The 2019 Acura ILX arrives with a completely fresh face and a $2,200 price cut to take on the premium subcompact sedan segment, but it's still based on the same old bones of the previous generation Honda Civic, trying to remain relevant with updated tech and safety. It's got the Audi A3 sedan and new Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan to battle with so the ILX has a tough task ahead of it in the premium segment. Fortunately, a redesign isn't all the ILX packs for 2019, as it now features an updated interior, a revised infotainment system, more features than ever, and standard AcuraWatch safety features to bolster the value proposition. Based on the previous generation Honda Civic, the ILX still soldiers on with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter motor, which could be to its detriment against turbocharged rivals.
The 2019 ILX has been redesigned almost entirely in order to bring the styling in line with the rest of the six-strong Acura model line-up. It ditches the old Honda-derived beak grille, replacing it with the new Acura Diamond Pentagon grille. Flanking the grille, the Jewel Eye headlights feature seven LED projectors apiece, continuing the lines of the grille and drawing the eye outwards to provide the IX with a wide, aggressive front fascia.
Around the back, there's a new deck lid, LED taillights to complement the headlights, and a new lower diffuser featuring a single chrome exhaust tip on the right-hand side. A sharp, angular design gives the 2019 model an identity of its own and a more aggressive, sporting appeal. 17-inch alloy wheels are standard with a Glitter Silver color, with optional 17- and 18-inch accessory wheels available at extra cost to give the ILX more style.
Standard models can be had in one of five colors: Platinum White Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic, Majestic Black Pearl, and Performance Red Pearl. Equipping the Premium Package unlocks access to Canyon Bronze Metallic, while the A-Spec Package offers Apex Blue Pearl as a unique premium paint finish.
The A-Spec also gives the ILX sportier exterior styling cues, including dark 18-inch alloys, gloss black trim elements, LED fog lights, new side skirts, and an integrated trunk lid spoiler. The Premium Package, in addition to the Canyon Bronze Metallic finish, also swaps out the standard 17-inch Glitter Silver wheels for 17-inch alloys finished in Pewter Gray.
From 2016 onwards, the ILX has been available with just one drivetrain. A naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder rests under the hood, developing 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Those outputs offer more power than the base A3 and A-Class sedans, but the Acura is down on torque without a turbocharger. The ILX directs its power to the front wheels through an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, while rivals offer all-wheel drive.
As for fuel economy, a mix of highway and city driving yields average consumption of 28 mpg, giving ILX drivers up to 370 miles range from the 13.2-gallon capacity fuel tank. A comparably-powered Audi A3 sedan, in front-wheel drive guise, affords up to 420 miles with consumption estimates of 29 mpg using a 14.5-gallon tank.
While the ILX's drivetrain is proven in numerous offerings from Honda and Acura over the years, and it does offer a fairly decent power output, it's let down by the lack of torque compared to turbocharged rivals. It's happy to rev out towards redline, in fact after 4,000 rpm is where the engine responds best and delivers the most power, but Acura wouldn't be amiss to equip the ILX with the turbocharged 1.5-liter from the new Honda Civic. The 2.4 feels a little flat, particularly when overtaking, and when accelerating from standstill it takes a while to get going without much urgency to it whatsoever. The dual-clutch transmission, however, is up to the task of managing gear ratios efficiently and keeping the motor on the boil, shifting smoothly and rapidly. It's a high point of the ILX's drivetrain, but it's merely one good feature trying to cover up for an outdated engine.
Acura could also be easily criticised for the lack of an all-wheel drive setup. The front-wheel drivetrain is an ideal one for economy, but those living in colder or wetter areas might appreciate the choice between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive - something rivals from both Audi and Mercedes-Benz offer.
The Acura ILX may be a premium subcompact, but it's based on the old Honda Civic platform and Acura hasn't been able to rid the cabin of its cheapness. Main touchpoints like the steering wheel and the arm rests are soft to the touch, but most of the interior panels feel plasticky and hollow. They also tend to rattle on the move, suggesting they're built to the standard of a 2012 compact hatchback, which the Civic was. The design looks good though, a carryover in almost all aspects from the pre-facelift Acura ILX, which was never a bad looking cabin to spend some time in. However, the cabin feels feels cramped in comparison to more contemporary rivals, particularly due to the standard sunroof intruding on headroom.
With a 5-inch lower screen on the base model and a 7-inch touchscreen from Premium trim upwards, occupants will need to spend some time working out which screen displays what information and controls. The 7-inch lower touchscreen infotainment system now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and sees new graphics and improved response times said to be up to 30% quicker than last year's model, but it's not entirely noticeable and the system works about as well as the segment average infotainment system does. The upper 8-inch screen is standard on all trim lines and features a USB port, Bluetooth, and Siri Eyes Free.
Ingress and egress to and from the front seats are made easy enough by tall door openings and high seats that don't require too hefty a drop. The rear seats are a little more difficult to climb in and out of, requiring occupants to duck to avoid knocking their head. Once inside, the high seating position should give a commanding view, but the A-pillars are positioned awkwardly and hamper forward visibility around corners. The height of the driver's perch also isn't the greatest driving position, too high up to get a good feel for the drive; but the 2019 redesign sees new sports seats that offer more comfort and better bolstering, and are standard across the range, with leatherette upholstery on the base model and leather on all others.
While legroom is decent up front, headroom is impeded, not only by the high seating position but because of the standard power sunroof and its mechanism which impedes headroom further. The armrests and surrounding controls also feel too low for the seating position, which can be a little awkward, particularly on long journeys where you'd really like to 'settle in' and get comfortable.
The rear of the cabin is a major flaw for the ILX, with cramped quarters a carryover from an old platform under the new skin that is really beginning to show its age. Two average-sized adults will fit in the rear of the ILX, but 34-inches of rear legroom is still cramped, and anyone taller than average will notice a lack of headroom.
The Acura ILX is a flawed vehicle, most of those flaws owing to the old bones beneath a fresh skin. But despite the age of the platform, the storage capacity is about par for the segment, with the 12.4 cubic feet of storage space in the ILX enough to take all you need for a weekend away for two, and providing slightly more space than an Audi A3. It's still more cramped than the 13.1 cubic feet the Mercedes-Benz CLA offers - the Merc compromising rear legroom for the extra storage capacity.
The rear seatback folds to open up more storage, but not in a 60/40 split, which is a compromise for buyers with families and a problem most rivals don't pose with their 60/40 split benches. In a vehicle that will likely attract buyers with families, access of the rear seat is a must have, so the 60/40 split not being available is a massive oversight.
The Acura ILX makes do with a naturally aspirated motor in times when turbocharging has become the norm. It's lacking in torque and requires the tach to be kept above the 4000 rpm mark to maintain momentum, and admittedly once you're past that point the engine is responsive and fairly eager. But as a result of it needing to be wound out all the way, and still being down on torque, it lacks strong pull-away from standstill and overtaking maneuvers require a fair bit of foresight and engagement of the correct gear well beforehand.
The dual-clutch automatic transmission - the only gearbox available - does a fine job of keeping the engine on the boil but without compromising on comfort as it shifts almost imperceptibly. In Sport mode it'll hang onto a lower gear to make the most of the torque on offer, while you'll find that in regular driving modes it shifts frequently to try and ensure the motor remains in its most efficient rev range.
The ILX is geared towards comfort far more than performance, and to that end so is the suspension setup, which offers a supple, compliant ride without being overly floaty and disconnected from the road. It's definitely tuned for comfort, and benefits from the old Civic underpinnings by striking a fine balance between comfort and composure. But while the ILX's suspension filters out road imperfections, the rest of the ILX does a poor job of filtering out road and tire noise compared to other premium rivals. In fact on anything other than mirror smooth roads, the noise that permeates the cabin makes the ILX feel cheap, even if the bumps themselves aren't getting through. It's the weakest aspect of the ILX's ride, and is made worse by the fact that some of the plastic panels tend to rattle over bumpy roads. Higher speeds also yield substantial wind noise, as you can hear the airflow over the windscreen and side mirrors.
Performance isn't really at the forefront of the ILX's repertoire, and the drive isn't one that emphasizes fun jaunts along a twisty road. The steering is light, offering minor feedback but requiring minimal effort. This makes it agile at low speeds but uninspiring at pace - ideal for a comfortable commuter. It's not the kind of steering that builds trust though, so you're never searching for the limits of the ILX's handling ability and feel very divorced from the whole experience. The brakes are strong and offer great pedal modulation without being grabby or overly servoed, and under emergency braking they act quickly and without pulling the vehicle to one side or the other.
Honda, and in turn Acura, has a reputation for reliability which bodes well for the ILX, though a few rattling interior panels did suggest some poor quality materials that may pose a problem further down the line. The mechanical side of things is fairly well proven and shouldn't have too many problems. Though the 2019 model hasn't been rated, the 2018 ILX, which was mechanically identical, was rated by J.D. Power & Associates as having a predicted reliability score of 3.5/5 which is about par for the segment.
In terms of warranties, Acura covers the ILX with a four-year/50,000 mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Pricing for the 2019 Acura ILX starts at $25,900 for the base Standard trim, which offers a power moonroof, LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, leatherette trimmed sports seats, 8-way power adjustment with lumbar support on the driver's seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and adaptive cruise control, making it a well equipped entry-spec model and our pick of the lot.
The Premium trim sets you back $27,650 and features Standard equipment, plus Pewter Gray finished alloys, perforated Milano leather upholstery, driver seat memory, a 4-way power adjustable front passenger seat, a 7-speaker premium audio system, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
A step up to Technology trim will cost you a further $1,900, endowing the ILX with a 10-speaker ELS Studio premium sound system, auxiliary input jack, Song By Voice, Acura Navigation with real-time traffic information, AcuraLink connected services, and dynamic guidelines on the reverse camera that is otherwise standard on all models.
The A-Spec ILX is really just a sporty appearance package for the ILX, but one that'll cost you $29,650 with the Premium equipment package and $31,550 with the Technology package. The A-Spec equips 18-inch alloy wheels, dark chrome body detailing, LED fog lights, piano black decklid spoiler, A-Spec specific side skirts, A-Spec seats trimmed with Ultrasuede, a leather-wrapped A-Spec steering wheel, and numerous sporty touches like stainless steel sports pedals, and a red instrument panel. The Technology package equips all the extra kit equipped to the Technology trim listed above, with the same $1,900 price premium.
The Acura ILX should be playing in the premium segment but doesn't make the grade. The rest of the package has failed to live up to the exciting new looks, with the result being the 2019 ILX feels like an old car trying to remain relevant when the rest of the world has simply moved on. The aged, previous generation Honda Civic platform and build quality make the ILX feel tacky, and the ergonomics are behind the times. It might well be a well-equipped vehicle, but against the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class sedan, it's definitely found wanting with an archaic drivetrain and uninspiring drive. For the same money as the Premium ILX you could have a fully loaded Civic Sedan in Touring trim, which offers improved ergonomics, interior space, a turbocharged engine, a vastly better, more engaging driving experience, and a far more premium feel overall. The premium badge on the nose doesn't cut it here - which is a great disappointment given the new look is thoroughly impressive.