Compact and Luxury Can Go Together

2013 Acura ILX.

We had a brief respite from this year’s steep and early climb in gas prices, with crude oil prices dropping way down and a subsequent reduction in the price at the pump. But then oil futures rebounded and now gasoline is going up again.

Most people probably weren’t fooled by the temporary well-below-four-bucks prices, and know deep down that inexpensive gasoline is a thing of the past. In survey after survey, most every potential car shopper states that improved gas mileage is on their priority list when they choose their next new vehicle.

Knowing this, and trying to gaze into their crystal ball, Acura has gotten back into the compact car segment, having left it some years ago with the discontinuation of their RSX two-door hatchback. It had essentially replaced the Integra in the Acura line, and that model was there from the get-go in 1986 when Honda created the brand.

For the 2013 model year, Acura had launched the ILX, which seemingly stands for nothing and could even be a roman numeral if you stare at the badge long enough, though I have no idea what “one sixty” would mean either.

Odd name aside, the ILX may be just what some buyers are looking for these days: an economy car and a luxury car rolled into one. The economy side comes from the car’s roots as a Honda Civic, with fuel-sipping engines under the hood, including a hot 200 horsepower sporty choice or a hybrid powertrain as another.

Acura’s stylists did a great job of hiding the ILX’s Civic beginnings, and the car is attractive both inside and out. The interior especially has the current Acura look, with a handsome twin-pod instrument panel and smartly arranged controls. The supportive seats are optionally covered in snappy leather, and special attention to sound deadening makes this entry level Acura very quiet inside.

I test drove an ILX with the base 2.0 liter four cylinder engine which produces 150 horsepower fed through a 5-speed automatic transmission. My first thought was that the car was going to be just so-so in acceleration, but it felt quite peppy, belying its rated power figure. Perhaps Acura’s throttle tuning and transmission gearing are just so spot-on that you’re getting the most out of the engine’s output.

The ride was surprisingly well sorted too, the car’s long wheelbase serving to soften the bumps and ripples of today’s dodgy road surfaces. So with quiet, smooth power and a smooth ride, the luxury part of the car’s persona are sufficiently there.

Another thing that makes a luxury car appealing is its features, and with the two rather steeply priced option packages, the ILX keeps right up with other luxury rides. An easy-to-use voice activation system in the Tech Package handles nearly all the features for you via one button on the steering wheel, from inputting navigation destinations to changing the music source for the audio system.

The base price for the ILX is an impressive $25,900, but that’s without the leather or the other goodies. To add those you need to tack on the Premium Package for $3,300 (which includes the heated leather seats and an active noise cancellation system that helps with the hushed interior), and the aforementioned Tech Package for $2,200. With both of those and destination, my test car’s sticker price topped $32,000.

If you want to go “greener” and opt for the ILX Hybrid (38 mpg combined compared to 35 for the standard car – not a huge improvement), that base price is $28,900, and the junior sport sedan variant with the rev-happy 2.4 liter from the Civic Si starts at $29,200, though that model comes standard with the Premium Package.

Not only was I really impressed with the ILX’s efforts at being a baby luxury car, I was equally impressed at how little fuel it used. I averaged just over 30 miles per gallon in mixed driving, and I wasn’t necessarily trying to economize.

I have a feeling Acura is going to have a bit of a hit on its hands with the ILX. This morning I drove past my favorite discount gas station, and they’ve raised the prices yet again. No big deal, huh? They had also just raised them yesterday.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave

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