2021 Tesla Model Y

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The Car Connection Expert Review

The Car Connection The Car Connection
February 4, 2021

Buying tip

Tesla continues to suggest that greater levels of assisted driving are coming to the $10,000 Full Self-Driving package—including expanded city driving—although this system might never deliver what its namesake suggests.

features & specs

Long Range AWD
Performance AWD
Standard Range RWD
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The 2021 Tesla Model Y applies the Model 3’s minimalist interface, punchy performance, and roomy design to a taller, even more spacious crossover profile.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Tesla Model Y? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Tesla Model Y is a fully electric crossover SUV  that seats up to seven and has a 326-mile range. It’s an alternative to a wide range of hatchback and utility-vehicle EVs ranging from the Nissan Leaf Plus to the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Audi E-Tron.

Is the 2021 Tesla Model Y a good car?

Review continues below

The Model Y offers a compelling combination of punchy performance, exceptional efficiency, and excellent infotainment, plus over-the-air updates that freshen the vehicle like a smartphone. But build-quality issues persist and Tesla’s Full Self-Driving package isn’t true to its name. The Tesla Model Y earns a TCC Rating of 7.4 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Tesla Model Y?

A rear-wheel-drive Model Y Standard Range variant and a 7-seat layout join the lineup for 2021—and carryover models get more range.

The 2021 Tesla Model Y has a hunchback form that yields better cargo volume than many other compact crossovers, although there’s much more to love when you step inside—if, that is, you can get past the very minimalist, austere layout and the absence of conventional switchgear. Inside, the weird roofline contours make usable space for five adults, plus all their stuff in the trunk (rear) and frunk (front).

The Long Range model has a 326-mile range and hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds; the Performance model sacrifices range (303 miles) and can rip off a 0-60 mph time in just 3.5 seconds, which is enough to beat any number of performance cars. The Standard Range offers 5.3 seconds and 244 miles.

The large 15.0-inch touchscreen replaces the traditional instrument cluster and has a flat menu system. A keyless entry and start system resides in your phone, and heated seats are provided for all five positions in the first two rows.

The Model Y has already earned excellent five-star results from the federal government, although it’s not yet been rated by the IIHS. Autopilot active-safety features cover all the bases here; however Full Self-Driving still doesn’t quite deliver what its label suggests.

How much does the 2021 Tesla Model Y cost?

The 2021 Model Y Standard Range starts at $43,190, while the Dual Motor (AWD) Long Range and Performance models start at $51,190 and $61,190, respectively—all including the $1,200 destination fee.

Where is the 2021 Tesla Model Y made?

In Fremont, California.


2021 Tesla Model Y


Ovoid but roomy, the tall Model Y rides low and looks like an egg.

Is the 2021 Tesla Model Y a good-looking car?

The Tesla Model Y has an egg-shaped profile that, like so many other models in this crossover category, has its awkward angles. Many of its details are cribbed directly from the Model 3 sedan—a relative beauty. It’s the rather daring, minimalist interior of the Model Y that boosts it one point to a 6 out of 10.

Part of the reason the Model Y has trouble shaking its associations with the Model 3 sedan is that it doesn’t offer all that much more ground clearance—6.6 inches, versus 5.5 inches. At about 7 inches taller than the Model 3 and just 2 inches longer overall, it can impress as a raised-roof variant of the 3.

The look of the Model Y interior, especially of the dash itself, is clean and minimalist—sometimes jarringly so. A 15.0-inch touchscreen is central command, outside of some steering-wheel toggles. There’s some suede-like trim and a few strips of wood and brightwork, but overall this is an interior that makes Volvos look elaborate by comparison.

Review continues below

2021 Tesla Model Y


The Model Y offers prodigious amounts of power and efficiency.

Throughout the lineup, the Tesla Model Y serves up gut-dropping instant torque that will alter your impression of what a practical crossover SUV could or should be. That’s good for a 7 on our scale. 

Is the Model Y 4WD?

The base 2021 Tesla Model Y Standard Range has rear-wheel drive, while the Long Range and Performance models have all-wheel drive with a motor on each axle. The Performance version at the top of the lineup steps up the performance to 384 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, as estimated by Motor Trend. 

How fast is the Model Y?

In any of its forms, the Model Y is quicker than nearly any gasoline crossover of its size and price. Hitting 60 mph takes just 4.8 seconds, but that’s in the Long Range model. The Performance model does it in 3.5 seconds. The most affordable rear-wheel-drive Standard Range model hits 60 mph in 5.3 seconds.

Even the Long Range model will take your breath away if you stomp on the accelerator from a standing start. Switch over from Standard to Chill mode, with the brake regen on Low, and you have a much smoother solution for passengers; or use one-pedal driving with its aggressive regenerative braking setting. 

Because the Y’s center of gravity is so low, its lean when cornering is less pronounced when cornering sharply. Ride quality is on the firm side, and Performance versions tend to the jittery side at times, but no more than rival sport-tuned SUVs.  

With a tow package, Tesla offers the capacity to pull up to 3,500 pounds. An Off-Road Assist feature helps traverse unstable surfaces like snow, mud, or loose rocks.

Review continues below

2021 Tesla Model Y

Comfort & Quality

The main knock against Tesla gets louder with panel gaps and build quality issues.

The 2021 Tesla Model Y is a paragon for space efficiency in this class. It uses a footprint no larger than that of a mid-size sedan to seat up to seven—five adults, in either case—with ample cargo room, and even a “frunk.” But serious issues with shoddy fit and finish deduct a point to a 6 for quality. 

The standard glass roof gives the Model Y a unique cabin feel and spans from the front windshield to the rear window. It results in lots of head room, and front to back the interior feels open and spacious. The new 7-seat layout for the Model Y adds two spaces that look very, very small, but we’ve yet to test it. 

Five-seat models have 68 cubic feet of cargo space overall, split between the rear and a front trunk (“frunk”). That’s more space than the larger Audi E-Tron, and it amounts to plenty of room for family outings. 

Tesla has upgraded some of the cabin pieces in the Model Y, versus those from earlier Model 3 builds. But beware, there are plenty of accounts of build-quality issues—like rear bumpers falling off—that concern even the most dedicated Tesla fans.

Review continues below

2021 Tesla Model Y


The Model Y is expected to rank high on safety.

How safe is the Model Y?

The 2021 Tesla Model Y has an extensive set of safety features, including automatic emergency braking, plus active-safety options. And it earns five stars overall in federal NCAP testing. That earns the Y an 8 out of 10.

The Model Y is closely related to the Model 3, which has earned a 9 out of 10 due to its Top Safety Pick+ rating and excellent IIHS crash-test results. If that organization confirms the same level of protection for the Model Y, we’ll extend that rating.

Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection is included on all Model Y versions, as are active lane control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, and additional driver-assistance features. 

Autopilot includes adaptive cruise control that will bring the vehicle down to a stop, but it’s only for one travel lane. All assisted-driving features beyond that are part of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving package, which now cost $10,000 and includes on-ramp to off-ramp driving plus some features—like Summon—that fall closer to the gimmickry category.

Review continues below

2021 Tesla Model Y


Updated like a smartphone, the Tesla Model Y has features that complete the Tesla tech experience.

Tesla differentiates its three Model Y versions primarily around performance and range. But the Model Y offers a good list of standard features plus a quick infotainment system with smartphone-style over-the-air updates applying to the whole vehicle. That combination gives it an 8 out of 10. 

A big, responsive 15.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is the centerpiece and nerve center of the Model Y. It replaces the instrument cluster, radio controls, climate controls, side mirror buttons, and opens the trunk, frunk, and glove box. All models come with 12-way power adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats (all five positions), power-folding heated side mirrors, and four USB ports. There’s no compatibility for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but there is compatibility for video streaming, an internet browser, and Caraoke (all with the data plan). 

The Model Y has no start button, key, or fob in the traditional sense. Instead, once you “pair” your smartphone with a master keycard, the car recognizes your phone and starts up when you sit inside. 

The 2021 Model Y comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile vehicle warranty, plus an 8-year (100,000-mile to 150,000 mile, depending on the model) battery and drive unit warranty. 

Which Tesla Model Y should I buy?

The Model Y Dual Motor Long Range offers the ideal combination of AWD and the longest driving range in the lineup. At $54,190, it’s not quite a bargain, but it’s well-equipped, efficient, and a great EV for families who have access to home charging. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Model Y?

A Model Y loaded up with optional paint, the tow package, and Full Self-Driving adds up to $74,190—and in that territory there are other EVs worth exploring like the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-Tron, in addition to the Model X and its flashy falcon-wing doors.

Review continues below

2021 Tesla Model Y

Fuel Economy

Using just 28 kwh per 100 miles, the Model Y is one of the more efficient electric vehicles.

Driving range matters for electric vehicles. And if you want a fully electric compact crossover, the 2021 Tesla Model Y beats all other battery electric vehicles, with an EPA-rated range of up to 326 miles. It earns a 10 out of 10. 

Long Range and Performance versions of the Tesla Model Y come with a battery pack with about 80 kilowatt-hours of usable capacity and deliver 326 and 303 miles of EPA range, respectively. The Standard Range versions pack in about 60 kwh and offer 244 miles of range. Tesla no longer specifies specs such as horsepower, torque, and battery pack size. 

A 240-volt Level 2 charger can provide about 45 miles of range per hour of charge, if you happen to have a stout 60-amp circuit dedicated to the 48-amp task. Tesla’s V3 Supercharger network can restore 162 miles in 15 minutes—although you’ll pay as you go to use it.  

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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Styling 6
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