—Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Acura ILX Hybrid is powered by a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and electric motor mated to a continuously variable transmission. The powertrain offers a total of 111 peak horsepower and 127 pound feet of torque. It’s definitely not a fast car, but as far as hybrids go, it feels very average. Understandably, it feels like it is tuned for good fuel economy, and it features an Econ button that further dulls throttle response making it easier to save fuel, provided the driver doesn’t compensate for the slow feeling with more throttle.
EPA fuel economy ratings for this ILX are 39 miles per gallon in the city, and 38 on the highway. These seem like very realistic numbers—that might even be pretty easy to beat—as evidenced by our week with the car. We averaged almost exactly 38 mpg most of that city driving, using a fairly heavy foot and not much concern for fuel economy. Had we paid a bit more attention, we certainly could have beaten the EPA estimates.
[Click here to read our review of the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid.]
And the ILX does do a bit to coach the driver in efficient driving. As we drove a green circle was displayed in the instrument cluster, and the circle shrank to a small dot when we drove more vigorously. Coasting and gentle driving brought the circle back to its full size, to let us know when we were achieving good real-time fuel economy. It’s not as involving as other systems (for instance, the Prius C’s Eco Score screen), but it does help save fuel by giving constant feedback.
The car’s suspension did a good job of soaking up the bumps in the road. At the same time, it was not very communicative, and didn’t feel set up for sporting driving. Steering, though, felt particularly natural, and weighted up progressively through the corners. It was a bit numb, and felt doughy on-center, but reacted quickly and directly with a bit of lock dialed in.
The sweet spot of this Acura package is found in the goodly amount of comfort and refinement for a compact luxury car. Interior materials are nice, and it feels roomy for the car’s fairly small size. Seating is comfortable for extended drives, and visibility isn’t a problem. The ride is smooth and quiet, with very little in the way of NVH (though the CVT can make the engine buzzy under full load). The $5500 Technology Package (for a total starting MSRP of $34,400) adds convenience technology such as navigation with traffic and weather, upgraded surround sound audio, voice recognition software, and GPS-linked, solar-sensing dual climate control.
When we look at the competition, though—say, the Lexus CT200h—the ILX just doesn’t have much to impress buyers who aren’t Acura brand loyalists. Other cars offer more personality, more entertaining driving dynamics, better fuel economy, or some combination thereof for similar prices.
The ILX Hybrid serves as an economical entry point into the brand. To be quite frank, there are better hybrids out there, and there are better Acuras, as well. If you simply must have both, though, your options are limited to the ILX. Plus it’s far less painful to drive than its cousin, the dreadful Honda Civic Hybrid.