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Up Close With the 2023 VinFast VF 8: A Budget Tesla Model Y?

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VinFast, the Vietnamese auto brand that’s making a big push into the U.S. market this year, had a significant presence at the 2022 New York International Auto Show. The company aims to start selling its VF 8 here in late 2022, and we were able to get our first up-close look at the all-electric compact SUV at the show.

Related: More 2022 New York Auto Show Coverage

You don’t have to look hard to find Tesla-esque elements in the VF 8, most notably the SUV’s 15-inch center touchscreen that controls things like the climate, navigation and audio systems. But while Tesla has embraced a radically minimalist design in its interiors, the VF 8 still has a smattering of conventional controls in its cabin — and some of them look quite familiar. More on that in a minute.

The most impressive aspect of the VF 8’s interior is that dashboard touchscreen. The graphics are crisp, and it was quick to respond when making selections and switching between menus. The interface echoes Tesla’s operating system, no question, and it’s quite refined overall. (For other homages to Tesla, take a look at VinFast’s VF 8 website; the similarities with Tesla’s site are impossible to ignore.)

VinFast’s early cars were based on BMW platforms with heavily revised exterior and interior styling, and that history with the German luxury brand can be seen in the VF 8’s cabin, which has older-style BMW turn-signal and windshield-wiper stalks on the steering column. Tesla took a similar approach when it debuted the Model S, which featured some Mercedes-Benz-sourced parts at the time.

The VF 8 we saw had the hand-built feel you see from time to time with new cars at auto shows, but cabin materials were good overall. The backseat is spacious enough for adults and has adequate headroom. The rear backrest also reclines, but you sit with your knees up, which prevents the seat cushion from providing much thigh support.

VinFast says the Eco version of the VF 8 has a driving range of up to 292 miles, and this version of the SUV has a starting price of $41,000, not including destination. (The range estimate is based on the WLTP standard, which tends to produce higher numbers than EPA range ratings.) VinFast is offering a novel battery subscription program for the VF 8, whereby customers pay a monthly fee rather than seeing the full cost of the battery pack in the vehicle’s starting price. The plan includes a lifetime battery warranty and free battery replacement when capacity falls below 70%.

Being a startup automaker is a daunting prospect in the competitive U.S. market, but Tesla has shown that with the right product at the right time, it can be done. With its all-electric drivetrain and SUV design, the VF 8 hits the right product, right time part of the equation. Now VinFast has to execute on its lofty ambitions.

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Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Cars.com Research section. Email Mike Hanley

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