Model 3 or Model Y, which one should you buy? First, if Track mode is a must-have for you, the Model 3 Performance is your only choice. Tesla's representative told us there is no plan to introduce Track mode for Model Y Performance. So there, if you want Track mode, stop reading and go order a Model 3 Performance. According to Elon Musk, you could order it online in 90 seconds (if you went really fast). Now, for those who are not into Track mode, this author had a chance to experience both models side by side and drive both to point out some differences to help you decide.
"Morph a Model 3 into a Choro-Q (aka Penny Racers) in real size." That was my first impression when I saw a Model Y in person. It looks like a chubbier Model 3, which makes it a little cute to my eyes. The two Teslas share a very similar look. Especially looking at both head-on, you really have to see which one is taller to tell that one is the Model Y. Looking from the side and rear, you can start to realize, "Ahh… it's a crossover." The Model Y has taller doors, a rear hatch, and has an overall egg shape, similar to another bigger Tesla, the Model X. The Model 3 obviously has a typical sedan profile and also distinguishes itself noticeably with chrome trim on the door handles, front fender side camera, and surrounding the greenhouse. These are all black on the Model Y with additional black wheel arches. Following its darker trim theme, the Model Y also comes standard with darker (way darker) rear windows and rear windshield than those on Model 3. A reason is that the Model Y does not have any shade or cover for the trunk area, so the tint provides some cargo privacy. The Model 3 has a rear deck, so the trunk area is not visible from the outside. Dimension wise, the Model Y is 2.2 inches longer, 2.8 inches wider, and at least 6.5 inches taller; it also has 1.1 inches more ground clearance.
Tesla says Model 3 and Model Y shares about 70 percent of parts. I would say that about the interior design, too. They both share the same minimalist interior layout. There is a long piece of wood trim across the front dash (a white trim for the optional black and white interior). Just like the Model 3, the Model Y does not have a speedo in front of the steering wheel. Every bit of driving information is integrated into the horizontally mounted 15.0-inch center touchscreen. Below the screen is the center console with storage in the exact same layout in both, four USB ports (two for front and two for rear) and docking for two phones. The Model Y comes standard with a wireless charging pad in the phone docking area (which also occupies one of the front USB ports). The same can be had on the Model 3, but it does not come standard nor as an order option. It is only available as an accessory from the Tesla Shop for $125. Speaking of USB ports, the Model Y is the first Tesla that makes the switch to a USB-C port. There is one USB-C and one USB-A for the front and two USB-C ports for the rear. Currently the Model 3 comes with only USB-A ports, but it may eventually adapt to the new port, as has already happened to Model 3s built in China. With the switch to USB-C, the charging power also improves from 10 watts to about 26W. Now the rear passengers can keep on playing Animal Crossing on their Nintendo Switch without worrying about running out of power.
When the Model 3 morphed into an Choro-Q SUV, it gained higher seating position and more interior space. The 12-way power adjustable front heated seats on the Model Y are the same as the Model 3. However, they are on seat risers to allow a higher seating position, which most SUV buyers want. The second row consists of three independently folding seats, which give it more utility, fitting the U of SUV. The Model 3 has a 60/40 arrangement without a trunk pass-through. In terms of roominess, the Model 3 and Model Y both are about the same in the front. The second row is where you see a noticeable difference. The Model Y has 1.7 inches more headroom and a vast 5.3 inches of legroom compared to the Model 3.
According to owner's manuals from both EVs, the Model 3 has 15 cubic feet of trunk space, while the Model Y can swallow 68 cubes of total cargo space. Tesla hasn't announced cargo volume behind the front seats of the Model Y (it's likely more than 15 cubic feet) and there's no official rating for max volume in a sedan with the seats folded, so to find out what that number might be, I drove a Model Y to the warehouse of a friend who owns a Model 3 to help him move some cargo. Typically, with its rear seats folded down, the Model 3 can hold 24 27x11x6-inch boxes. The volume of each box is about 1 cubic foot. We spent about 15 minutes fitting as many boxes as possible into the Model Y with rear seats folded down, and a couple minutes to make sure the hatch could close properly. The very darkly tinted rear windshield was rather difficult to see through and made it a little challenging to judge where the box preventing the hatch from closing was. Eventually, we were able to put in 29 boxes. Proven! The Model Y can hold more stuff than the Model 3. However, the Model 3 with rear seats has almost comparable cargo capacity, not as bad as those numbers from the owner's manuals suggest. That being said, thanks to the taller doors, higher height, and hatchback layout, loading stuff into the Model Y is an easier task than doing the same to the Model 3. (Note, we did not put any boxes into the hidden trunk compartment in either vehicle. We reserved the space for personal items. We did notice the Model Y's frunk was deeper than the Model 3's.)
Motel 3 vs. Motel Y
Tesla's Supercharger network and Autopilot make Tesla a rather ideal EV to take on road trip and camping. Sleeping/camping in a Tesla has become a small cult among Tesla owners. There is a company that makes mattress kit specifically to fit in Teslas. Per owner demands, Tesla has also implemented a Camp mode to allow the car to maintain A/C, interior lighting, entertainment system, and USB port power while the in Park. This cheap-ass author has also spent some nights in a Motel 3. When sleeping in the back (with rear seats down) in a sleeping bag, I position myself diagonally in order to fully stretch my legs. I'm about 5-foot-8. It is a completely different world in the Model Y. Not only there is room to fully lie down but also enough extra room to snuggle with another person. Without the rear deck like in the Motel 3, it is also a lot easier to move around in there. It's also worth mentioning that while both the Model 3 and the Model Y have a glass roof, the one in the Model Y is a one-piece glass without any mid-section bar, which allows a rather stunning full sky view. From room to view, the Model Y seems to be a star higher than the Model 3.
In terms of driving performance, the Model 3 and Model Y drive very similar. The extra 344 pounds from the chubbier Model Y is only noticeable pushing on curvy roads. But even then, the most noticeable difference comes from the higher SUV seating position where the driver can feel the lean and swing slightly more. It seems Tesla had the intention to tune the Model Y to drive as agile as the Model 3, like a sedan instead of an SUV. The two vehicles' acceleration also share a close resemblance. And given that they share the same powertrain, you get the same instantaneous Tesla experience in day-to-day driving.
Which One Should You Buy?
Back to the original question, which one should you buy? Unless you hate a higher seating position or cannot have a taller vehicle or are on a tight budget, go with the Model Y. It offers almost everything the Model 3 can provide along with more usable space and utility. Not to mention you can lie down in the back to snuggle with the person you like while viewing the sky through the seamless panoramic glass roof. Oh, and don't forget to activate Romance mode. (It is the fireplace logo in the Easer egg tray.)
|POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS||2020 Tesla Model Y Dual Motor (Long Range AWD)||2020 Tesla Model Y Dual Motor (Performance AWD w/PUP*)||2019 Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor (Performance AWD w/PUP*)|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front + rear motor, AWD||Front + rear motor, AWD||Front & rear-motor, AWD|
|MOTOR TYPES||Front: Induction; rear: Permanent-magnet||Front: Induction; rear: Permanent-magnet||Front: Induction; rear: Permanent-magnet|
|POWER (SAE NET)||384 hp (comb)||456 hp (comb)||456 hp (comb)|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||375 lb-ft (comb)||497 lb-ft (comb)||497 lb-ft (comb)|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||11.4 lb/hp||9.7 lb/hp||9.0 lb/hp|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec (mfr est)||3.5 sec (mfr est)||3.2 sec (mfr est)|
|TRANSMISSION||1-speed automatic||1-speed automatic||1-speed automatic|
|FINAL DRIVE RATIO||9.00:1||9.00:1||9.00:1|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Control arms, air springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, anti-roll bar||Multilink coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||14.0-in vented disc; 13.2-in vented disc, ABS||14.0-in vented disc; 13.2-in vented disc, ABS||14.0-in vented disc; 13.2-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F; R||9.5 x 20-in; 9.5 x 20 cast aluminum||9.5 x 21-in; 10.5 x 21-in cast aluminum||8.5 x 20-in flow-formed aluminum|
|TIRES, F; R||255/40R20 101Y; 255/40R20 101Y M+S Goodyear Eagle F1 Assymetric 5||255/35R21 98W; 275/35R21 103W Pirelli P Zero Elect||235/35R20 92Y Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (TO)|
|WHEELBASE||113.8 in||113.8 in||113.2 in|
|TRACK, F/R||64.4/64.4 in||64.8/65.2 in||62.2/62.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||187.0 x 75.6 x 63.9 in||187.0 x 75.6 x 63.3 in||184.8 x 72.8 x 56.8 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||39.8 ft||39.8 ft||38.1 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,367 lb||4,419 lb||4,067 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||50/50%||50/50%||51/49%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||41.0/39.4 in||41.0/39.4 in||40.3/37.7 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.8/40.5 in||41.8/40.5 in||42.7/35.2 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||56.4/54.0 in||56.4/54.0 in||56.3/54.0 in|
|CARGO VOLUME BEH F/R||68.0/NA cu ft||68.0/NA cu ft||NA/14.6 cu ft|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$57,190||$70,190||$63,190|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||8 yrs/120,000 miles (includes batteries)||8 yrs/120,000 miles (includes batteries)||8 years/100,000 miles (120,000 miles with Long Range Battery)|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|BATTERY CAPACITY||75 kW-hrs||75 kW-hrs||75 kW-hrs|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||127/114/121 mpg-e||129/112/121 mpg-e*||118/107/113 MPGe mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, COMB||28 kW-hrs/100 miles||28 kW-hrs/100 miles||29 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CHARGING RATE, LEVEL 2/LEVEL 3||11.5 kW/250 kW||11.5 kW/250 kW||11.5 kW/250 kW|
|EPA EST RANGE||316 miles||280 miles||299 miles|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||120, 240 & 400-volt electricity||120, 240 & 400-volt electricity||120, 240 & 400-volt electricity|
|*The Performance Upgrade Package is a no-cost option that lowers the suspension, adds 21-inch wheels and summer tires, and performance brakes and increases top speed to 155 mph (note: Tesla acknowledges that the PUP reduces range from 315 to 280 but does not provide revised EPA numbers for this package).|