If parent Honda’s research is correct, the Acura ILX sedan will be a hit with a new crop of near-premium buyers who have their eyes on their bank accounts.
In fact, the compact ILX, which is just now arriving in dealer showrooms, is a far cry from the automaker’s earlier entry-level efforts, such as the fun-loving Integra sedan and coupe from the 1980s and ’90s, or the flashier RSX coupe from the ’00s.
Those models appealed to a more exuberant audience, including the so-called “tuner” crowd, while Acura’s newest pocket sedan is for a growing segment of non-enthusiasts, primarily Generation Y types in their mid-20s to mid-30s who favor affordable luxury with a side order of social responsibility.
The ILX is actually based — very loosely — on the current Honda Civic, although the ILX is larger.
From the front and side, the ILX’s high style is evident. However the short, rounded rear deck looks a a bit out of place with the rest of the design and the result is a trunk of only modest proportions for its class. At least folding the back seat can extend the available stowage space.
The interior has a first-class quality about it, especially the well-designed dashboard, control panel and useful multi-information display that, aside from providing the basics, also shows average speed, fuel consumption and oil-life info. Front room is good and the seats are supportive, but taller passengers in back will find head and legroom in short supply.
There’s nothing shy about the range of powertrain options. Base iterations arrive with a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that operates through a five-speed automatic transmission. This combination is geared for leisurely acceleration and reasonable fuel economy, so it takes its own time getting the ILX up to speed.
For the more performance-minded millennial there’s a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that uses a six-speed manual gearbox (both purloined from the Honda Civic Si) to keep the front wheels turning. It certainly feels quick, but many in the ILX’s target group might not be inclined to shift their own gears, assuming they even know how to work the third pedal in the first place.
At the socially conscious end of the lineup is the Hybrid that combines a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor to generate 111 net horsepower. The Hybrid is teamed up with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to produce 39 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway, compared to 24/35 for the 2.0 and 22/31 for the 2.4.
All models show up in a well-equipped state and include power moonroof, keyless push-button start, rear-view camera and an audio system with an interface for Pandora, which is subscription-based Web radio that plays music from your selected genres and artists.
The available Premium Package includes a power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-covered seats (heated in front) and a premium audio system, while the Technology package adds a 365-watt ELS-brand audio system (with 15-gigabytes of music storage) and a voice-controlled navigation system. Note that some extras, notably the leather interior, high-intensity xenon headlights and 17-inch wheels (16 is standard) are included when the 2.4-liter engine is in the house.
Driving each of the three versions of ILX on Arizona’s generally ripple-free secondary roads isn’t ideal for conducting suspension torture tests, but the cabins are well-insulated from road and wind noise and the cars are competent road cars. The nod goes to the growlier 2.4 with its firmer suspension, meatier rubber and nicely weighted steering (not too light or touchy).
ILX pricing begins at $26,800, including destination charges, for the base 2.0 and climbs to $29,800 for the Hybrid with the 2.4 starting out at $30,100. Those values should appeal to the Gen Y target group, but it’s likely that more aging baby boomers than Acura anticipates will also pick the ILX for its conservative stature, pampering amenities and appealing price. But then, research studies are seldom incorrect, right?