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The Acura ILX is probably the best Honda Civic you can buy. Whether that is worth $30,000 is another question.

Based on the Civic, the ILX is what the Civic should have been when it was redesigned in 2012. Our initial experience reveals that shortcomings like the jittery ride, numb steering, cheap interior, and blatant road noise have all been addressed in the ILX. These improvements attempt to bring the ILX on par with increasingly refined small cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus.

Even though we didn't complain about the Civic's drivetrain--efficient and refined, it's one of the high points of the car - the ILX uses a different base engine, a 2.0-liter that makes 150 horsepower. While almost every other competitor's automatic transmission has six speeds or more, Acura is sticking to a five-speed in the ILX. The ILX also shares the Civic's roomy interior packaging.

Most Acura color options seem to be shades of gray, but we held out until our dealer found us a Crimson Garnet (read: burgundy) car. It has the Premium package that includes leather, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, 17-inch wheels, and HID headlights. Oddly, this well-equipped car lacks front seat lumbar adjustment, a notable omission for a supposedly upscale car. Sticker price comes to $30,095.

Viewed from our perspective of buying and driving over 80 cars a year, that strikes us as quite a bit of money for what you get. Part of the problem is that Acura's line-up is in transition. Just as the current TL makes the soon-to-be-replaced RL seem redundant, the ILX is priced right on top of the larger $30,905 TSX. To us, the TSX seems like a better deal.

Of course, there are plenty of compact upscale sedans that cost more - sometimes a lot more--than the ILX. The ILX doesn't try to rival cars like the BMW 3 Series, but it also doesn't offer a plusher interior than the typical family sedan. And $30,000 buys a rather nice Buick Regal, Honda Accord, or Hyundai Sonata, among others. You have to really want the ILX's compactness for it to make sense.

On the other hand, a similar value argument could be made about the Acura's most direct rival, the less-expensive but plusher Buick Verano. And perhaps these two cars pave the way for other small upscale sedans like the upcoming new Audi A3.

We'll soon find out how the ILX and Verano compare.

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