UPDATE 1-Tesla starts Model 3 delivery in China earlier than expected

* Tesla had expected to start Model 3 China deliveries in March

* Early start comes as Tesla battles sales slump in China

* Influential U.S. magazine has yanked recommendation for Model 3 (Adds Consumer Reports, other context)

BEIJING, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Tesla Inc has started delivering Model 3 cars in China slightly ahead of schedule, as the U.S. luxury electric vehicle maker looks to revive sales in the world's biggest auto market.

The California-based firm has been aiming to accelerate Chinese sales that have been hit hard by the impact of Sino-U.S. trade tensions. It has adjusted prices of its U.S.-made cars in China to make them affordable.

Tesla said in a statement that it held a delivery event in Beijing on Friday which "marked a significant milestone for the market". The firm had said in January that Model 3 deliveries in China would begin in March.

The earlier-than-scheduled delivery, however, comes as the automaker was dealt with a setback on Thursday after Consumer Reports, an influential U.S. magazine, withdrew its endorsement for Model 3, citing reliability problems.

The magazine's decision to withdraw its endorsement, less than nine months after recommending the electric sedan, raised questions about quality that Tesla has faced since the Model 3's difficult launch.

Tesla currently imports all the cars it sells in China but is in the process of building a factory in Shanghai that will manufacture Model 3 cars in the initial phase.

The company said in October that its China sales had been hammered after Beijing raised tariffs on imports of U.S. autos to 40 percent in July amid the trade tensions.

China has since temporarily suspended the additional 25 percent tariff, reducing it to the 15 percent level. (Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Writing by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Himani Sarkar)