Like Lexus and Infiniti, Acura launched with two models, a bespoke flagship sedan and a smaller car based on an existing mainstream model. Unlike the Lexus ES 250 and the Infiniti M30, though, the Acura Integra received rave reviews. The Integra was discontinued for 2002 as part of Acura’s failed upmarket push. The Civic-based Integra sedan’s slot was sort of filled with the larger, heavier European Accord-based TSX. The 2004 TSX was a good car, but it was no Integra, and the model gained additional inches and pounds with a 2009 redesign. For 2013 Acura returns to its original playbook with a Civic-based four-door model. They’re not yet ready to officially admit the stupidity of going alphanumeric, so the new car is unfortunately appellated the ILX.
Dimensionally, the ILX shares a 105.1-inch wheelbase with the 2004-2008 TSX, but is 4.3 inches shorter, 1.2 inches wider (surprise!), and 1.7 inches lower. Interior dimensions are very similar (including a couple of inches less rear legroom than the compact sedan norm) with the exception of rear headroom, which isn’t quite sufficient for six-foot passengers in the new car. Trunk volume is a passable 12.4 cubic feet with the regular ILX, but only 10.0 cubes with the Hybrid. Most significantly, the ILX is nearly 300 pounds lighter than the original TSX and over 400 pounds lighter than the current one.
Compared to other recent Acura sedans and the latest Honda Civic, the ILX’s exterior styling is a step in the right direction. The exterior’s most distinctive feature, a character line that S-curves up the body side just ahead of the rear fender, recalls the Dodge Avenger, which hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but the whole is better executed here. Seventeen-inch wheels standard on the 2.4L and available on the 2.0L (but not the Hybrid) help lend the small sedan an athletic stance. Inside, the ILX resembles the TSX and TL, just with a less substantial feel to the doors and seats. Not quite premium, but far, far nicer than a Civic, and thankfully bereft of the Honda’s massive bi-level instrument panel.
The Acura ILX’s powertrain options are…curious. You can get a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter only with a five-speed automatic, a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter (shared with the TSX and Honda Civic Si) only with a six-speed manual, or a 111-horsepower 1.5-liter hybrid only with a CVT that can be manually shifted to mimic a seven-speed transmission. Oddly, premium unleaded is recommended with all three engines, even the Hybrid.
With nearly 3,000 pounds for its 111 horsepower to motivate, the Hybrid with Technology Package is perhaps the most sluggish car with a sticker price over $35,000. Even a Lexus CT feels considerably more energetic. In the EPA tests the hybrid manages 39 MPG city, 38 MPG highway, but you’ll only observe these numbers in the real world with a lethargic driving style much better suited to a Prius (with its much stronger electric motor) than an Acura.