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First Drive

First Drive: Tesla Model Y

The story: Tesla is adding a fourth car to its current line-up, with the Model Y being an SUV sibling to the Model 3 hatch.
Key rival:Audi Q4 E-tron
Efficiency:Range: 315 miles
On sale:Spring 2022

The next step for the phenomenon that is Tesla is soon to arrive, with the Model Y small SUV now available to order ahead of delivery early next year.

The Model Y is initially available in 315-mile range Long Range form for just under £55,000, with a 298-mile Performance model following in mid-2022 for £64,990.

The quicker version will cut the 0-60mph time from an already impressive 4.8 down to only 3.5 seconds.

First Drive - November 2021 - Tesla Model Y - Image 5The cross between Model 3 and Model X works well from a styling perspective and gives the new car potentially better balance than either sibling, especially from the side and rear, although the front is a little devoid of detailing, which makes the headlights look a touch small. But overall it’s a sensible and well-proportioned look.

At present, the Model Y comes only as a five-seater, although there is talk of a seven-seat version coming to Europe in the future. However, as it is there’s a huge amount of luggage space, with the boot also featuring a big below-floor well in its 854 litres. Also included in that number is a 117-litre front trunk that’s handy for stashing charge cables. It is a bit odd that there’s no parcel shelf to hide valuables from prying eyes, and the absence of a rear wiper will also irritate some, especially in the winter.  That’s amplified by it being a fairly narrow rear window, which doesn’t ease rearward visibility.

The interior will be familiar to anyone that has driven the upgraded version of the Model 3 launched around a year ago, and is dominated by the 15-inch touchscreen that controls pretty much everything. It’s all logical, but there are times where a few simple buttons would save having to go into and out of different screen menus. But the depth of detail is impressive, with a range of games and even Netflix available through the system, on top of the navigation, audio and other usual applications. However, connectivity isn’t quite as user-friendly as it is in cars that feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are better integrated from a usability perspective and offer more applications.

But on the plus-side, there’s an excellent amount of information about charging destinations.

The pair of wireless phone charging pads is a neat touch, and there is an abundance of stowage space across the cabin, including a deep central area and wide door bins.

First Drive - November 2021 - Tesla Model Y - Image 2Rear passengers will find an excellent amount of leg room, with all three rear passengers able to comfortable slide feet under the seats in front. The middle seat is though a bit narrow , so three larger occupants will need to be close friends, and headroom is just about acceptable for a six-footer in the back.

On the road, the ride is certainly on the hard side; the Model Y is not particularly adept at soaking up bumps, possibly not helped by the optional 20-inch wheels fitted to our test car.

On top of that, the huge standard panoramic roof – which is lovely in terms of light into the cabin – and the absence of a parcel shelf mean that noise can echo around the cabin more than it does in better suppressed rivals. But there’s not much body roll, and the car grips nicely in the corners, although it doesn’t feel quite as nimble as the Model 3.

But the acceleration is plentiful, and there’s a nice difference between the two drive modes in terms of responsiveness; there’s also a good weight to the steering, especially in the middle of the three settings.

The Model 3 sibling is cheaper as it comes with a two-wheel drive alternative that cuts the price, and that car also has a slightly better range, thanks to its lower weight. But the Model Y is the new kid on the block, is more practical and looks better proportioned. And kit levels are good, while access to the Tesla charging network is a huge bonus and makes journey planning a formality in comparison with any other electric car.

paul barker



The verdict

Another appealing model from Tesla. Range, performance and practicality are all excellent, although the Model 3 can do a lot of what the Model Y does, and for a cheaper price.