2013 Acura ILX Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
September 6, 2012

The 2013 Acura ILX is a balanced, if compromised, entry-level/near-luxury sedan that combines fun and style for an affordable price.

Acura has had a hard time building and maintaining a brand identity over the past decade. Itself unsure of whether it should strive for "Tier 1" luxury status or position itself as a near-luxury, high-tech brand for up-and-coming professionals and hip retirees, its product has reflected this lack of direction. The 2013 ILX continues this confusion, especially in light of the coming reborn NSX, but it's worth evaluating the smallest Acura sedan on its own merits.

Based not-so-loosely on the latest generation of the Honda Civic, the ILX nonetheless has its own face: a more toned-down, widely-palatable version of the chromed plastic grille Acura introduced a few years ago. The fenders swell gently from the sides, there are character lines to accent its shape, and the greenhouse arches gracefully ove the passenger compartment. On the whole it's a handsome, if not lust-inducing, sedan. Inside, it looks like a typical Acura: edgy curves, contoured surfaces, and easy-to-read gauges. It's a pleasant place to travel.

There are three versions of the ILX available, named for their drivetrains: the 2.0L, the 2.4L, and the Hybrid. The 2.0L offers a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter engine rated at 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic with paddle shifters is standard. It scores an EPA-estimated gas mileage rating of 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.

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The 2.4L is the sporty model, with what is essentially the Civic Si's 201-horsepower, 170-pound-foot 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual transmission--no automatic is offered with this model. It's the fun-to-drive version, but you'll have to sacrifice more creature comforts than the automatic transmission to get it, but more on that later. It's rated at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Finally, the ILX Hybrid gets its go from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an integrated hybrid drive system and continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total combined power is rated at 111 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. The EPA estimates gas mileage at 39 mpg city  and 38 mpg highway.

All three share the same basic lightweight chassis, which means all three feel nimble enough in the corners, and brake very well. The suspension tuning on the 2.4L the same as the other two models, and falls short of true sport-sedan feel. The 2.0L and Hybrid models put comfort above outright pace, and succeed in delivering smooth, even ride quality. While the 2.4L is the sportiest model, the 2.0L is also fun-to-drive, with enough pep for most people and somewhat better gas mileage. The Hybrid, on the other hand, feels very slow in many situations--too slow even for fast-flowing suburban traffic at times.

Inside, the cabin is comfortable and spacious--surprisingly so in the rear seats, with enough room even for taller adults to fit comfortably. Ergonomically, things are laid out very well, with all controls easy to identify and use without taking one's eyes from the road. Fit and finish is also very good, with solid-feeling construction and quality materials (plastic, rubber, and leather) in all touch-points. Cabin noise is low, though not quite mausoleum-quiet like you'll find in some luxury cars a bit farther up the ladder, including Acura's own.

There's also a fairly roomy trunk, ample in-cabin storage in cubbies and door pockets, with well-placed cup holders. Cargo volume is a solid 12.4 cubic feet (10.0 cubic feet for the Hybrid, which places the battery pack behind the rear seats). Visibility is very good thanks to the large windows and well-placed seating position.

Features and options for the 2013 Acura ILX are grouped neatly into packages: Premium and Technology. The Premium Package includes leather seating surfaces; eight-way power adjustable driver seat; two-way heated front seats; a premium sound system with Bluetooth, USB, and Pandora functionality; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; a multi-view rear camera; and on non-Hybrid models, an active sound cancellation system that further damps noise within the cabin. The Technology Package includes: navigation with voice recognition, a rear-view camera, real-time traffic/weather, and AcuraLink satellite communications system; plus a premium sound system with Bluetooth, USB, and Pandora among its capabilities. The Premium Package is available on all ILX models, while the Technology Package is available only on 2.0L and Hybrid models.

Standard equipment on all 2013 ILX models includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel; cloth-trimmed front seats (2.0L base and Hybrid); dual-zone automatic climate control; Bluetooth hands-free phone interface; power moonroof; keyless entry with push-button start; rear-view camera; and a 12-volt power outlet. Available accessories include larger 17-inch alloy wheels, aerodynamic bodywork, fog lights, a remote engine start, and an engine block heater.

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2013 Acura ILX

Styling

A modern, techie look erases any hint of the Honda Civic platform underpinning the 2013 Acura ILX.

Though Acura doesn't like to dwell on the Honda Civic basis for the ILX, it's there--but it's all under the skin. On the outside, the ILX is its own car, with low and wide proportions, a long hood and short rear deck, aerodynamic character lines, and Acura's signature front-end look.

Riding a balance between crisp and fluid, edgy and smooth, the ILX's exterior is a more youthful take on a compact luxury car than you'll find elsewhere in the segment. The general proportions speak of sportiness (perhaps more so than the car's actual performance does), but also of refinement and confidence.

Inside, the ILX's cabin is simliarly youthful, at least in comparison with the competition, with cascading layers of surfaces in varied textures creating a flowing, connected feel across the dash and through the cabin. The driver's perspective is dominated by the focused, easy-to-read instrument and information display in the main panel, while the center stack is set high and forward for better eyes-up visibility.

The rear seat is more plainly finished, but nonetheless feels part of the overall cabin, and of the ILX's entry-luxury design aesthetic.

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2013 Acura ILX

Performance

Though the 2013 ILX is none-too-peppy in Hybrid and 2.0L trims, the 2.4L adds a dose of fun--but lacks the suspension to back it up.

With three different powertrains available in the 2013 Acura ILX, it spans a wide range of performance characteristics, though underlying each is a balanced, relatively light chassis that makes the most of the desired tuning, be it comfort or sport.

The base model of the ILX is the 2.0L, powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. It's paired by default with a five-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters mounted on the steering wheel. While the paddles add an element of fun, and even control in a passing situation, the overall demeanor of the 2.0L is relaxed and comfy--it doesn't encourage pushing the limits or exploring the capabilities of the road, much less the drivetrain. That said, it's powerful enough for daily duty, while returning a respectable 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.

The ILX 2.4L is the sportiest variant, with the Civic Si's 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower four-cylinder engine under the hood. There's no automatic transmission option available with the 2.4L--it's a six-speed manual only. Like the new Civic Si, the ILX 2.4L's power is available over a relatively broad range, but it lacks much in the way of character, and even more in the way of low-end or mid-range punch, and consequently feels a bit out of place in the otherwise laid-back ILX's form factor. The suspension is the same in the 2.4L as the rest of the ILX lineup, and it's not as sharp as we'd like in spirited driving with this engine. That said, it does iron out the bumps in a broken road quite nicely, while returning 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Finally, there's the ILX Hybrid, which gets a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an integrated hybrid electric system routed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Gas mileage ratings, per the EPA, are just 39 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, placing it firmly mid-pack amongst alternatives. The combined power output of 111 horsepower, however, leaves the ILX Hybrid feeling flat, and can occasionally be too little for comfort, as when merging with fast-flowing traffic. It's comfortable, but it's not much fun to drive, especially with the ultra-conservative Eco mode engaged.

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2013 Acura ILX

Comfort & Quality

Well-made and comfortable, the 2013 Acura ILX is a great way to drive to work and back.

Despite its entry-luxury positioning, Acura hasn't visibly skimped on the quality or construction of the 2013 ILX. While Acura's design and style may not be for everyone, it's nonetheless capable of producing very well-made, comfortable interiors--as it has in the ILX.

The front seats are roomy and comfortable, with good sight lines for the driver and plenty of adjustment for occupants both short and tall. The steering wheel, dash, and controls all feel well-made, are laid out in logical places, and respond with a sense of solidity and quality you'd expect from a more expensive car. In the back, it's equally roomy, particularly impressive for a compact car, luxury or not.

There's even a fair amount of trunk space, with the standard models ranging between 12.3 and 12.4 cubic feet, depending on options, and the Hybrid getting 10.0 cubic feet after placing the battery pack behind the rear seats. Fold-down rear seats on non-hybrid models add to the cargo area for larger items.

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2013 Acura ILX

Safety

The 2013 Acura ILX offers a solid set of standard safety equipment, as well as some impressive safety ratings.

The 2013 Acura ILX hasn't yet been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given it Top Safety Pick status, with top 'good' scores in all categories of testing.

Standard safety equipment includes: Vehicle Stability Assist (stability and traction control); anti-lock brakes; electronic brake distribution; brake assist; and tire-pressure monitoring systems; plus dual-stage front, front-side, and side-curtain airbags; automatic tensioning seat belts; LATCH car-seat tether system; and design elements intended to mitigate pedestrian injury.

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2013 Acura ILX

Features

With features arranged into two major packages, the 2013 ILX is easy to configure, but lacks much choice.

While the 2013 Acura ILX is priced very competitively and offers convenient packaging for a coherent set of features and equipment, it lacks some of the higher-end items you'll find in slightly more expensive sedans, such as radar-adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and heads-up displays.

The base specification of the 2013 ILX is fairly generous. It includes: Bluetooth hands-free phone interface; power moonroof; keyless entry with push-button start; rear-view camera; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; cloth-trimmed front seats (2.0L base and Hybrid); dual-zone automatic climate control; and a 12-volt power outlet. Available accessories include larger 17-inch alloy wheels, aerodynamic bodywork, fog lights, a remote engine start, and an engine block heater.

Two primary packages are available to upgrade from the base specification, the Technology Package and the Premium Package.

The Technology Package includes: premium sound system with Bluetooth, USB, and Pandora among its capabilities; plus a navigation with voice recognition, a rear-view camera, real-time traffic/weather, and AcuraLink satellite communications system; premium sound system with Bluetooth, USB, and Pandora among its capabilities.

The Premium Package includes leather seating surfaces; eight-way power adjustable driver seat; two-way heated front seats; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; a multi-view rear camera; a premium sound system with Bluetooth, USB, and Pandora functionality; and on non-Hybrid models, an active sound cancellation system that further damps noise within the cabin.

The Premium Package is available on all ILX models (and is standard on the 2.4L), while the Technology Package is available only on 2.0L and Hybrid models.

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2013 Acura ILX

Fuel Economy

It's not as efficient as some, and more efficient than others--the 2013 Acura ILX is fair, but not great, on gas mileage.

Just a few years ago, the 2013 Acura ILX range would have been near the leading edge of gas mileage in the entry-luxury segment, but time and technology have marched forward quickly, and despite the ILX's relative light weight and compact size, it comes up a bit short in efficiency, particularly in the 2.4L and Hybrid models.

Though the EPA hasn't yet rated the 2013 ILX, Acura has provided its own projected figures for gas mileage. The base 2.0L model rates a respectable 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. The sporty 2.4L scores slightly worse at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The Hybrid tops them both--and outshines Lexus' HS 250h--but its 39 mpg city and 38 mpg highway are less than impressive in light of recent non-hybrid offerings from the likes of Ford, Mazda, and other non-luxury marques.

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May 20, 2015
2013 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan 1.5L Hybrid Tech Pkg

My Acura ILX Hybrid has been a great car.

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I looked at the Cruze, Verano, Focus, Civic and Prius. I ended up ordering a Hybrid Tech with every option for 2013. My car is very rare for an ILX, from what I've been told by other ILX owners. My ILX has... + More »
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May 14, 2015
2013 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan 2.4L Premium Pkg

The best version of the ILX - 6 speed manual, 2.4L 201 HP.

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Great car. Most reviews are of the anemic 2.0 with 5 speed automatic. The ILX 2.4 is mechanically similar to the Civic SI. My only real complaint is that it should have been offered with the Tech Package. I... + More »
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April 17, 2015
For 2013 Acura ILX

My nice little car

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After having a Honda Civic for 8 years and then an Acura CL for 13 years, I wanted a smaller car like the Civic but with more luxury. I was going between the Buick Verano and ILX. After a test drive, there was... + More »
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