Tesla has unveiled its long-awaited ‘affordable’ Model 3 electric car.

With prices starting at $35,000 (£24,423), the California-based firm is attempting to crack the mass market with its cutting-edge vehicle.

"You will not be able to buy a better car, any better car, for less than that," Tesla chief executive Elon Musk told an 800-strong crowd at the unveiling in Hawthorne, California.

The basic five-seater will have a range of at least 215 miles per charge and accelerate from 0-60mph in less than six seconds, with more expensive models improving on that performance.

Hundreds of people queued up in the US to reserve Model 3s with a $1,000 deposit before they had even seen the car.

Later, during the event, Musk said that Tesla had already received more than 115,000 orders.

He added that he was “pretty sure” the company could deliver the car in 2017.

However Tesla has struggled to hit such deadlines in the past with its $71,000 Model S sedan and $80,000 Model X SUV.

It sold 50,580 vehicles last year, most of them the attractive Model S, but hopes to produce 500,000 cars annually once fully operational.

Musk’s firm posted a net loss of $889m (£620m) for 2015, mostly due to research and development costs, in that gamble to hit the mass market.

“We needed to figure out how we, as a tiny company with very few resources, could make a difference,” he said of the Model 3 business plan.

The ‘autopilot’ safety feature found in the top-range cars – which sees them steer themselves to avoid collisions - will be present in the budget vehicle.

 Tesla Model S

The lack of a petrol-powered engine will allow for a storage area at the front as well as the rear and also offer more room inside.

"You are sitting a little further forward. That's what gives you the legroom to have five adults," Musk said.

"The rear roof area is actually one continuous pane of glass.

"The reason that that's great is because it gives you an amazing feeling of openness.

“So, it has by far the best roominess of any car of this size."