2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech
2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech
2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech
2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech. Click image to enlarge

Review and Photos by Jeff Wilson

The most formative years of my burgeoning automotive appreciation were those around the time I first learned to drive. It was the mid-90s and despite my plaid wearing, grunge-rock lifestyle (aka unjustifiably melancholy), fun-to-drive machinery could draw out legitimate giddy excitement.

Those were the days when Acura was a name that passed over motoring enthusiasts’ lips as frequently as that sports car maker from Zuffenhausen. VTEC was synonymous with excitement. Integras were the most finely tuned handling instruments to ever put power to the front wheels. And the NSX had just finished sending Ferrari back to the drawing board with its overpriced tail between its legs.

More than twenty years later and it’s safe to say most of us who wished for a Type-R badged car in our driveways now scratch our heads and wonder, “what happened?” The large MDX crossover – a vehicle that shares a lot of componentry with the Honda Pilot and Odyssey – outsells the next best-selling Acura – our ILX test car, by more than 2:1.

And it’s not that consumers don’t like nimble, fun-to-drive and well-equipped compact cars – in Canada especially, the compact market is still the volume-selling format. Even at the entry-level luxury stage (like the ILX), competition is increasing in this lucrative segment with new models like the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 and Audi A3 coming on to the scene.

So what gives? Why do we see so few of the fetching little ILXs on the road?

There are a few reasons really and they all revolve around what else you can get for your money.

The ILX is not a bad little machine. Indeed, it has a lot going for it, not the least of which is handsome styling – perhaps the most successful in the entire Acura line up (which admittedly has had some serious misses in recent years – pre-facelift TL anyone?).

This smallest of Acuras features a more conservative application of the family beak grill and the side profile is that of a sleek four-door sport sedan with squat side glass and a steeply raked windshield and backlight. The tail end of the ILX is a bit stubby, but most cars in this size suffer the same condition. The simple five-spoke wheels look particularly well suited to the car.

It’s a more mature and tasteful design than its Honda Civic sibling with which it shares much of its underpinnings.

2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech dashboard2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech rear seats2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech trunk
2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech dashboard, rear seats, trunk. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the same is true with an interior design that is classy and features high quality materials that have been well assembled. One gets the sense that twenty years from now the ILX’s interior will still be void of creaks and rattles, and all the controls will continue to operate as they did when new. Consistently tight panel gaps inside and out also speak to how carefully constructed the ILX is.

The accommodations are not commodious, particularly in the back seat where head and legroom are a bit tight. Two adults could sit with decent comfort in the back, but three would need to be very familiar, or at least want to become so. Overall interior volume is smaller than most of the ILX’s competitors.

The cargo capacity is also small for the class at only 348 L.

2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech
2014 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech. Click image to enlarge

Similar to the interior’s fit and refinement, the ILX’s mechanical components will remind drivers that this is a company known for its exceptional engineering, but with a series of caveats.

For instance, the transmission operates as a precision instrument, seamlessly switching cogs in utter transparency during normal driving. When driven with vigor, the shifts are decently swift for a traditional automatic (versus a dual-clutch transmission). The big BUT comes from having only five speeds in a world accustomed to six, seven or eight now. This means the Acura is neither maximizing its power delivery, nor is it enjoying the fuel efficiency it could, or should given some of the competitors’ figures.

Under the new 2015 measurement, the ILX is rated at 9.9 L/100 km city and 6.7 highway, and Acura suggests feeding the 2.0L increasingly expensive premium fuel.  With mixed driving, I saw an average of 7.8 L/100 km.

By comparison, a fully loaded Mazda3 with a half-litre larger (and more powerful) 2.5L I4 nets 8.4 and 6.1 L/100 km. Even the considerably larger Volkswagen Jetta with its turbocharged 1.8L turbo engine delivers slightly better numbers at 9.5 and 6.7.

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