COMMENT:

The nearly affordable Tesla Model 3 has made it to New Zealand, but only to the company's Auckland showroom, and not local roads yet.

Affordable is debatable since the Tesla Model 3 starts at US$35,000 ($53,400).

The showroom red Model 3 with the tiller on the wrong side for NZ was not registered but had a few options added like a 75kWh long-range Lithium-Ion battery and 19-inch wheels. That pushed up the price of the rear-wheel drive vehicle to US$57,500 ($87,700).

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You buy Teslas in US dollars and neither Tesla employees nor visitors to the showroom were sure how much the NZ drive-away cost would be.

The futuristic looking electric car is rated at 500 kilometres range between charges. Photo / Juha Saarinen
The futuristic looking electric car is rated at 500 kilometres range between charges. Photo / Juha Saarinen

For that money and a bit more in shipping, fees and taxes you get a futuristic looking electric car that is rated at 500 kilometres range between charges.

Several people who had put down a deposit on the Model 3 were in the Tesla showroom to check the car they'd ordered, like Annabel whose main motivation for buying the car is that it's electric and insanely fast.

The Model 3 does the zero to 96.6 kilometres per hour (Tesla quotes 0-60 miles per hour times) in 3.5 to 5.6 seconds, depending on if ludicrous mode is enabled for the car.

That's a bit slower than the 2.5-4.2 second 0-60mp/h time of the Model S, but much faster than just about anything else on the roads.

The inside of the Model 3 was a bit less spacious than expected, but it is meant to be a smaller car than the Model S (which costs heaps more). A new 15-inch control display looked like it would be easy to live with although you can't change the position of it.

Inside the Tesla Model 3. Photo / Juha Saarinen
Inside the Tesla Model 3. Photo / Juha Saarinen

Other than that, the interior design is quite minimalist with as few buttons as Tesla thought it could get away with: two for the electric windows, and two control ones on the steering wheel. Everything else is done via the 15-inch screen.

And yes, the Model 3 has the autopilot, lane change and summoning systems, all in beta and with dire warnings not to use them without holding on to the steering wheel and on roads with bad marking.

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When will Annabel and others get their cars? Well, that depends on Elon Musk's ability to make Tesla deliver Model 3s in large numbers and, importantly for us, with the steering wheel on the proper side.

Production of right-hand drive vehicles is said to start some time next year.