By now, the ticker recording the number of Tesla Model 3 pre-orders has likely worn through its digital bearings. At last count, more than 300,000 people had dropped $1,000 into Elon Musk's cup in order to get in line for a car that's slated to come out sometime in 2017. And if history is any indicator, 2018 is a safer bet for the arrival of Tesla's most affordable model yet.
If 300,000 sounds like a lot, it is. That's more cars than Acura, Audi, Buick or Cadillac sold in 2015 and it's darned close to the sales numbers of BMW, Lexus, Mazda or Mercedes. These are all companies with long histories of building and shipping cars at this kind of scale.
Needless to say, it's going to take some time for Tesla to work through its backlog of orders. If your reservation for a Model 3 is in the queue now, you're going to need something to drive until that order is filled. You want something cool, affordable, fun and reasonably practical. With that in mind, here are our picks for the best cars to tide you over until the Model 3 finally parks itself in your driveway.
One of the best EVs on the road today. It's fun to drive and wrapped up in a unique, high-tech package. Range Extender version available if you need the security net.
Have some fun burning gasoline and tires. Maybe for the last time in your life. And if you want to have ALL of the fun, there's the Hellcat.
Equipped with Distronic, it's the closest thing you can get to autopilot at any price. That it has one of the nicest interiors available at any price is icing on the cake.
There's no need to pre-order this one. Volts are sitting on dealer lots now. Go buy one. Fifty-plus miles of electric range and an efficient gasoline motor pair up to deliver the best of both worlds.
Depending on trim, the Prius is rated at over 50 mpg and we've found that to be conservative. If you can hold out until this fall, the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid will offer 20-plus miles of EV range.
Chevy is currently offering a two-year, $199 lease deal on the 2016 Malibu, which will be just about enough time if you got your order in early.
Twenty miles of EV range isn't anywhere close to the Model 3, but the Fusion looks great, drives well and there are deals to be had on them now.
Part of the allure of Tesla's cars is the styling, but Minis have more than enough style. The Cooper is quirky and retro while still offering modern tech, good fuel economy and a decent ride.
Don't let Volkswagen ruin diesel. The 328d is a fantastic sedan that returns 36 mpg in combined driving (32 city/42 highway) while pumping out 280 pound-feet of torque. It also passes smog tests just fine.
Lexus ES 300h
The Lexus ES 300h tends to fly under the radar, which is a shame. It boasts a rating of 40 mpg in combined driving, a spacious cabin and top-notch materials.
Feels just like a normal Golf, except with an electric motor and a lot more torque. The e-Golf also stands out for having the same cargo space as the normal Golf.