Tesla Model 3 vs its Electric Vehicle competition

  • Published on August 22nd, 2017

I recently compared the specs of the Tesla Model 3 to the specs of 22 gas-powered competitors that are more or less “in the Model 3’s class.” Naturally, readers also requested that we compare the Model 3 to other electric cars in such a detailed way. So here we are!

By Zachary Shahan Tesla model 3 first deliveries

However, the whole discussion of whether to compare the Model 3 to gas cars in its class or to other electric cars highlights some interesting points.

There are several electric cars that I would say compete very well with gas cars in their classes — are better than gas cars in their classes — but the problem is that not many people see it that way. Frankly, these other electric cars aren’t even on the radars of people who would probably like them much more than the gas cars they drive. Many of these people don’t even know these electric models exist — or know so little about them that they wouldn’t even consider taking one on a test drive.

There are various reasons for this — including how the cars are advertised — but the end result is that there are only a few electric cars that compete in sales with gas cars in their classes. For the most part, the other electric cars are sought out by people specifically looking for an electric car (generally because of their interest in protecting a livable climate and clean air). Of course, the Tesla Model S and Model X are two models that have been competing well with gas vehicles in their classes, and the Tesla Model 3 is expected to do so as well. That’s why comparing the Model 3 to its “gas competitors” was interesting and fun.

However, there’s still that niche segment of the market that is purely interested in driving an electric car, people looking beyond Tesla at all of the electric models on offer (many CleanTechnica readers, for example). Such people are balancing vehicle cost, interior and exterior dimensions, styling, battery capacity, and features across a broad range of electric models. They aren’t interested in comparing the Tesla Model 3 to a BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, or Jaguar XE, but they are interested in comparing the Model 3 to the Chevy Bolt, Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, BMW i3, etc. So, even though this is a much broader comparison in terms of vehicle classes/dimensions, it can make sense, so below is a “straight specs” comparison of the Tesla Model 3 and other electric cars in the USA.

One final thing to note before jumping into that, though: The Tesla models are the only ones that offer superfast charging. (Three of the models — Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Prime, and BMW i3 REx — can use gasoline, however.) That’s important since superfast charging and access to a Supercharging network like Tesla’s are requirements for many buyers, since they enable much more convenient road trips. In any case, if superfast charging isn’t a requirement for you, or if you just want to look at the numbers, the comparison below may be of some help.

On to the specs!

Price (without Extra Features) Price After US Federal Tax Credit 0–60 mph Trunk+Frunk Space (cu. ft.) Length (in.) Width, w/out Mirrors (in.)
Tesla Model 3 Standard $35,000 $27,500 5.6 15 185 73
Tesla Model 3 w/ Premium Package $40,000 $32,500 5.6 15 185 73
Tesla Model 3 Long Range $44,000 $36,500 5.1 15 185 73
Chevy Bolt $37,495 $29,995 6.5 17 164 69.5
Chevy Volt $34,095 $26,595 7.5 11 180 71
Nissan LEAF $30,680 $23,180 10.2 24 175 70
BMW i3 $42,400 $34,900 7.2 9–15 157 70
Hyundai Ioniq $29,500 $22,000 8 23 176 72
Volkswagen e-Golf $28,995 $21,495 9.3 23 168 71
Ford Focus Electric $29,120 $21,620 9.9 14 173 72
Toyota Prius Prime $27,100 $22,600 10.2 20 183 69
Fiat 500e $31,800 $24,300 8.4 7 142 64
Tesla Model S $69,500 $62,000 4.3 30 196 77
Fuel Economy (City/Highway MPGe) Headroom Front / Rear (inches) Leg Room Front / Rear (inches) Shoulder Room Front / Rear (inches) Electric Range (miles)
Tesla Model 3 Standard >126 39.6 / 37.7 42.7 / 35.2 56.3 / 54.0 220
Tesla Model 3 w/ Premium Package 40.3 / 37.7 42.7 / 35.2 56.3 / 54.0 220
Tesla Model 3 Long Range 126  —  —  — 310
Chevy Bolt 119 39.7 / 37.9 41.6 / 36.5 54.6 / 52.8 238
Chevy Volt 106 / 42 37.8 / 35.8 42.1 / 34.7 56.5 / 53.2 53
Nissan LEAF 112 41.2 / 37.3 42.1 / 33.3 54.3 / 52.5 107
BMW i3 124 39.6 / 37.2 40.5 / 31.9 53.6 / 49.2 114
Hyundai Ioniq 136 39.1 / 37.4 42.2 / 35.7 56.1 / 55 124
Volkswagen e-Golf 116 38.4 / 38.1 41.2 / 35.6 55.9 / 53.9 126
Ford Focus Electric 105 38.3 / 37.9 43.7 / 33.2 55.6 / 53.7 100
Toyota Prius Prime 133 / 54 39.4 / 37.2 43.2 / 33.4 54.2 / 53 25
Fiat 500e 112 38.9 / 35.5 40.7 / 27.6 49.4 / 46.4 84
Tesla Model S 97 / 100 38.8 / 35.3 42.7 / 35.4 57.7 / 55.0 259

Cost: As you can see, if cost is your prime priority, lower-range models like the Nissan LEAF, Hyundai Ioniq, Toyota Prius Prime (plug-in hybrid with 25 miles of electric range), Ford Focus Electric, and Volkswagen e-Golf come in at a significantly lower price. That said, if price is your prime priority, you should totally be grabbing an electric car from the used car market.

Acceleration: Unsurprisingly, the Tesla Model 3 is the quickest car on this list. That’s sort of Tesla’s butter (with its bread being long range and its jam being cool tech features). The Chevy Bolt isn’t far behind the base Model 3, though. I haven’t read much about its acceleration, but it must be a fun car to drive too!

Cargo Space: If cargo space is a biggie for you, it is perhaps worth noting that the Nissan LEAF wins the day, closely followed by the Volkswagen e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq, and then Toyota Prius Prime. My cargo needs with a couple of young girls and wife seem to be adequately served by the Tesla Model 3 (er, Volvo S60), but I know needs vary greatly on this matter. Check with a cargo capacity specialist before making any life-changing decisions.

Length/Width/Passenger Space: The Tesla Model 3 is the largest vehicle in this comparison (excluding the Model S, of course), and that generally comes with a little more passenger space, but honestly, they all look quite similar and satisfactory for normal needs.

Range: For these electric models, I added a range column. Clearly, this is where Tesla shines, especially when you add in Supercharging.

Extra Features: As you know, it’s some of Tesla’s extra features — Autopilot, styling, navigation, over-the-air updates, Easter eggs, etc. — that pull many buyers in. Since these are much more subjective matters, I’m not getting into that discussion here, but the best thing to do if you can is probably to test drive the cars you have your eye on and see how much these extra features matter to you!

All in all, thanks to the performance, range, Supercharging, and tech benefits, I have reservations down for the Tesla Model 3. However, if I decided to make a really smart financial decision, well, I think I’d have to go with a used Nissan LEAF or BMW i3. 😀

Any more thoughts?

(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica. Check out their new 93-page EV report)

About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.