The last time Acura had an entry-level car that incorporated the brand’s core values, model nameplates were actually names, not numbers, decimals and letters. The Integra was obviously based on Honda components and mechanicals, however, it was considered more sophisticated and racier than a Civic.

The new-for-2013 Acura ILX succeeds in distancing itself from the Honda on which it is based. It’s especially the case now that this entry-level car is introduced in the U.S. market, hoping to compete with the Buick Verano as well as other small luxury cars such as the Lexus CT, the Lexus IS and the Mercedes-Benz B 250.

The 2013 Acura ILX starts at $27,790, while our tester was equipped with the Technology Package at a pricey $32,290. I’d gladly sacrifice the navigation system and the high-end stereo for the ILX Premium or Dynamic which both cost $29,990 and compete better with a loaded Buick Verano.

The latter is about the same size, slightly more powerful and quieter than the Acura. The Lexus IS is much more expensive but feels more refined and luxurious. As a side note, the Lexus CT 200h is arguably a better choice then the $34,990 ILX Hybrid.

Fun to drive, well-equipped, comfortable, the 2013 ILX is a worthy member of the family: Finally, Acura gets an entry-level car that should no longer be compared to a Honda.

Frisky yet sophisticated
Base, Premium and Tech versions of the 2013 Acura ILX get a 2.0L engine that produces 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque, connected to a 5-speed automatic that does a good job keeping the 4-cylinder hot when you’re driving enthusiastically, or cold when you’re eco-driving. The gearbox also holds its gears longer in sport mode, making you appreciate the wheel-mounted paddle shifters even more.

Flat out, the ILX reaches 100 km/h in 9 seconds and rushes through the quarter-mile mark in 16.6 seconds at 137 km/h. If you need more performance, the ILX Dynamic offers the Civic Si’s 201-hp, 2.4L engine and 6-speed manual, yet the Tech version we tested feels frisky, playful and light on its feet.

We managed a fuel consumption average of 8.9L/100km; super unleaded is recommended, but not required.

The 2013 Acura ILX offers a great balance of ride quality and dynamic driving characteristics. The electric-assist steering is nicely weighted, light at parking-lot speeds and a little firmer on the open road. The car feels sophisticated, refined and willing to please.


Base, Premium and Tech versions of the ILX get a 150-hp 2.0L four and a 5-speed automatic. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Acura-grade interior
Unlike the outgoing CSX which pretty much shared the Civic’s dashboard, the 2013 Acura ILX gets its own interior treatment that looks much more upscale, while mimicking more expensive Acura models.

The lower portion of the dash gets sturdy plastic, but the rest of the design is of high quality, with a soft-touch dashtop, solid switchgear and a tasteful design. The centre stack gets the same multifunction knob found in other Acuras, while the Tech trim adds a navigation system with an 8” screen; it also gets an excellent 10-speaker surround sound system with a USB port as well as Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity.

All but the base 2013 Acura ILX get leather seating surfaces, a power driver’s seat and heated front seats; headroom could be a little better up front due to the car’s relatively low roofline, and space required by the power sunroof. In the back, two adults will be at ease, although three across will be tight, and the middle passenger’s comfort level will suffer due to the fold-down armrest and overstuffed seat cushion.


The interior quality and design of the ILX is much improved compared to the CSX. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)
Chic yet reserved styling

The 2013 Acura ILX shares no body panels with the Civic, and design-wise there's no contest. The ILX looks smart and elegant with its smooth character line that flows from the front wheel over the rear fenders, culminating in a cute, short deck.

We’re still not fond of the Acura brand’s signature grille design, although it blends in well in this application. The ILX looks edgier than a Verano, yet won’t upstage a Lexus IS, despite the latter being on the verge of a redesign. And that’s typical Acura: classy and understated (provided we ignore the ZDX).

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