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2013 Acura ILX Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

Acura ILX front quarter view
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Introduction

During its first 15 years Acura sold a lot of Integras. Then Honda's luxury division decided that small cars weren't appropriate for its desired image, so it discontinued them in the U.S. But, with even luxury car buyers now concerned about fuel economy, nearly every luxury car maker is adding smaller models. So American Acura dealers once again have a Civic-based sedan to sell with the 2013 ILX.

Tested: 2013 Acura ILX

4dr Sedan 201-horsepower 2.4L I4 6-speed manual FWD

Compared: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta

4dr Sedan turbocharged 200hp 2.0L I4 6-speed automated manual FWD

Why the 2013 Acura ILX?

  Compared to the Jetta
Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: Better Better Worse

The Integra sold well partly because it was fun to drive. Two-pedal ILXs aren't. They're powered by either a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter engine or a 111-horsepower 1.5-liter hybrid. You'll be hard-pressed to find a car with a sticker price over $35,000 that's more sluggish than the latter. But if you're willing to shift your own gears, Acura's outstanding six-speed manual is paired with the 201-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine from the Honda Civic Si and heavier Acura TSX. With a 7,000 rpm power peak and little shove below 4,000 rpm, the 2.4 must be revved for thrills. But the solid, precise shifter and willingness of the engine to spin make this a joy rather than a chore. This said, torque junkies will be happier with a turbocharged competitor like the upcoming Audi A3 sedan or Buick Verano 2.0T. Until these arrive, the ILX 2.4L has no direct competitors aside from a 2005.5-2011 Volvo S40. I personally prefer the sound and feel of a non-turbo engine.


Handling
Handling: Worse Better Worse

More than for its straight-line performance, the Integra was prized for how it handled. The Acura ILX doesn't dazzle in this area. A Jetta GLI feels more composed in aggressive driving (but much rougher otherwise). The ILX's steering doesn't feel as quick as that of the half-size-larger, 400-pound-heavier TSX, while being equally incommunicative. But the ILX has a light, tossable feel the GLI and TSX lack. If other upscale compacts feel too heavy to you, the ILX could be your best bet.


ILX Reviews: Acura ILX rear quarter view

The car's best angle (without the Acura grille).

ILX Reviews: Acura ILX instrument panel

Thankfully fewer buttons than other Acuras.

Materials & workmanship
Materials & workmanship: Much better Better Worse

Acura has struggled with a semi-premium position, nicer than a Honda but a clear cut or two below a top-tier luxury make. Let's focus on "nicer than a Honda." The ILX has a much higher quality interior than the current Civic. Faint praise, perhaps, but it's also a clear cut or two above a Mazda3 or VW Jetta GLI, avoiding direct competition with these driver-oriented compacts. A Buick Verano is a closer match.


Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: Better Better Worse

For me, Acura's front seats provide a very good combination of lateral support and comfort. Opinions of seats are bound to vary from person to person, though, as it's difficult to design one seat to fit all shapes and sizes of people.


Driving position & visibility
Driving position & visibility: Worse Better Worse

The view forward is a touch bunker-like, owing to smallish windows, but it's far better than in the Civic, which has a much more steeply raked windshield and a massive, bi-level instrument panel.


Why Not the 2013 Acura ILX?

  Compared to the Jetta
Price or payments
Price or payments: Worse Better Worse

Though it's smaller and feels less substantial, the ILX 2.4L is priced nearly as high as the TSX: $30,095. A price closer to 29k would make the new car more competitive. After adjusting for feature differences, a VW Jetta GLI is about $3,500 less.


Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Worse Better Worse

Why doesn't Acura offer the larger four-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission? Likely because its fuel economy is already iffy with the stick. The EPA ratings are 22 MPG city, 31 highway. One benefit of turbochargers is that they enable lower rpm shifts and taller gearing. A Jetta GLI matches the Acura in the city, and does a couple MPG better on the highway. Not bad, but you'll find some much more powerful, much larger cars that score better than either of them.


ILX Reviews: Acura ILX front

Acura beak hasn't helped the brand's sales, but not backing down.

ILX Reviews: Acura ILX rear seat

Tight fit for tallish passengers.

Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: Much worse Better Worse

The ILX's rear seat is considerably tighter than that in the Civic--functionality has been sacrificed in favor of a stylishly lower roofline. Six-foot passengers won't quite fit.


Conclusion

I wouldn't recommend the ILX with either the 2.0 or the 1.5 hybrid engine. But with the 2.4 and manual transmission it's fun to drive and it has a nicer interior than a mainstream compact sedan. No huge, gotta-have-it strengths, but it's not easy to find a nimble upscale compact as everyone continues to pile on features and pounds.

ILX Reviews: Acura ILX 2.4-liter engine

All but extinct: a performance-oriented non-turbo four.

ILX Reviews: Acura ILX trunk

Well, it is a compact. Folding rear seat doesn't split.

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2013 Acura ILX pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2013 Acura ILX. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.
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