2021 Acura ILX

2021 Acura ILX Review: Premium Light

by Gerhard Horn

Acura is regarded as a premium brand, competing with the likes of Audi and BMW, and the Acura ILX is the cheapest way to buy in. However, it faces some formidable competition like the Audi A3 Sedan and the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. The ILX has also been tasked with luring new, younger customers to the brand with the hope that the rest of the stable will then keep them buying Acuras for years to come. To that end, it's a handsome vehicle that's well-equipped and more affordable than the Germans.

Unfortunately, it's let down by a low-quality interior and an asthmatic, old-school 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. This is far from ideal in a segment where most competitors, including the Honda Civic, have moved on to low-displacement turbocharged powertrains. To top it all off, the ILX feels older than its rivals because it was originally built on the old Civic platform. So, does it have what it takes to achieve the goals it was designed for? Probably not.

2021 Acura ILX: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Acura ILX?

The ILX received a comprehensive update in 2019. Nothing has been changed for 2021.

Pros and Cons

  • Attractive price for a premium brand
  • Lots of convenience and safety features as standard
  • Handsome exterior
  • Slick dual-clutch transmission
  • Engine lacks torque
  • Cheap feeling interior
  • Limited space for rear passengers
  • Some road noise intrudes into the cabin

Best Deals on ILX

2021 Acura ILX Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.4L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$26,100
Premium Package
2.4L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$28,100
Premium & A-Spec Package
2.4L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$30,100
Technology & A-Spec Package
2.4L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$32,000

ILX Sedan Exterior

The ILX is a prime example of stylish sedan design. The front end features Acura's diamond pentagon grille, flanked by the equally distinctive Jewel Eye headlights. All models come standard with a chrome exhaust tip and a power moonroof. The standard wheels are 17-inch Glitter Silver Alloys, but the 18-inch Shark Gray wheels and piano black rear diffuser included with the A-Spec package do the design justice.

2021 Acura ILX Front View Acura
2021 Acura ILX Rear View Acura
2021 Acura ILX Front Angle View Acura
See All 2021 Acura ILX Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Acura ILX is 182.2 inches long with a wheelbase of 105.1 inches. It's 55.6 inches tall and has a width of 70.6 inches. The base model weighs 3,095 pounds while adding both the Technology and A-Spec Packages increases that figure to 3,148 lbs. The newer Honda Civic uses an all-new platform with a 106.3-inch wheelbase. The ILX has noticeably larger dimensions than the Germanic duo. The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is 178.5 inches long, while the Audi A3 is quite small at 175.5 inches.

  • Length 182.2 in
  • Wheelbase 105.1 in
  • Height 55.6 in
  • Max Width 70.6 in
  • Front Width 59.4 in
  • Rear Width 60.2 in
  • Curb Weight 3,095.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

The standard ILX is available in six colors, none of which are particularly striking. Lunar Silver and Modern Steel are the only no-cost metallic options, with Platinum White Pearl, Majestic Black, and Performance Red all costing an additional $500. Apex Blue Pearl requires adding the Premium Package, as well as the A-Spec Package.

  • Performance Red Pearl
  • Majestic Black Pearl
  • Platinum White Pearl
  • Apex Blue Pearl
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Lunar Silver Metallic

ILX Performance

The ILX is powered by a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder that develops 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. As these figures suggest, the ILX is not short of power, especially considering the relatively low curb weight. It does fall short when it comes to low-down torque, though. Over the years, we've grown accustomed to turbocharged engines providing a decent whack of torque from just above idle speeds. In stark contrast, you have to rev this 2.4-liter unit to get the best out of it. It would have been epic fun in a two-seater (can we please get a new S2000?), but in a luxury sedan, it just feels like a chore. Acura doesn't provide performance claims, but independent tests have shown that it can get from 0 to 60 mph in roughly seven seconds. That's pretty much par in this segment, but due to the nature of the power delivery in the turbocharged Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, they feel more enthusiastic.

2021 Acura ILX Front View Driving Acura
2021 Acura ILX Rear Angle View Acura
2021 Acura ILX Engine Acura

Engine and Transmission

The Acura ILX only has one engine option - a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter four-pot with 201 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that sends the power to the front wheels exclusively. Historically speaking, Honda's VTEC engines have all been characterful but gave their best at well over 4,000 rpm. But we now live in a world where turbocharging is the norm. Heck, even the famous Civic Type R has been turbocharged for two generations.

With most of the power only available above 4,000 rpm, the ILX can be annoying in town. The gearbox does its best to make up for the lack of low-down torque, but at the end of the day, there's no getting around it. On the flip side, the ILX can be fun on the open road where the driver has more room to travel at top speed and explore the engine's rev-happy nature.

The gearbox is a peach, shifting quickly and effortlessly. It has a Sport mode, but this simply forces it to cling onto a gear until the pistons are dancing on the hood. Once again, extremely effective in a low-weight performance car, but not so much when it comes to luxury motoring. The ILX package would be vastly improved by adding a turbocharged engine to the mix.

  • Engine
    2.4L Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The previous-generation Civic was a decent all-rounder, and some of those characteristics have filtered through to the ILX. The platform isn't completely devoid of feel and provides some semblance of feedback. It can be an enjoyable car to drive, but it's no sports sedan.

The suspension tune is biased toward comfort more than anything else. Bumps and ruts are dealt with smoothly. If only Acura spent as much time on cabin insulation. Wind and road noise are noticeable at freeway speed, which is not ideal for a car with a premium label attached to it. The brakes are easy to modulate and offer sufficient bite under normal conditions and during an emergency stop. We'd advise you to take the Acura for a test drive to see if the refinement levels meet your standards.

ILX Gas Mileage

The Acura ILX has acceptable mileage figures given the size of the engine. EPA estimates give it 24/34/28 mpg for city/highway/combined. That makes it ever so slightly more efficient than the more powerful 228i Gran Coupe's 24/33/28 mpg. Still, it's worth looking at the current Honda Civic figures to get a sense of what can be achieved with a modern turbocharged engine, namely 31/40/34 mpg when combined with a CVT transmission. The ILX has a 13.2-gallon tank that's good for 370 miles between refills.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    13.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 24/34 mpg
* 2021 Acura ILX FWD

ILX Interior

The ILX's old bones are immediately apparent once you step inside. Its more modern competitors have all moved over to the current minimalist trend, while the ILX's dash is still adorned with buttons.

The exterior size doesn't match up with the available room on the inside. Space in the front is fine, though the seats could do with more support. However, The rear legroom is exceptionally tight.The dual-screen infotainment system (included with Premium Package) is an odd one. It's clunky, and if you look at the lower screen placement, it's fairly evident that it was an afterthought - a modern feature placed on an old existing interior.

The ILX comes standard with a power-adjustable driver's seat, heating for the front seats, and a power moonroof.

2021 Acura ILX Dashboard Acura
2021 Acura ILX Steering Wheel Controls Acura
2021 Acura ILX Armrest Storage Acura
See All 2021 Acura ILX Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The ILX is technically a five-seater, but you'd have to be a cruel individual to force three people in the back. The standard moonroof means you only get 38 inches of headroom in the front and 35.9 inches in the back. The front legroom is a rather generous 42.3 inches, but the rear is extremely cramped, offering just 34 inches.

The driver's seating position is relatively high, even with the eight-way power-adjustable seat in the lowest setting. Getting in and out is easy enough, and visibility is good all around.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.3 in
  • Front Head Room 38.0 in
  • Rear Leg Room 34.0 in
  • Rear Head Room 35.9 in

Interior Colors and Materials

As standard, the ILX comes with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The base model is only available with Ebony leatherette upholstery, which creates a dark atmosphere. There are some silver and chrome finishes that spruce it up a bit, but you have to opt for either the Premium or A-Spec Package for a striking interior ambiance. The former adds Graystone, Ebony, or Espresso leather seats, while the latter (which requires the Premium Spec as well) comes with red leather upholstery and Ultrasuede trimming.

ILX Trunk and Cargo Space

The ILX has 12.4 cubes to work with. That's on par for the segment and can accommodate two suitcases or a week's worth of groceries. Oddly, the rear seats don't fold down in a split, which is not a feature you think about until you don't have it. Transporting something large while having enough space left over for one or two people is something we take for granted, and it's deeply annoying not having this feature.

The interior storage consists of a center armrest with a storage bin, a rear center armrest with dual cupholders, and door pockets.

2021 Acura ILX Front Seats Acura
2021 Acura ILX Rear Passenger Seats Acura
2021 Acura ILX Trunk Space Acura
  • Trunk Volume
    12.4 ft³

ILX Infotainment and Features

Features

For the price, the ILX gets a fair number of standard specs. These include keyless entry, push-button start system, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, ambient lighting, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and hill start assist. The available Premium and Technology packages add more comfort and convenience, while the A-Spec adds a few sporty cosmetic features.

Infotainment

As standard, the ILX gets a top-mounted five-inch display sans touch functionality. It ships standard with Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary and USB inputs, and a CD frontloader. The latter is increasingly becoming a rare sight in the automotive world. To get access to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and HD radio, you have to pay an additional $2,000 for the Premium Package.

This changes the infotainment system to a dual-screen setup, which, to be frank, is the less user-friendly of the two configurations. The ILX would have been much better off with a single touchscreen interface. The Technology Package adds navigation with a 3D view, real-time traffic information, and a premium sound system with ten speakers.

ILX Problems and Reliability

The Acura ILX only scored 77 out of a possible 100 points in the J.D. Power Survey during its first year on sale. The score has since increased to 81 and has remained static for 2021.

The upside of using a more senior platform is that the kinks have all been ironed out. For 2021, the ILX remains recall-free, as it was in 2020, proving its reliability. In 2019, however, it was recalled twice. The first was for an inaccurate fuel gauge reading, and the second for a separated driveshaft that could cause a loss of drive or the car to roll even when park is engaged.

A new Acura ILX receives a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    6 Years \ 70,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles

ILX Safety

Safety reviews of the ILX are mixed, but mostly positive.The NHTSA's review of the Acura ILX returned an overall rating of five stars. Drilling down into the subcategories, it scored four out of five stars in the overall front crash tests, the full five stars for a side impact, and four stars for a rollover. The IIHS gave the Acura a Good rating in most departments, but it received a Poor for the LED headlights.

Key Safety Features

Acura's ILX has a generous mix of traditional and modern safety kit. Front, front side, and curtain bags are standard. ABS with EBD is included, as is hill-start assist. The driver assistance features fall under the name AcuraWatch. In the ILX, the standard systems include collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, road departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning, and a multi-view rearview camera. The available packages add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Acura ILX a good car?

With the 2021 Acura ILX, we recommend not judging a book by its cover, but not in a good way. The cover is exceptionally handsome. You get lots of standard features and excellent safety.

But once you start reading between the lines, things start falling apart quickly. Acura saved a chunk of money by building the ILX on the previous-generation Civic platform, but that saving was unfortunately not put to good use.

The interior is too small, the material quality is below par, and the cabin becomes noisy the faster you go. Making a long trip in this car would be mentally exhausting. The infotainment system is more of the same. It seems appealing at face value, but you soon realize that it would have been better just to have a single touchscreen display. Compared to its German rivals, the ILX just feels like a poorly developed, unpolished, rushed attempt at building a competitor. To be fair, the Germans are around $7,000 more expensive, and they'll charge you extra for several features that are standard on the Acura.

Unfortunately for Acura, the Honda Civic still exists in the USA. It offers everything the Acura does at an even more reasonable price. We can't think of a single reason why you'd have the ILX over the Civic.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Acura ILX?

The base price of the Acura ILX is $26,100 MSRP, excluding the destination charge of $1,025 in the US. With the Premium Package included, it retails for $28,100. The A-Spec Package can't be included without having the Premium Package and takes the price up to $30,100. A fully-loaded ILX with the Premium, Technology, and A-Spec packages included retails for $32,000. Even at the latter price, the Acura ILX represents good value for how much you get.

2021 Acura ILX Models

Acura doesn't follow the standard car buying procedure of offering four or five trims and then some additional packages. Instead, you start with the base car, and then add a selection of packages.

The base unit is already handsomely equipped, offering LED headlights, 17-inch alloys, a power moonroof, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, and a comprehensive suite of advanced driver assistance safety features.

The Premium Package is the only one that can be ordered by itself. If you opt for the A-Spec Package, you have to add the Premium Package as well. Similarly, if you want the Technology Package, you have to pay for the other two as well.

See All 2021 Acura ILX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The Premium Package ($2,000) is the only standalone package available, but it is a reasonably comprehensive option. It includes perforated leather with contrast stitching and piping, memory for the driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, a seven-speaker sound system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, HD Radio, and the dual-infotainment display.

The A-Spec Package is a purely cosmetic option, adding 18-inch Shark Gray alloy wheels, LED fog lights, a Dark Chrome grille, a Piano Black rear diffuser, Dark Chrome headlights and taillights, and A-Spec badges, to name just a few. The interior is enhanced as well. Upgrades include premium leather and Ultrasuede upholstery, a leather-wrapped model-specific steering wheel, ebony headliner, a model-specific instrument cluster illumination, and stainless steel sports pedals.

🚗What Acura ILX Model Should I Buy?

The Acura's main aim is to provide a premium badge at a reasonable price. Since value for money is its number one positive attribute, we'd recommend only adding the Premium Package to the car. It adds the most critical convenience features, like smartphone compatibility, a decent sound system, and blind-spot monitoring.

2021 Acura ILX Comparisons

Acura TLX CarBuzz
Honda Civic Sedan Honda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Acura ILX201 hp24/34 mpg$26,100
Acura TLX 272 hp22/31 mpg$37,500
Honda Civic Sedan 158 hp30/37 mpg$21,700

2021 Acura ILX vs Acura TLX

The previous-generation TLX's entry-level pricing kicked off at almost the same price as a fully-loaded ILX. For 2021, there's an all-new TLX, and it's a whole new ballgame. The TLX used to have the same engine option as the ILX, but it now comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot with 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. The TLX is more handsome, is better built, and provides the same comprehensive features list as the base ILX, including AcuraWatch. Being the more modern offering, it also beats the ILX when it comes to infotainment and interior space.

The downside is the new entry-level price of $37,500. That's a big leap in price over an ILX equipped with a Premium Package. If you can afford it, then it's definitely worth it, but if you can't and have to have an Acura, the ILX is the good runner-up.

See Acura TLX Review

2021 Acura ILX vs Honda Civic Sedan

It's an unfair battle between these two, as it's essentially old vs new. Unfortunately for Acura, it's a comparison we have to make. What makes it even more unfortunate is that the current Civic sedan is arguably the segment leader. You can tell from the get-go that the Civic is a more polished product. How could it not be, as it's essentially an ILX, but one generation ahead in terms of every department that matters. The Acura offers perforated leather seats, but the Civic has a more solid interior. Honda also gives you the same sort of specification level, including the safety kit.

The 1.5-liter engine may seem small compared to the Acura's 2.4-liter engine, but it feels more potent due to turbocharging. The final nail in the coffin is the Civic's lower retail price. The battle between the two cousins is like a slugfest between the High School Musical version of Zac Efron and Dwayne The Rock Johnson.

See Honda Civic Sedan Review

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$26,100 - $32,000
Price Range (MSRP)
Acura ILX
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