New Tesla Model 3 versus used Tesla Model S: interior, comfort & practicality
The Model 3 has nothing on the Model S for space and practicality, and many will prefer the more conventional dials of the S as well
The Model 3 takes some getting used to. Once you’ve slid into the drivers seat – a doddle once you’ve made your phone the car key – you’re faced with the most minimalist dashboard out there. There’s nothing apart from a landscape-mounted 15-inch touchscreen that functions as everything from the speedometer to the glovebox release and door-mirror adjustment.
It's quite odd at first, but with some time you get used to the layout and where you find the key functions in the screen, and you get to appreciate the simplicity of it all. Granted, some of the materials feel a little cheap, notably the fat, plasticky steering wheel, and we’d definitely like a head-up display as standard. But otherwise it’s surprising how quickly you find yourself adjusting to the layout and enjoying the almost Scandinvaian-chic design.
For all that, many will understandably prefer the Model S' slightly more conventional layout. The huge portrait screen is embedded in the dashboard rather than mounted tablet-style as in the Model 3, and you get full digital readouts in the conventional place you expect them behind the steering wheel.
Our Model S had the carbon-fibre interior trim (a £250 option at the time), which is worth every penny and has aged nicely. In fact, the interior of the Model S seems to have stood the test of time very well, and while there’s a distant squeak from somewhere inside, it seems to have weathered the miles with ease.
In terms of practicality, the S has the 3 nailed. It’s a usefully bigger car and that shows in the lavish amount of room four tall adults can enjoy, plus the hatchback boot is way bigger and easier to load large items into. The 3 is particularly tight for headroom in the back seats, and even legroom will be a bit of a squeeze if you’ve got long-legged people up front, while the saloon opening limits access to the boot.
Having said that, while the 3 is not the most practical executive car of its size, it'll be adequate for a small family and the extended glass roof helps to keep the back seats from feeling claustrophobic.
Both of these cars are equipped with just about everything you’d want as standard, including leather upholstery, those touchscreens with navigation and USB inputs, heated seats, dual-zone air-conditioning, keyless entry, LED headlights, glass roofs and more. There are, in fact, very few options you can even add to the Model 3 Standard Range – our test car had none.
Even the metallic white paint is standard, so the only thing you’ll really miss that you get on more expensive Model 3 models is the satellite-view navigation, upgraded audio and music streaming services.
The Model S 75D was also very well equipped when new, and similarly it’s really the cosmetic options that you could get carried away with, or quirky extras like the rear-facing seats mounted in the boot. Suffice to say, with adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, heated leather seats and more included, it’s mainly the enhanced Autopilot function that you want to look out for if you want the car to do the hard work on the motorway.
Tesla doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in its cars, which is something of a shame since it means you can't use your favoured phone navigation app. However, the way phones integrate with Tesla’s system is impressively intuitive in both the Model S and Model 3, making it easy to find playlists or make a call despite the lack of the apps that many of us favour these days.
The graphics and response times on both screens are great, and both get Tesla’s over-the-air updates, so that even a used car can have a current, feature-rich interface.
What’s the app like?
Great. We paired a phone with the Model 3 to try out the phone-for-a-key feature and found it really easy and quick to set up. On top of that, the app is easy to navigate, generally reliable in its connection to the car, and gives you all the features you’d want, including live updates on charging status and the ability to pre-set the car’s climate control.
It sounds like a small factor, but in reality the Tesla app is one of those things that makes the ownership experience such a smug one. You’ll use it once and then wonder how you ever lived without it forever after.
Interior, comfort and practicality scores
In This Review
- 1IntroductionThe Tesla Model 3 has few if any direct rivals, but what about a used Model S? We put a Model 3 Standard Range up against a secondhand Model S 75D
- 2Range & chargingThe Model 3 is one of the fastest charging cars on sale, and delivers a similar real-world range to a used Model S
- 3Running costs & warrantyYou get a longer warranty on a new Model 3, but its mileage is limited where the Model S’ isn’t. Both are well equipped, but aren’t cheapWith the exception of pre-2015 Model S’ with 60kWh packs, all Model S variants come with an eight-year battery warranty that has no mileage limit. The Model 3’s battery pack is also covered for eight years and 100,000 miles, but it comes with a guarantee that it’ll be refurbished or replaced if it drops below 70% of the as-new performance within the warranty period. Both cars are well equipped. Our Model 3 test car came with no optional equipment at all, yet had all the comforts and conveniences you could want of an executive car, while finding a used Model S with an appealing spec isn’t hard at all. Adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, LED headlights, full sat nav, over-the-air software updates, heated seats and leather upholstery are included on both. The full 'Autopilot' semi-autonomous driving system is one expensive option that adds a lot to the value of a used Model S, or will cost £5,800 to spec on a new Model 3. For the price of a high-spec Model S 75D, you can also easily be looking at the Long Range or Performance versions of the Model 3, which get satellite-view navigation, different (and better-looking) wheel design and an upgraded sound system. Not to mention hysterical pace and four-wheel drive. Notably, the Model S falls down next to the Model 3 on monthly costs, which could really be the deciding factor for many. A fairly modest deposit of £6,000 will see monthly costs for a Model 3 Standard Range drop to around £400, while even a used Model S (if you go through the Tesla approved used finance channel, at least) is likely to be closer to £800 per month. Our sister site BuyaCar also has a small selection of used Tesla cars for sale. Warranty and battery cover The Tesla gets a standard manufacturer warranty of four years or 50,000 miles, which is pretty low on the mileage side, but does cover a longer time period than most rivals. The batteries are covered for eight years; the Model S has no mileage limit while the Model 3 gets cover for 100,000 miles but also has a performance promise of at least 70%. Depreciation The Model 3 is predicted to hold 69% of its value after three years and 36,000 miles, which equates to £25,645 and is a fairly remarkable rate of retention. For context, a new BMW 320d M Sport is predicted to hold 45% and be worth £17,173. It’s worth bearing in mind that comparatively small loss in value if you’re considering paying on finance; those with the means to buy the Model 3 outright could well find it’s cheaper to do so and then sell on. Buying a used Model S means that you’ve already dodged the worst of the loss in value, of course. Looking at how other Model S’ – even those with rear-wheel drive or smaller batteries than the 75D we’d go for – are still holding their value, so depreciation is likely to be impressively slow. Especially in comparison with the generally very poor resale values of big executive cars. Company-car costs Going electric is a guaranteed way to cut your company-car tax bills, and the Model 3 is one of the best going. In 2020/21 business users didn’t have to pay anything in Benefit-in-Kind, while in 2021/22 it costs just £169 a year. If your company will fork out the lease or purchase costs to get you into a Model 3, then it’s an absolute no-brainer. Running costs & warranty scores
- 4Driving & performanceThe 75D is hilariously fast despite being one of the ‘lesser’ Model S variants, while the Model 3 feels perfectly judged for UK roads
- 5Interior, comfort & practicality - currently readingThe Model 3 has nothing on the Model S for space and practicality, and many will prefer the more conventional dials of the S as well
- 6VerdictThere's no bad car here, so you can pick which one suits your lifestyle and budget best, but the Model 3’s lower costs sway it for us