Is Tesla Model 3’s Simple, Non-Radical Design A Selling Point?

Tesla Model 3


Tesla Model 3

The very first production Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 is not out of the ordinary, nor is it predominantly flashy, and this may be another reason it will appeal to the masses.

Most of the talk lately has been about the Model 3 interior. This is because there is still much that we don’t know, and what we do know is that it will be basic. But, this is to be expected of a mass-market compact sedan that costs substantially less than its larger siblings. Most of the exterior attention as of late has been pertaining to how much the production candidates, and now the first production model resemble the original concept (or not).

Let’s digress from both of these conversations and just think of the Tesla Model 3 in relation to other compact sedans. Sure, you can find resemblance to a Porsche or an Audi, but really, to many people the Model 3 looks much like any other affordable, sporty compact sedan. Albeit a bit sleeker and sexier, but it’s definitely not radical, futuristic, or outright bizarre. These are some adjectives that people have associated with the BMW i3, the Nissan LEAF, and even the Chevrolet Bolt.

Tesla was thinking ahead when it came up with the design for the Model 3. In order to follow company suit, it has to look somewhat like a smaller Model S, but the priority was to make a mass-market vehicle to suit buyers that previously drove the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Optima, Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda3, and Honda Civic, all while also appealing to those who prefer to (and can afford to) step up to cars like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A3, and Mercedes C-Class.

The price range of the Tesla Model 3 falls more in line with the latter German luxury compacts, but if you factor in that most of the extra cost is associated with the battery, and rebates will play a part, the car itself is more along the lines of an affordable compact, closely paralleled by that of the Mazda3.

Tesla Model 3 resemblance

2017 Mazda3 – Source: Mazda

The Mazda3 obviously shares design cues with the Model 3. Franz Von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer worked for Mazda before moving to Tesla. While he didn’t design the most recent Mazda3, and hasn’t for the past several years, his concept still remains.

In general, Tesla’s vehicles  don’t look extreme compared to other cars on the road. Exterior features tend to stand out in beauty, rather than being truly unique or obtuse. Of course, there are the exceptions like the Model X’s falcon wing doors, and the “EV” front end, but the cars fit right into the mix. Some may argue that they can always spot a Tesla coming, because it looks so different, but perhaps it’s because most of us don’t see them that often.

Holzhausen has focused on serviceable, practical, versatile, scalable, and minimalistic, all while keeping the “sexy” part of the equation. Isn’t that what many automakers are hoping for in their compact sedans? We would argue that this is surely the case with the Mazda3 and the Honda Civic, as well as the BMW 3 Series, among others.

2017 Honda Civic – Source: Honda

Tesla doesn’t use model years, and doesn’t plan to redesign its models as often as traditional automakers. Its vehicles are built to be future proof, with design cues that will live on, and regular updating happening via over-the-air updates.

Aerodynamics play a key role in most all vehicle development these days, and this is especially true with long-range electric vehicles. It seems soon more and more cars will begin to look similar, as advanced aerodynamic design is taking greater precedence.

Some 400,000 pre-paid reservations and a literal global frenzy over the upcoming car is proof enough that Tesla has succeeded with the Model 3’s simple, sexy, “normal” facade.

Source: Business Insider

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30 Comments on "Is Tesla Model 3’s Simple, Non-Radical Design A Selling Point?"

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“Just a car” is what lots and lots of people want.


I agree for a compact sedan it is hard to beat.
While other may not notice the 3 easily stands out because it’s aero works as can be seen in it.
Vs the other 2 shown are rather clumsy aero wise, a decent basic shape but blow it on the details causing them 25% or so more drag for no real reason other than they don’t care or ignorance.
And not like Honda at least doesn’t know better as they did the excellent first modern hybrid, the Insight, first
The Bolt with a no cost, just better aero shape, details could have been a 280 mile EV, maybe even 300 miles on the same
Again they too know as built the most aero production car, the EV-1.


I don’t know that I agree about the Honda Civic (assuming that’s what you’re referring to by “the other 2”). The last two generation Honda Civics (2005-2011,2011-2016) was a straight-up Kammback designs. They practically looked like the Honda Insight. For what it’s worth, I love that shape. It’s also part of why I like the Gen2 Chevy Volt.

Honda obviously knows that design is best for fuel economy, but I guess they felt the need to move away from that with the newer Civic. It still looks pretty aerodynamic to me.

With the Bolt, it’s got bad aero because of it being CUV-esque. It does reduce energy economy, but there is something to be said for greater interior comfort. The Model 3, on the other hand, is a sedan, which is not necessarily what people are looking for. So, it cuts both ways.


No fancy door handles nor doors…just a car that works.

Euro point of view

IMHO the problem of the style ..and so on of the M3 is the toomuch dowgrade of the Tesla S to avoid cannibalization .


Maybe wait until the car options list is out first.

Carmi Turchick

Often couples want a car they can agree on happily. The more different a car looks the less likely both will find it acceptable. Tesla cars also end the struggle between family car and sporty car by having sports car performance plus family car room and safety ratings. The minimalism of the interior is driven by the need to keep costs down but also reflects the autonomous future the car has where it becomes a small room with an entertainment screen and sound system.


A reasonable pov.


Lot of pros and cons to this car, and I really don’t think it looks sleek, or sexy. The slope of the rear makes the nose look disproportionate. The thing looks hideous at certain angles.
But I am a function over form kind of guy. As long as it works better than anyone else’s and ticks the most boxes, it will be what I buy.


I think the outside looks good. I have no complaints about that. I think the interior choices are highly questionable. If I end up passing on the car it’s going to be due to the interior and the damn center screen.

Bob Nickson

I’m going to hold off on final judgement until I actually get to sit in one, but I really like the minimalism of the interior.

I personally don’t like touch screens in cars. I’m a knob and button kind of guy, and think every single control in a car should be operable without having to look at it.

Also, as a person that works at a computer all day, the last thing I want in my life is another damn screen, but once you introduce a touch screen into a car as the primary interface, the inevitable logical endpoint is to do exactly what Tesla has done with the Model 3.

Jay Donnaway

Tesla struck a good balance with M3, unlike the hideously preening shogun warriors that Toyota is putting out.


“Aerodynamics play a key role in most all vehicle development these days, and this is especially true with long-range electric vehicles. It seems soon more and more cars will begin to look similar, as advanced aerodynamic design is taking greater precedence.”

This and EU/Asia pedestrian safety mandates that mandate nose protection:

But to be clear, car designers have always copied each other. So cars tend to have identifiable periods where cars look very similar for the majority of car makers.


I’ve been saying for years EVs need to have mainstream styling to appeal to buyers in high volumes. Most potential customers don’t want to drive a Dork-Mobile.

I’m not sure why Tesla was the only one to figure that out. GM, BMW and even Nissan are finally starting to catch on.

scott franco

M3 is the 3.0 car. Any software guy will tell you version 3.0 is the good version.


More aero 1st generation IS250/IS350 (I like)

Scott F.
I definitely do not agree with the premise of this article, which as I read it, uses terms like “basic” and “ordinary” to describe the Model 3. The article implies that the Model 3 is perhaps more in the Civic/Mazda 3 class than it is in the BMW 3/Audi 4 class. The exterior does indeed fall into the broad styling range of compact sedans of all classes. The same applies to the BMW 3/Audi 4, as well as more economical small sedans. However, describing the Model 3 interior as “basic” is justs odd and misleading. In fact as today we do know a great deal about the Model 3 interior, and it is not “basic” in any sense given that there has never been a car interior anything like it, but it is radically minimalist and yet luxurious in material choices, leather, alcantara, wood, metal. Performance is another aspect of the Model 3 that puts it well above the economy and midrange small sedans, and in fact at the entry level it’s performance is class leading in the luxury compact sedan class. There is not doubt that Tesla intends for the Model 3 to compete with the Mercedes C-class, the… Read more »

You’re describing a car with no instrument cluster display, one which uses the upper left corner of a large central display mounted on a stalk to display the speedometer (and presumably turn signal indicators and other things), as a “non-radical design”?

Ummm… words fail.

I think the M3’s interior design will be too radical for the average car buyer. Of course, as a Tesla enthusiast, I’m hoping to be proven very wrong!

I bet they will backtrack and add a HUD at a later time in the M3…until then anyone can bay one cheap on the market.


Yup. I’ve already predicted just that: That after seeing all the negative reaction to the lack of instrument display, Tesla will rush some solution into production or practice. It’s possible they will use an off-the-shelf HUD display installed at service centers, before they can make it a factory-produced option.

Or maybe they’ll just add a small display where the instrument cluster should be, as they should have done in the first place. That could also be service center installed.

Either way, I see this as ignoring what customers want just as much as they did with the non-folding 2nd row seats in the Model X.

But again… just my opinion, and I’m hoping to be proven wrong; hoping there won’t be the backlash against the Model 3’s lack of instrument display that I predict.

Warren Hurd

There is a big wooden board running across the dash. Just screw in what you want. Some nice brass screws and a GPS would look fine.

You don’t have to screw anything, a HUD is much nicer than a cluster of useless clock like instruments. Speed is really the only thing needed. On my eGolf half of the cluster is occupied by a power level indicator similar to RPM on ICE cars….why?! How useless is that???


A few years back we had a Renault Grand Scenic that had center mounted display. We were skeptical , but it was only 20-390 minutes. Then we forgot that it was mounted differently.

And the same with the Renault Espace.

Charles Jutkins

I think is looks pretty slick no unnecessary gaudiness . If there is an ultimate dynamic and efficient form all cars would look the same and a lot have zeroed in on looking sorta the same. There are some pretty awful looking cars out there that look like they came out of a Japanese anime cartoon, Juke and Aztec come to mind.

Thanh Lim

Why can’t it look like BMW3? Heck, even the Honda Accord and Civic have more style without necessarily being drab.

The M3 looks pretty drab, and a lot like a model S. It’s just not S-E-Xie. Seems more like SSminiX.

Either way though, if I had the space and money, I’d probably get one and ditch my Leaf. (3.5 years and almost 60K miles on it so far.)


Each to their taste. I cannot stand the horrible design of the Civic.

Why Not?

Thanh Lim, you drive a Leaf and you complain about the looks of the Model 3? Hard to fathom.


This car will appeal to those who don’t mind driving a car like 500,000 others on the road, i.e. Toyotas, Hondas. Problem is those buyers haven’t been drinking the Kool-Aid, so it’s going to be tough to get them to put up with the switch to EV life, and it is a big switch.


I don’t think Model 3 is really for that crowd. It is aimed at the BMW, Audi, Mercedes crowd. Medium income group. This crowd will appreciate the lower cost of ownership, the wow factor and the “look at me, I’ve got the latest toy” attitude.
If Tesla make a real low budget EV then they will be going for the Toyota masses. I think they will get some off those masses, but at US$35k, and remembering incentives will cut out in the next year or so, that is at least $15 higher than these mass consumers typically pay.
Plus it is a sedan, so plenty of people are still after an SUV, hatch back, etc. It’s still a huge market, but not really the “mass” market yet.

Martin Tesar

Yes … a normal looking car is easier for the average person to switch in to. Some of the EV / BEV freak designs have scared people off (Other than in Japan).