Tesla Model 3 Vs BMW 3 Series: Moneyshake Compares< Back to blog
Well, what do we have here? Looks like we get ourselves a good ol’ fashioned ‘saloon-off!’
On the one hand we have the established BMW 3 Series, regularly recognised as one of the best compact executive cars on the market. And on the other hand we have the relative newcomer Tesla Model 3 – an electric car that hopes to replace its combustion engine rival as the go-to choice for a professional vehicle by using futuristic technology and green credentials to its advantage.
As two award-winning cars, both the BMW 3 Series and Tesla Model 3 are good in their own right. But if you were to pick one, which should you choose? From design and equipment specs to performance and running costs, we cover everything you need to know to help you decide between them.
Let’s get one thing straight. These are two great looking cars.
Starting with the 3 Series and it’s clear to see how BMW’s sporty DNA has translated into making it the sportier of the two models.
Prominent grooves and an aggressive front bumper offers an angular aesthetic. Then there’s the iconic kidney grille that completes the look. All this has been aided by the brand’s recent facelift (July 2022) to the 3 Series that has seen it be refreshed minor tweaks to headlight design to make them sharper.
The Tesla Model 3 is the more reserved of the two. It has a clean, minimalist look which adds to its premium feel. Huge windows lead on to a full length glass roof, giving the car the impression that it has one continuous sweeping design from front to back.
If you were to choose a BMW 3 Series, you’ll have the option of eight different metallic paint colours, versus five for the Model 3. Our favourite colour for the former is ‘Sunset Orange’, while for the Model 3 it’s the rich-looking ‘Red multicoat’, even if it is the most expensive option. As standard, all 3 Series models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with auto function and rain-sensing wipers. Only the top trims (M340d and M340i) come with 19-inch alloy wheels, though for the price difference we’d argue it’s not worth it.
Standard equipment for the Model 3 includes 18-inch “aero” wheels that can be updated to 19″ ones for an extra cost, though this will reduce the range the car can travel between charges, according to Tesla. Auto headlights and wipers, LED headlights, auto dimming, power folding and heated side mirrors, automated high beam assist are also standard.
Winner: BMW 3 Series
What we think
The 3 Series has our vote in this department.
We can appreciate what the Model 3 is trying to do in terms of creating more futuristic, inoffensive-looking cars. However, there’s no denying that the 3 Series has more character and prowess that commands attention.
Interior design and space
Inside, it’s a very similar story to the exterior in that the interior designs of these cars are very different.
Inside the BMW 3 Series you’re greeted by a plethora of buttons, switches and dials, all of which are designed to keep the driver happy on the move. Namely, the very intuitive iDrive infotainment system is still one of the best in the business and is a doddle to use safely on the move thanks to its handy rotary dial. Couple this with the fact that it’s now married to BMW’s latest Live cockpit plus infotainment system and dual screens (12.3-inch instrument display and 14.9-inch central display) that have very crisp looking graphics, and there can be no complaints in the media department. Smartphone integration is also possible for both Android and Apple users.
Quality is also in abundance with materials in the 3 Series. Everything feels plush and well put together, while nice additional touches such as LED ambient lighting, heated front sports seats and ‘Sensatec’ upholstery keep things comfy.
If size was all that matters (which is not always true), then Tesla Model 3’s infotainment would be the outright winner. It dominates the cockpit with a 15-inch screen that looks like an iPad. There are no other buttons or switches, so you control virtually everything (barring the windows) through this touchscreen display. The system itself is very intuitive, but it can be a little distracting if you’re driving and want to change the air con, for example.
Your passengers can watch Netflix on it or you can connect your Spotify to it, and when you’re stationary you can even play driving games, using the steering wheel as a control. It’s all a bit gimmicky, but some of you might like all that.
The interior quality of the materials onboard the Model 3 won’t worry the 3 Series, with faux-leather and harder plastics around the dashboard and door sills not quite matching up to the more premium Bimmer. It’s a comfortable car, though, with power-adjustable, heated seats with lumbar support as standard, plus heated rear seats too (the 3 Series can’t claim to have these).
What we think
From a looks perspective, we prefer the cleaner and modern Tesla Model 3 approach, even if some of the materials don’t feel as good as the BMW.
But design also must factor in the user and not many do this better than the German giant. For this reason, the 3 Series gets our vote of interior design functionality.
We’re never usually ones to sit on the fence, but this one is 50/50 for us.
Despite the Model 3 being 15mm bigger than the BMW 3 Series, space required for the batteries means that it’s actually the 3 Series that is roomier inside.
The Model 3 feels more like it’s designed to be a big car for two people, rather than a comfortable car for four adults. There isn’t a great deal of foot room for people sat in the back of the Model 3, and if you’re a regular sized adult sat back there with another similarly sized adult, you’ll feel slightly squished for sure.
Another little niggle is the full length glass roof which doesn’t make a great feature for headroom either when compared with the 3 Series. With that being said, in a rather contradictory manner, the panoramic roof floods the cabin with natural light, so you won’t feel cramped sat in the back by any stretch of the imagination.
Moving round to the back of both these cars and boot space is a similar story too. The 3 Series has a bigger boot (480 litres) than the Model 3 (425 litres, including the ‘frunk’) and even has a more flexible 40/20/40 split configuration so that you can individually fold the rear seats to prioritise passenger or boot space, whereas in the Model 3 you can only fold one outer seat and then the other two fold together.
Winner: BMW 3 Series
What we think
There’s no question about it – the BMW 3 Series is much more adept at carrying people and luggage in a more comfortable, flexible manner than the Tesla Model 3.
Where the 3 Series and Model 3 are more evenly matched is on storage space for your odds and ends. There are plenty of cubby spaces for phones (the Model 3’s phone cubby features a handy wireless charger), doorbins are a useful size and gloveboxes are plenty big enough too.
It’s on the road where everything comes together. So, which one is better to drive?
The Tesla Model 3 performance is rapid to say the least. As an electric car it generates instant torque that send it from 0-60mph in just 5.8 seconds. Only the plug-in hybrid and range-topping M340i/M340d can produce those kinds of numbers.
Performance is more than just outright pace, however. It’s in the handling poise of the 3 Series that you find how it corners in a more engaging fashion than the Model 3.
Rather surprisingly, there’s much less wind noise and more refinement on the motorway in the 3 Series. Tesla’s choice of frameless doors and huge windows make it susceptible to wind and tire noise, despite the engine being very quiet. It’s also worth noting that beyond 50mph the Model 3 feels like it’s hit peak torque, whereas the 3 Series is just getting started. You could say that this evens out the power delivery battle.
In urban areas such as towns and cities, the Model 3 is much more responsive than the 3 Series. For example, setting off from traffic lights is much less of a chore thanks to its quicker electric motor response, whereas this takes noticeably more time in the 3 Series.
As an electric car, you’ll have to think about what kind of range will suit your lifestyle with the Tesla Model 3. Luckily Tesla is one of the market-leaders in this department, and in the real world you can get at least 230 miles between charges with even the entry-level RWD spec. Should you need more, there’s a bigger battery Long Range model that has a whopping 295-mile real world range, while the sportier Performance spec has a real world range of around 290 miles.
Winner: BMW 3 Series
What we think
It really depends on the type of driving you’ll be doing as to whether you’ll be better off choosing the 3 Series or Model 3.
If you’re predominantly driving on the motorway, we would opt for the 3 Series. With more mid-range shove and a more hushed cabin, overtaking is much more engaging and driving at high speed is more relaxing.
On the other hand, the Tesla Model 3 is a better option if your journeys are mainly on local roads and aren’t long hauls on the motorway. In particular, the Model 3 grips really well for an electric car, with little body lean in corners. This makes it a great option if you regularly commute on winding country roads and lanes.
Price and running costs
It’s fair to say that electric cars are still a way off from being as affordable as their combustion engine counterparts. A lot of this is due to the sheer variety of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars versus electric.
So, it should be no surprise that you can lease a BMW 3 Series for less than a Tesla Model 3. We currently have BMW 3 Series lease deals available from around £508 per month* and Tesla Model 3 lease deals from around £548 per month*.
*Prices accurate as of August 2022
With UK petrol and electricity prices soaring in recent months, you might be left scratching your head over which option is cheaper.
To help you get a rough idea of how charging and fueling costs compare with the 3 Series and Model 3, we’ve taken a closer look at each of them.
Using the entry-level Tesla Model 3 RWD with a 60kWh battery as an example:
- Tesla Model 3 avg. home charge cost (empty to full)* – £15-£20, adding around 230 miles of range.
- Tesla Model 3 avg. public charge cost**(20%-80%) – £14-£21, adding around 138 miles of range.
*Assumes tariff of 28p/kWh. Cost of home charging will vary depending on electricity rate.
**Assumes tariff of 44p/kWh applicable to most rapid chargers as of April 2022.
Using the entry-level 320i petrol BMW 3 Series as an example:
This version has a fuel economy of 44.1mpg and a 51 litre (12.9 gallon) fuel tank capacity.
- Filling up from empty to full would cost roughly £87*, adding around 569 miles of range.
- Filling up the tank from 20%-80% full would cost around £50*, adding around 341 miles of range.
*Average cost calculated using average UK fuel price of £6.5 per gallon as of August 2022
Winner: Tesla Model 3
What we think
Despite price hikes for both petrol and electric, it’s still evident to see that running an electric car is the cheaper option of the two.
Like with any electric car, in order to see the cost benefits, we’d recommend having a home charger installed. This way you can make use of the cheaper electricity rates.
One area that is likely to be more expensive for the Model 3 is the insurance, so it’s worth running a quote on one before committing. Even the entry-level Model 3 falls in insurance group 48, versus 28 for the BMW 3 Series. However, insurance costs will primarily depend on your personal information, such as where your car is parked overnight, your age and how many years no claims bonus you have.
Overall winner: BMW 3 Series
When you get down to brass tax, the BMW 3 Series has the beating of the Tesla Model 3 in some key areas.
More space for your passengers and stuff. More cabin refinement and comfort on longer journeys. A more functional interior.
The point around design is wholly subjective, so we won’t focus too much on that.
The only key area where the Tesla Model 3 has an advantage is its running costs, which in the long run is likely to offset its higher asking price. For this reason, we still think you should consider the Tesla Model 3, especially if you want an electric car, as it’s still one of the best EVs you can buy.
Find the best Tesla Model 3 and BMW 3 Series lease deal
Are you interested in either of these cars and want a quote? At Moneyshake, we compare lease deals on brand-new cars and show you the best deal on the market from a variety of the UK’s top leasing providers.
We have great offers available on brand-new Tesla Model 3 and BMW 3 Series models for their latest ranges.
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