshness. Did we mention the interior is much quieter, too?

A quick word about the 19-inch wheels. While they do look more attractive, ride quality takes a hit, and so does maximum range—dropping from 548 km to 502 km. Expect even less than that with winter tires on.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Superchargers for Everybody

As you’re probably aware of, Tesla is gradually opening up its Supercharger network to virtually all EV drivers. That’s great news for those people but not so much for actual Tesla owners. Watching YouTube clips while your Model 3 fast charges at up to 250 kW is cool. However, waiting in line behind a Kia, Ford or Volvo to access a Supercharger is not.

Luckily, some Supercharger stations across the country will remain exclusive to Tesla vehicles. You can locate them using the map on the car’s touchscreen and even plan a long trip accordingly.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

What About Service?

Tesla service, while still far from perfect if you ask many customers, is improving, as evidenced by the opening of 7-day service centres and the availability of mobile service. That being said, with the fast-growing number of Tesla vehicles in the country, the automaker should definitely expand its network of service centres.

The best news when it comes to the revised and improved Model 3 is that build quality no longer appears to be an issue and that Tesla must now be taken seriously as a car manufacturer. It’s not just about advanced technology and industry-leading range anymore. What we have here is a real car at last.

We’re not saying it’s perfect. Time will tell how everything holds up, and paint quality remains a concern. Speaking of which, you should always consider applying protective film on the front fascia and lower body to prevent damage and peeling paint. A professional rustproofing treatment is also highly recommended—unless you’re leasing the car, because Tesla still won’t allow you to buy it back at the end of your lease.

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