The Acura ILX is the nicest Civic I’ve ever driven.
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Pricing: 2016 Acura ILX
Base price (A-Spec trim): $34,890
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $36,985
I’ve always found the ILX to be a nice-looking car, and the 2016 takes things up a notch. If you’re looking for something to compare it with when it comes to its size, the Acura ILX compares nicely to a Honda Civic. Because it is one. Underneath, they share the same platform. So it’s a compact sedan.
The car definitely gets appreciative looks, especially from drivers of Civics and older ILXs and ELs. Following the general Acura trend these days, the ILX is festooned with LED lighting. The eye-catching JewelEye head lights, the running lights, the tail lights and the brake lights – all LEDs.
The A-Spec package (the highest trim level, and the one I reviewed) is purely aesthetic, which is kind of too bad. Anyway, it nets you most of the tech and luxury goodies you can think of as well as body-coloured sills and a rear spoiler. The ILX’s front end has an aggressive edge to it with the large, gaping, partially-functional intakes in the air dam. Walk around to the back and you’ll find the rear end is definitely evolutionary and can be instantly recognized as an ILX – but that’s not a bad thing. The fenders are filled with meaty 225/40s wrapped around 18-inch rims – these wheels look really good, and a number of people commented on them including my 4 year-old son.
The ILX has a bit of character but doesn’t stand out too much from the crowd either, finding that middle ground that won’t really offend anyone but won’t get many to take a second look either. So yes, it’s a pretty typical Acura product that way.
The cabin is also nice, with interesting but not ground-breaking styling and a decent grade of soft-touch materials nearly everywhere your hand might fall. As soon as you get in, you’ll notice surprising level of “stuff”. The keyless access and a push-button ignition are sweet, as are the sport seats with suede-trimmed panels and contrasting stitching. Power-adjustable, heated and with a driver’s side memory, I found these seats very comfortable, but with less supportive bolstering than you would expect in a sportier car. This theme will repeat itself.
I loved the fantastic steering wheel that benefits from good sculpting, a perfect size (in my opinion) and excellent grippiness. The gauges behind it are simple and clear as you’d expect from a Honda/Acura, and there’s a driver information screen between them. The dash houses the now-familiar two-screen system (the lower one is a touchscreen) and a rotary joystick input device along with some hard buttons – it manages your navigation, media, phone and settings. This set-up is not my favourite but in this instance, it felt less onerous to use than the one in the ILX’s big brother, the RLX. I thought the 10-speaker ELS sound system was pretty good. Below is a dual-zone automatic climate control system.
The centre console is home to the gear selector, a traditional parking brake lever and two cupholders. If you opt for the A-Spec package, Acura puts aluminum “sport” pedals under your feet which will automatically make your car faster. And there’s a small sunroof overhead.
Here’s some great news – the rear passenger area is surprisingly spacious in terms of leg room. Once you’re in, it feels like you’re sitting quite high up, which affords a nice view of the road ahead. The trade-off is that the head room is limited – there wasn’t even enough for me (at 5’10”) – my hair was touching the roof liner.
Another pleasant surprise – the middle position is usable for an adult – it’s wide enough and the centre console is up far enough so that there is enough room if you need to put someone in the middle. All three of my kids were fine back there, and we heard no complaints in terms of room. If you need them, there are two sets of LATCH anchors for children’s seats.
In terms of comfort or convenience, the ILX’s rear passenger compartment is barren – no air vents, no charging plug, nothing.
Smaller cars usually do well when it comes to storage around the cabin and the ILX is no exception. I liked the deep drop-in bin that is housed below the centre stack as well as the bin under the armrest lid with USB, auxiliary and 12V plugs.
Although the trunk seems small on paper at 348 litres, it actually feels quite useful. The rear seats do fold down allowing for a slim pass-through if you need to transport some longer items. It is an irritating process of pulling a lever in the trunk, then having to go to the rear seats to fold them down – also, they don’t fold flat.
The trunk arms are not shrouded so you’ll need to be careful not to put too much under them, as it will get pinched.
Under the Hood
Here’s some more news: an all-new drivetrain that pairs a 2.4-litre direct injection 4-cylinder with a slick 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The engine puts out 201 HP at 6800 RPM and 180 lb.ft of torque at 3600 RPM and the ILX is strictly front-wheel drive.
Fuel economy isn’t that impressive – the car is rated at 9.3 L/100 km (25 US mpg) in the city and 6.6 L/100 km (36 US mpg) on the highway. What did make me happy was that I ended up averaging 8.8 L/100 km (27 US mpg) during my week in the ILX, beating the rating by quite a bit.
I found the ILX enjoyable in a basic way when it came to the driving experience. It did plenty of things well, and didn’t really get anything wrong. The acceleration in the 3139 pound (1424 kg) sedan is surprisingly swift, especially off the line where the ILX jumps to attention without hesitation. Now when you’re on your way and need to dip into the power, the car definitely has to work harder and feels a bit sluggish until it downshifts a gear or two and winds up the RPMs.
The new 8-speed shifts quickly and is mostly smooth, but I did notice that it got a bit lurchy between first and second gears, especially at lower speeds. Occasionally I also found the transmission would hunt around, not really sure of what gear it needed to be in, but these instances were pretty rare. Paddle shifters allow for manual gear selection and reward the driver with quick shifts.
Sport mode is definitely transformative in this car, noticeably altering the responsiveness and changing the driving experience and I love how it doesn’t hesitate to shift down to the right gear. I enjoyed the Sport mode a lot and it’s a great way to step things up a bit.
Acura gives the ILX a firm suspension, but it always remained comfortable. The car drives well, and feels composed on the road – even at highway speeds. The handling is good but not as good as you might expect – somehow the ILX feels bigger and heavier than a Civic – push it and you’ll find plenty of understeer and more body roll than you might have anticipated. I felt that the car definitely leans toward comfort rather than sport but that it strikes a decent compromise between the two.
The car is very quiet. I heard some road noise but only on some surfaces so I’m blaming the winter tires. Visibility is pretty good, except the rear view is constricted by the head rests and the shoulder checking takes a hit from the rear pillars.
The 2016 ILX might be the best-equipped car I’ve ever driven when it comes to safety and driver assistance technology – and the bulk of it comes as standard equipment. In this top-level A-spec trim, the amount of tech is staggering.
It comes with the following: forward collision warning system, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and a multi-view backup camera. And adaptive cruise control. There is no doubt that Acura is definitely stepping up the technology game as the last few models I’ve driven have been loaded up with tech.
Most of it worked very well in the ILX and none of it was particularly intrusive.
So what do we have in the ILX? An enjoyable driving experience in a basic sort of way that gets almost everything right. A car that can be bought loaded-up enough to satisfy the biggest tech junkies out there. And luxury that definitely separates it from the entry-level. Looks like a stellar value at first glance.
But there are things to consider. First of all, the competition. It’s steep, particularly at this price level, and some of it offers things you simply can’t get in the ILX – like all-wheel drive. Secondly, the ILX presents a set of compromises that not everyone is going to be willing to settle for. Some will see it as a gussied-up Civic that costs way too much. Some will bemoan the lack of manual transmission – although they will be few and should realize that it wouldn’t have a positive impact on the car’s performance – not with the new 8-speed in place. Some will want more luxury, some will want more sport.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was middling. She felt it was a bit small for her, and she hated the two-screen situation. But she enjoyed the drive and said it felt expensive.
The ILX is a great little sedan that gets it right in almost every department. The question is whether the compromises between comfort and sport, the questionable value over a loaded-up Civic and the lack of sporting character matter more to you than the exceptional amount of available technology and overall adeptness at getting from point A to point B. It won’t be competitive to some buyers, yet it will be exactly the answer others are looking for.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Acura Canada.
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