Test Drive

Acura ILX sorts through an identity crisis with smart luxury for under $30,000


What does the Acura brand stand for?
After a few lineup shuffles, styling overhauls and years of mixed messages, sometimes it seems as if even Acura isn't so sure. Is Acura the brand that's sort of sporty, sort of techy? The brand with lukewarm styling that markets endlessly about being "bold"? Or is the luxury brand with environmental awareness? 
Nevertheless, the entry-level Acura has always been the strongest part of  Acura's lineup. First the Integra, then the RSX — they always hit that sweet spot of pricing and desirability that made them classics and put Acura's name on the map for a lot of people. Finally, a new small Acura is back in the lineup, and it's called the ILX. Is it more of the same? Does it bring a new sense of focus to Acura's lineup?
Do any amount of research on the ILX and you'll quickly discover the not-so-hidden secret that it's based upon the venerable Honda Civic. This is true, and it's not a big deal. Take a well-rounded, exceptionally successful vehicle, and then improve every single aspect of it, and you basically have the Acura ILX.

The exterior is sleek, sharp and very premium looking. It actually looks identical to every other Acura in the lineup, so if you don't have size as a frame of reference you could easily mistaken this for a TL or the upcoming RLX, which isn't a bad thing. One (only?) distinguishing feature of the ILX is the pronounced shoulder crease on the rear-quarter panel, which makes it look a little more designed and more special.

Inside, the ILX is usable and straightforward. A dark, high-tech, sculpted interior theme sets a modern tone. Everything is within reach and easy to access or figure out, including usually-complicated navigation controls and phone pairing. The Honda intuitiveness shines through.

Out test model was the ILX Hybrid, which means a very low power output: 110 combined horsepower. The ILX Hybrid isn't a performance car, but it will take you where you're going comfortably and without drama. Acura also offers a 2.0l, 150hp engine and a 2.4 liter 200hp model.

The sluggish, sometimes noisy (particularly under braking) Hybrid powertrain overshadows the things the ILX does well. Handling is solid and tight

One of the usual suspect features on a hybrid or any efficiency-minded vehicle is the predictable stop-start "feature." And it is predictably bad. We're not singling out Acura; we just don't really like this feature on any car unless it's completely imperceptible and flawlessly executed. The marginal MPG hit is probably worth not having to feel your luxury car noticeably shudder to life at every red light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic.


A comfortable and smartly laid-out interior make up the centerpiece of the ILX. It has standard leather and a functional design — it's miles beyond any Civic.

The ILX Hybrid comes with a continuously variable transmission that performs smoothly and usually goes unnoticed. Other ILX models are available with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic.


The trunk in the ILX can hold up to 10 cubic feet of stuff.

The ILX uses interesting materials in imaginative ways on the interior, which give it a distinct look all its own. The textures, finish and placement all seem entirely unique to Acura.

The ILX Hybrid actually has a lower center of gravity than the 2.0 and 2.5 liter models, which may lend it to having superior handling. With a curb weight under 3,000 lbs, the ILX handles well and the suspension is well adjusted.

The Acura ILX Hybrid lists for just under $29,000. Our recommendation would be to go for the non-hybrid models, but it's a great value for a car that looks and feels good inside and out.

We averaged a respectable 32.8 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.


Time will tell if the ILX is the Acura that breathes new life into Acura. It's a different breed from the small Acuras of old — it's far more luxury-oriented instead and not at all a sports coupe. But at the price it's unique and compelling luxury offering. Cutting edge luxury for a little less is probably not a bad strategy for Acura to explore.