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There's a new entry-level Acura sedan on the market, designed to bring first-time premium-car buyers into Honda's luxury brand.

The all-new 2013 Acura ILX compact is based on the architecture of the newest generation of the Honda Civic, which made its debut last year. And like the Civic, it will be offered in a gasoline-electric hybrid version as well as gasoline-only models.

With a starting price of $25,900, the front-wheel-drive ILX will be the lowest-priced sedan in the Acura lineup since the Vigor was discontinued in the late 1990s. The hybrid model begins at $28,900, and has essentially the same drive system as the 2012 Civic hybrid.

Generation Y is the target audience for the ILX, said Lee DaSilva, Acura's senior product planner. Gen Y, also known as the "millennials," are people born from the mid-'70s to 2000.

The ILX is a near-premium vehicle designed to be the "gateway to the Acura brand," DaSilva said, bringing to market an Acura compact with "sporty, youthful value and achievable luxury."

The idea is to get the Gen Y buyers into the Acura fold, then move them up to more expensive models as they grow in their personal and professional lives.

The base ILX comes with a 2.0-liter in-line four rated at 150 horsepower and 140 foot-pounds of torque, and it has a sequential-sport-shift five-speed automatic transmission. EPA ratings are 24 miles per gallon in city driving, 35 mpg on the highway. As with the Civic, the ILX with the 2.4-liter engine is not offered with an automatic transmission, and it's clearly intended for the young tuner crowd.

DaSilva said the "windswept" exterior design and the "well-appointed" interior make the ILX "smart, spacious and sporty."

There is room for up to five people, although the rear seat is a bit tighter than that of the Civic and isn't comfortable for medium-size or larger adults.

Among standard premium features are a keyless entry system with push-button start; dual-zone automatic climate control; power moon roof; 16-inch aluminum wheels; Pandora Internet radio interface; Bluetooth hands-free phone connection; and text messaging capability.

The base ILX's 2.0-liter engine provided plenty of power for a variety of roads, ranging from hilly two-lanes to eight-lane freeways. Likewise, the hybrid had sufficient power, especially with the boost from the system's 23-horsepower electric motor.

Acura says the hybrid model can cruise for short distances between 10 and 45 mph using the electric motor alone, but both the gas engine and electric motor are always used at start-up. During high-speed cruising only the gasoline engine is used, but the electric motor kicks in during hard acceleration for chores such as passing.

The ILX is built at the Honda plant in Greensburg, Ind., and officially went on sale in May.



2013 ACURA ILX

BASE PRICE: $25,900 (plus $895 freight)
PRICE AS TESTED: $35,295
ENGINE: 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder
POWER/TORQUE: 150 horsepower/140 foot-pounds
LENGTH: 179.1 inches
HEIGHT: 55.6 inches
WIDTH: 70.6 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 2,910 pounds.
CARGO VOLUME: 12.4 cubic feet
EPA FUEL ECONOMY: 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway
BOTTOM LINE: Acura’s new entry-level sedan offers the line’s first hybrid, and an attractive price.
 
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