The smallest Acuras have always done well in the Canadian market, even if they were thinly disguised Honda Civics. The 1.6EL and 1.7EL were reliable, efficient, and just a little bit nicer than the fare you could get at the Honda dealership.

With the ILX sedan, however, Acura needs a little more differentiation from the Honda range, especially as the Civic now offers leather, satellite navigation, push-button start and other luxury features. Not to mention that Acura’s smallest car could use a little more excitement under the hood.

So, were you waiting for a Civic Si with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and a smoother ride? Well here you go: Acura finally seems to be giving the ILX the spec sheet it deserves. First and foremost, a hot powertrain with an automatic transmission. Formerly languishing with a weak hybrid and unimpressive base engine or the sporty number from the Civic Si with manual transmission only, the 2016 ILX will pair a 2.4-litre, direct-injected i-VTEC with 201 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. This figure is generously up 51 hp and 40 lb-ft on the current 2.0L, saddled with a serviceable but out-of-date five-speed automatic. This engine is mated to a cutting-edge automatic: Acura’s new eight-speed dual clutch with a torque converter thrown in for added measure. This pairing earned the praise of Justin Pritchard in his First Drive of the larger TLX, in which he came away calling it a “riot”. In a good way. With retuned suspension, chassis and steering, this might be the small car that Acura deserves, though I don’t see Integra badges anywhere.

Along with the big powertrain upgrade, the ILX earns Acura’s Jewel Eye headlamps and the slightly more refined styling to go along with it, with an A-Spec body kit on offer to sporty things up visually. Particularly in the top-level A-spec model, Acura’s multi-LED headlights and sharpened styling actually looks like they’ve finally figured out how to make their design language attractive.

Inside, there’s some fancy stitching, improved sound insulation and “high-intensity silver trim for the passenger-side instrument panel”. As with the exterior, A-Spec models get some sporty on the inside – think black, red, grey and metal and you won’t be far off the mark. Sadly, it appears that Acura has yet to improve upon their two-screen, buttonfest infotainment system, but you can also get smartphone-based navigation on premium levels and up..

On the technology front, Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot camera gets named AcuraWatch. Slightly more impressive is that all trims will have “adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, Road Departure Mitigation, and enhanced collision mitigation braking system with pedestrian-sensing capability.”

Acura also pointed out their strong SUV sales, and hinted at enhancements and expansion in that particular segment. Could we next see a more-powerful, more luxurious version of the HR-V compact crossover? For now at least, the 2016 ILX makes the gateway to Acura ownership considerably more attractive.


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