Though a way off from being the best, the Acura ILX is still capable enough to be an intriguing alternative.
In a class like the premium compact car sector, the Acura ILX was always going to struggle. The likes of the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA have the best-in-class bases covered already, with capable alternatives like the BMW 2 Series and Lexus CT making it even harder for the Acura. That’s not to say the Acura ILX isn’t without merit. On the contrary, it’s a very refined sedan that’s pleasant to use on longer journeys, and it’s also quite affordable to buy and run for a vehicle in this segment. As a result, whilst we wouldn’t immediately recommend one, the Acura ILX is a good alternative option.
The only caveat in this regard is the dual-screen infotainment interface.
One of the more prominent downsides to the Acura ILX is that it doesn’t have the most upmarket-feeling interior in this segment. In comparison with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3, the Acura ILX does feature trim plastics that don’t feel of a grade you’d expect from a vehicle in this class. That said, the interior itself does feel well put together, so there shouldn’t be any concerns of trim pieces becoming loose over your ownership period. Also worth mentioning are the good-for-the-most-part controls, which are well laid out and intuitive to operate. The only caveat in this regard is the dual-screen infotainment interface, which isn’t particularly easy to use – especially for those who haven’t interacted with the system before. Thankfully, the Acura ILX does claw back some ground with the front seats. On top of being nicely padded, the seats also offer good amounts of bolstering and support, so are comfortable to spend longer journeys in. Having good amounts of overall adjustment is also pretty handy, and there’s a ample head and leg room on offer up front. Even the storage cubbies like the front door bins and the glove box are of a handy size.
The rear row is certainly wide enough.
Sadly, the same can’t quite be said of the rear seat accommodation. Though the rear row is certainly wide enough to fit three adults in relative-by-compact-car-standards comfort, the limited amounts of head and leg room do mean taller passengers will feel rather hemmed in when sitting in the back. Likewise, the trunk isn’t all that big either at just 12.3 cubic feet (for reference, a Mercedes-Benz CLA offers 13.1 cubic feet of space), and the trunk opening isn’t particularly broad either. You can extend the load bay even further, however, by folding the rear seats flat. However, whilst it’s standard for vehicles in this class to have 60:40 or 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats to improve the versatility, the Acura ILX only has a one-piece rear seat back.
If you’re a compact sedan buyer who regularly makes long journeys on the highway, the Acura ILX will be very well suited to your needs.
If it’s (relative) driving thrills you’re after in this segment, then the Acura ILX may not be the compact sedan for you. Whilst it’s by no means a boring or unintuitive vehicle to drive, thanks to aspects like its direct steering and good body control, the likes of the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series are a bit more responsive to driver inputs and feel that bit more hunkered down to the road. Where the Acura ILX makes a very pleasing impression, however, is with regards to refinement, with the well-suppressed wind noise being a particular highlight (even though the Audi A3 does have the edge in this regard). In summary, if you’re a compact sedan buyer who regularly makes long journeys on the highway, the Acura ILX will be very well suited to your needs.
The ride can become quite bouncy and choppy on bumpier sections of asphalt.
A shame, then, that the ride quality isn’t brilliant on the Acura ILX. Whilst it’s smooth enough on less abrasive road surfaces and at highway speeds, the ride can become quite bouncy and choppy on bumpier sections of asphalt. For sure, the comfy seats do take the edge out of most of the sharper jolts, but the firmness is still disappointing to see in a premium compact sedan. Overall visibility isn’t amazing either, with the chunky rear pillars in particular generating a sizeable blind spot. That said, every other vehicle in this segment also suffers from this problem, and it’s worth pointing out that the sizeable windows and windshield do provide a good view out in this regard.
The only engine available in the Acura ILX is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine.
The only engine available in the Acura ILX is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, and it’s a decent-albeit-flawed system overall. For instance, with outputs of 201-hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, the four-cylinder unit does have okay power to call upon, but isn’t anything special in this class of car. With those peak outputs available higher up in the rev range, the Acura ILX’s engine does need to be worked relatively hard in order to extract the most from it – and does sound a bit strained when doing so. In comparison, the turbocharged offerings in rival cars offer more power and torque across more of the rev range (especially low down) and as such won’t need to be worked as hard. That said, the 2.4-liter does settle down at a cruising speed, and is overall fairly smooth when you’re not demanding too much from it. It’s just a shame the limited power it produces dampens its appeal.
With claims of 25mpg in the city and 35mpg on the highway, the Acura ILX is amongst the most efficient vehicles in this segment.
Fuel economy, though, is much more agreeable. With claims of 25mpg in the city and 35mpg on the highway, the Acura ILX is amongst the most efficient vehicles in this segment (for comparison, the most frugal Mercedes-Benz CLA can return 26mpg in the city and 38mpg on the highway). Arguably the highlight of the Acura ILX’s powertrain, though, is its eight-speed automatic transmission. The amount of gear ratios to choose from means the driver should be able to keep the engine in its optimum power band for most of the time, and the gear changes are very smooth and seamless. Acura ILX drivers can also use paddles mounted behind the steering wheel to select the gears manually if they so wish, and the gearbox responds very quickly to shifter paddle inputs.
Regarding options, only two packages are worth specifying in our opinion: the £1,300 AcuraWatch Plus Package and the $2,000 Premium package.
Though far from being the most affordable car on sale today, the Acura ILX does represent fairly good value in the premium compact sedan class. With a starting price of $27,990, the entry-level Acura ILX is noticeably cheaper to buy in comparison with the like-for-like Mercedes-Benz CLA ($32,400), Audi A3 sedan ($31,200) and BMW 2 Series ($33,150). You also get quite a lot of kit for that low-by-class-standards MSRP. All Acura ILXs come with heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera, keyless entry and heated side mirrors, which is pretty good by class standards. In fact, the only unusual omission from the standard equipment spec list are rear parking sensors – though they can be added as an optional extra for a relatively reasonable $528. Regarding options, only two packages are worth specifying in our opinion: the £1,300 AcuraWatch Plus Package and the $2,000 Premium package. Items such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and autonomous low speed emergency braking are included in the former, whereas the admittedly harder-to-justify latter package adds leather upholstery, satellite radio and blind spot monitoring to the mix. Of the two, we’re more inclined to recommend the AcuraWatch package due to the amount of safety gear it includes.
You’ll have a safe compact sedan on your hands.
Regardless of which Acura ILX you go for, you’ll have a safe compact sedan on your hands. As a result of standard-fit features like stability control and front, side and curtain airbags, the Acura ILX was able to score the full five stars in its most recent crash test. The Acura ILX also has a very strong reliability record, so there shouldn’t be any need to make a claim on the four-years/50,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and six-years/70,000-miles powertrain warranties. Better still, the Acura ILX also has pretty good predicted residual values, so you should be able to get back most of the money you originally spent on the car come resale time.
Overall, the Acura ILX isn’t quite a car we can recommend over all the other offerings in this class. Though it is undoubtedly more affordable to buy and shouldn’t be expensive to fill up with gas, the flaws it has in other areas means we can’t call it the best premium compact sedan you can buy. However, there is a lot to like about other aspects of the Acura ILX. Its refinement levels are pretty impressive by segment standards, for instance, and a good amount of kit comes on the car as standard. Plus, the automatic transmission is so good that it almost makes up for the slightly underpowered engine. In summary, the Acura ILX has too many blemishes to be considered the top vehicle in this segment. However, if your budget can’t quite stretch to the other sedans in this class or you’re after something a bit less obvious than a Mercedes-Benz or Audi, then it is worth having a closer look at the Acura ILX.