It’s been more than a year since the Tesla Model 3 – the cheapest model by the Palo Alto company – was revealed in prototype form, but the production car has finally seen the light of day. The first units of the new electric sedan has been delivered to customers at an event at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.

The mini-Model S exterior has been virtually unchanged, retaining the tall LED headlights, grille-less front fascia, sweeping roofline and stubby tail with L-shaped LED tail lights. Two wheel options are offered, with an 18-inch Aero design coming as standard and a 19-inch Sport version costing an extra US$1,500 (RM6,400).

For the first time, Tesla has revealed the interior of the Model 3, which features a simple horizontal dashboard dominated by a massive 15-inch touchscreen. There’s no traditional instrument cluster – everything is shown on the centre display, including speed – and there are almost no hard buttons around the cabin. A large rear windscreen extends over the heads of the rear passengers, increasing the sense of airiness.

Unlike the Model S and Model X before it, the Model 3 doesn’t come with a key – unlocking and starting your car is all done through an app on your smartphone. Buyers can also specify a US$5,000 (RM21,300) Premium Upgrades Pack which throws in heated seats with 12-way powered adjustment at the front, a premium sound system and a glass roof.

The Model 3 comes with eight cameras, forward radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors that provide driver assists like collision avoidance and autonomous emergency braking. A US$5,000 Enhanced Autopilot throws in semi-autonomous driving features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and changing and parking, while an extra US$3,000 (RM12,800) gives the car full self-driving capability, subject to regulations.

As promised, prices start at US$35,000 (RM149,800) and for that you’ll get a car with a range of 354 km, as well as being able to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds before reaching a top speed of 209 km/h. Another US$9,000 (RM38,500) adds a long range battery that pushes range to 499 km, cuts the 0-100 km/h acceleration time to 5.1 seconds and extends the top speed to 225 km/h.

One more thing – for that price, you’ll have to pay to charge it via Tesla’s network of Superchargers, whereas the service comes free for the first 400 kWh per year with the Model S and Model X. Although deliveries have begun, production is currently at low volumes, with plans to ramp up progressively – so buyers who place their orders today are only expected to receive their cars in 12 to 18 months.