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Acura ILX offers good looks, fuel economy

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Based on the Honda Civic, the ILX offers two engines taken from the Civic and a base engine that nobody will mistake for premium. That base engine, which comes in the $25,900 2.0L model, is a single overhead cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0 sends its power to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.0-liter’s modest power will let you keep up with traffic, but passing will require plenty of open space. Zero to 60 mph takes about nine seconds, which is average for a four-cylinder engine but slow for a premium car. Acura is hoping that a new breed of young buyers won’t care about power as long as it’s fuel efficient. The base model is decent with Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings of 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway.

Those who want fuel economy should choose the $28,900 1.5L Hybrid model. As Acura’s first hybrid, it has the same powertrain found in the Civic Hybrid. It features a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine aided by an electric motor for a total of 111 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. While this is a decent hybrid system, it’s not as powerful or fuel efficient as the system found in the Toyota Prius or Camry Hybrid. EPA fuel economy ratings are 39/38 mpg. The Prius is rated at 51/48 with 134 horsepower and the Camry Hybrid boasts 200 horsepower and gets 43 mpg city/39 highway.

On the road, the Acura Hybrid is slower than the 2.0-liter, with 0 to 60 mph coming in about 10 seconds. The transmission never shifts, so power delivery feels a bit odd, but there’s enough here to keep up with traffic.

The closest thing Acura offers to a premium engine is in the $29,200 2.4L model. This engine is the Civic Si’s dual-overhead cam 2.4-liter four-cylinder. It pumps out 201 horsepower, 170 pound-feet of torque and is mated solely to a six-speed manual transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings are decent at 22/31, but some V-6 midsize cars with far more power can match those numbers.

This engine is genuinely fun to drive. It revs willingly, launches the car from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and works well with the slick-shifting manual transmission.

Though it’s based on an economy car, Acura has taken more steps to deaden sound than Honda did with the Civic. This makes the ILX quiet on the road, though with some noticeable tire noise.

The ILX also features more advanced shocks than the Civic. The amplitude reactive dampers are soft when suspension travel is minimal, such as over small bumps, and they firm up when compressed further, such as during aggressive cornering. These shocks and a fairly stiff body structure make the ILX feel sporty when pushed hard and help it offer some satisfying road feel.

Inside, the ILX offers the same type of quality environment found in other Acuras. The dash, door panels and armrests all feature soft-touch surfaces. It comes well equipped, too, with useful amenities such as dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and aux ports, sunroof, keyless starting and a rearview camera.

The dash has the familiar Acura control layout, which can be intimidating with its central control knob and numerous buttons. It may be somewhat complicated, but the ILX’s younger, tech-savvy buyers shouldn’t have a problem learning the system.

Space is pretty good for a compact car. The front seats are supportive in cloth or leather, with good legroom and decent headroom. The rear seat will accommodate average-size adults, but if any passenger front or rear has long legs, rear-seat legroom will suffer. The trunk has decent space at 12.35 cubic feet, but that shrinks to 10 cubic feet in the Hybrid.

All in all, the 2013 Acura ILX feels like an automotive experiment. Acura is hoping that generation Y and younger generation X buyers will like the looks, fuel economy, comfort and tech features, and that they won’t care about the lack of performance.

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