The Acura ILX is a new nameplate for Honda's upscale division, a front-wheel-drive compact sedan conceived to give potential buyers an entry into the premium car class at sub-luxury prices. The 2013 ILX essentially replaces the slightly larger TSX as the division's most affordable offering, the first Acura with a sub-$30,000 base price since the 2009 modelyear.
While it's all-new to Acura, there is much about the new ILX that is adapted from the Honda inventory. Specifically, the basic platform, model lineup, and powertrains all began with the latest Honda Civic sedans.
But this is not to say the ILX is basically a rebadged Civic: there are as many hardware distinctions as there are similarities. For example, while the basic ILX shares the standard 5-speed automatic transmission employed by its humbler Honda cousin, the transmission is paired with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder version of the engine, generating 150 horsepower, versus the 140-horsepower 1.8-liter in the mainstream Civic.
More important, while the fundamental architecture is shared, the chassis and bodyshell dimensions differ between Civic and ILX. The ILX rides a shorter wheelbase (105.1 inches versus 106.3), and is longer, lower, and wider than the Civic sedan: The ILX measures 179.1 inches overall, 70.6 inches wide, and 55.6 inches tall. Also, the ILX is distinguished by its own front suspension setup. Instead of adopting the Civic's front struts, the compact Acura employs a more sophisticated, more expensive, double wishbone system.
There is no shared sheetmetal between the Honda and the Acura. The Acura ILX cabin is furnished with high grade materials, with no sign of the interior cost-cutting that diminishes the latest Civics, and the ILX benefits from more sound-deadening measures. Acura also claims higher rigidity for the ILX's unibody, although the company refrains from furnishing specifics on this score.
The ILX is reasonably roomy by compact car standards. Two average size adults can ride comfortably in the rear with only minimal cooperation from front seat occupants. Like almost all sedans in this premium compact class, the ILX is rated for five passengers and, like almost all of them, that center rear position is only suitable for someone of diminutive stature, or someone you don't like, or someone who answers both descriptions. From a practical standpoint, it's a four-seat car.
While the ILX bears little physical resemblance to the Civic, there are a couple of identical elements under its hood. Make that hoods. The entry-level Acura ILX 2.0L comes with a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a 5-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift and Grade Logic Control.
The ILX 2.4L is motivated by a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox (no automatic option); this same powertrain is employed in the Civic Si, the hottest member of the Honda compacts.
There's also a gasoline-electric ILX hybrid, a first for the Acura division, with a 111-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine augmented by a 23-horsepower electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the continuously variable automatic transmission. The basic combination is identical with the one used in the Civic Hybrid, but with an intriguing distinction. In the ILX, the hybrid's computer management is programmed for a little more punch when the driver tramps hard on the throttle.
That extra punch, which is all but intangible, comes at the expense of fuel economy. The Civic Hybrid carries EPA ratings of 44/44 mpg City/Highway. The ILX is rated for 39/38 mpg. But like the Civic, the ILX hybrid includes a little dashboard button marked Eco. Punch the button, and the system computer adjusts its mapping to make the hybrid more miserly.
Pricing for the ILX starts below the $30,000 threshold, but close enough to put the ILX in a competitive arena, call it compact premium, that is thinly populated. Acura sees key ILX competitors as the Audi A3, BMW 1-series, Buick Verano, and Volkswagen CC.