Just as “crossovers” began splitting the difference between cars and traditional SUVs some years ago, vehicles occasionally appear that seem to split the difference between “regular” cars and “premium” ones. Volkswagens sometimes fall into this category, the German company’s wares often costing more than most competitors but also offering a higher level of refinement and luxury. Buicks sometimes do this as well.
It’s this same kind of gap in the compact-car class that Acura is trying to fill with its new ILX.
The Acura nameplate itself has long been somewhat of a gap-filler. It arrived on these shores in 1986 as the newly minted luxury division of Honda Motor Company and the first of the Japanese “upper crust” brands. Lexus and Infiniti followed, both companies offering cars generally perceived as being a step above Acura’s products, partly because they had V8 engines and rear-wheel-drive--traditional “luxury-car” staples--neither of which could be found in an Acura showroom. As such, Acura was instantly overshadowed in the very market it created--and has been ever since--and for the same reasons, too.
The ILX continues that trend, but at a price point that places it between traditional compact cars and those that warrant the “premium” designation.
Although you’d never guess by looking, the ILX is based on the Honda Civic platform, but with numerous upgrades to the suspension to make it feel more sophisticated. The base 150-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine isn’t currently offered elsewhere in the Honda/Acura line. The 201-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that’s standard in the 2.4 model is similar to that found in the slightly larger Acura TSX and sporty Honda Civic Si, but since it comes only with manual transmission, sales of that model are expected to be limited. There’s also a Hybrid model--Acura’s first--that has a powertrain lifted from the Honda Civic Hybrid, but it, too, is likely to see few sales.
Based on preview drives in the Phoenix area, we came away with the following impressions.
The ILX's navigation system doesn't absorb and complicate basic audio functions. On-Road Refinement
Those who deride the ILX for its Civic roots might change their minds after a test drive. The ILX’s suspension feels more composed and is quieter over bumps than the already-good Civic, and noise levels from every source are quite low. The only exception here is in the Hybrid model, where the engine is loud under acceleration due largely to the way the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) keeps the engine at high rpm while building speed.
An Acura trademark. The base 2.0 model packs a lot into its $25,995 base price, including power windows/mirrors/locks with remote and keyless access and starting, along with CD/MP3 player, digital-media player connection, USB port, and wireless cell-phone link. However, it doesn’t include a few features one might expect (but not everyone wants) in a premium sedan, such as leather upholstery, heated front seats, power driver seat, and satellite radio. Those items are in the Premium Package, which adds $3,300 to the bottom line, and is standard on the $29,200 2.4 model. The only other option is the Technology Package that includes an uplevel audio system, AcuraLink assistance system, and a navigation system.
Particularly at this price point, the ILX impresses. A rich mix of materials, available two-tone color combinations, and sophisticated design combine to provide a clear distinction between a “regular” compact and this “premium” one.
Audio and Climate Controls
All models we drove had the optional navigation system. Unlike in many cars, it doesn’t absorb--and thus complicate--basic audio controls, a big point in the car’s favor. Some climate controls are somewhat tedious to adjust, but since automatic climate control is standard, the driver shouldn’t have to mess with them very often. All controls are easy to reach.
The rear seat space in the ILX may not accommodate tall adults. Acceleration
The sporty 2.4 model with its manual transmission is really quite quick, but that’s not the model most people will buy. By comparison, the 2.0 is much more...uh...sedate. It’s fine in normal driving, but full-throttle acceleration isn’t going to thrill. That goes double for the Hybrid.
It’s not bad, but thick front, side, and rear roof pillars block more of your view than they should. Also, the sunvisors don’t extend far enough when rotated to the side to cover the whole window.
Adults will fit in back, but not tall ones. Seats are comfortable enough, but a narrow door opening hinders egress.
Though the trunk is about average-size for the class, the lid hinges dip into the load area. The split rear seat backs fold and lie nearly flat, but the hole they uncover is narrow at the bottom, and the seat backs rest three inches above the level of the trunk floor, making it difficult to slide in bulky objects. Things are far worse in the Hybrid, which not only has a much smaller trunk due to the battery taking up space against the back wall, but it lacks fold-down rear seat backs for the same reason.
There will certainly be those who dismiss the ILX for its modest performance and small size relative to its $26,000 base price. But others might focus on its premium nameplate, refinement, and features and consider it a bargain. It all depends on where you place your priorities.
2013 Acura ILX: First Spin: 2013 Acura ILX - Consumer Guide Automotive