The phrase ‘much anticipated’ is overused, but it’s entirely appropriate for the new Tesla Model 3 which attracted 115,000 $1,000 deposits within 24 hours of order books opening. Not one of those depositers had even seen the car before putting their money down. And they’ll have to wait until the end of 2017 before they get their car.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, the Model 3 is the first Tesla priced in ‘affordable’ territory, with US pricing starting at around $35,000 before tax incentives – expect to pay a similar figure when it arrives in the UK.

As a machine, the Model 3 looks promising. Tesla promises a range of 215 miles on a single charge and that even the slowest version will sprint from 0-60mph in six seconds. There’s no word on actual power outputs yet but, as CEO Elon Musk says: “At Tesla, we don’t make slow cars.” The fastest versions should easily out-drag anything BMW M and Mercedes-AMG can throw at it, as the Model S does.

At roughly BMW 3-Series/Mercedes C-Class size, Tesla says the Model 3 will comfortably seat five. That’s in part thanks to a cleverly packaged interior with a slimline dashboard that allows the front seats to pushed further forward.

The interior design takes minimalism to its logical conclusion, with all the controls and displays grouped onto a single, large touchscreen mounted on a stalk sprouting from the middle of the dashboard. From the outside, it looks much like a shrunken Model S; we think the proportions are a bit awkward and the much-vaunted grille-less front isn’t entirely successful.

But that didn’t stop another 15,000 deposits being placed within an hour-and-a-half of the car being unveiled last night. By far the biggest problem facing the Model 3 is Tesla’s ability to keep up with demand, both at the factory and in its infrastructure.

Tesla plans to more than double the number of Supercharger fast-charging points around the world, and double the size of its dealer network. And then there’s the question of production capacity at the California factory; demand for the Model 3 is likely to far outstrip that for the current Model S and Model X combined.

Still, if anyone can make it work, Tesla can. Just 10 years ago it was building a slightly shonky Lotus Elise-based sports car in tiny numbers, and now it’s knocking on the door of the mainstream with a range of genuinely desirable products. It took Hyundai and Kia three or four decades to pull off the same trick.

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By Only Motors