By Steve & Tamami Laser
When Honda launched the Acura luxury brand way back in 1986, its first two cars were the Legend midsize sedan and sporty Integra compact. Based on the Honda Civic, the Integra attracted younger buyers who enjoyed its sporty looks and easy to modify character. The Integra was replaced for 2001 with the even sportier RSX. Enthusiasts were saddened when Acura decided to discontinue the RSX just five years later. Since then, the smallest Acura has been the TSX, which is based on Honda’s European Accord.
For 2013, Acura returns to its roots with the new ILX. Based on the Civic, this small sedan targets entry luxury buyers with prices starting at $25,900.
Three four-door sedan models are available. The base ILX has a 2.0-liter 150-horsepower 4-cylinder engine plus standard features like automatic climate control and a 5-speed automatic transmission with sequential sport shift. The ILX 2.4 model targets enthusiasts with a larger 201-horse DOHC 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual gearbox and 17-inch alloy wheels.
While we were tempted to test the 2.4, we decided instead to try the ILX Hybrid, since it achieves the best mpg of the bunch. With EPA ratings of 39 city and 38 mpg highway, the new ILX Hybrid will attract lots of attention.
The ILX Hybrid features a 1.5-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine coupled to an electric motor. Combined output for the system is 111 horsepower.
The Hybrid’s Lithium-Ion battery pack is more powerful, lighter and compact than nickel-metal hydride batteries that are still used in some other hybrids. A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) helps maintain engine rpm for better efficiency than a conventional “stepped” gear automatic.
The Hybrid delivers a pleasant driving experience. If you’re new to hybrids, it takes about a day or so to get accustomed to the way the car responds. During acceleration, the engine, or the engine and the electric motor, propel the car. When cruising, the gas engine and/or the motor can individually provide power to the front wheels.
While braking, the gas engine deactivates and the electric motor acts as a generator to charge the batteries. Come to a stop and the engine shuts off to save fuel and reduce emissions. Release the brake pedal and the engine quickly springs back to life.
We drove the ILX Hybrid on a variety of city streets, country roads and busy freeways. Acceleration is adequate under most conditions. We live at about 1,200 feet above sea level, so it’s a long trek up the hill to our pad. The ILX Hybrid could use more power when traveling on the steepest stretches.
The good news is that it’s fuel stingy. We drove a total of 134 miles, topped up the tank with 4.1 gallons of unleaded and scored 32.6 miles per gallon.
Acura did a splendid job in designing the ILX’s cozy interior. Filled with luxury cues and comfortable leather seats, one would never guess that this car is related to the Civic.
Features include an Econ button which contributes to higher fuel efficiency when activated. It revises systems like the climate control, transmission operation and throttle response.
An energy flow screen indicates when the electric motor is operating in tandem with the gas engine, when either is operating separately and when the battery pack is being recharged.
An Eco Assist system helps teach the driver how to pilot the hybrid most efficiently while a charge/assist gauge shows whether the battery pack is charging or assisting the gas engine.
ILX Hybrid prices start at $28,900. Our Tech model, with a base price of $34,400, added a long list of features including the Acura Navigation System with multi-view rear camera, superb Acura/ELS 365-watt audio, Acura Link communications with real-time traffic and weather, plus HID headlights and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Go easy on the options and the ILX is a good value. It would be great if Acura followed with a new sporty hatchback based on the Euro Civic. That would help to attract younger drivers who used to seek the Integra and RSX. Maybe next year?
Acura ILX Hybrid Press Fleet vehicle provided by the Acura Division of American Honda. Prices and vehicle information applies to models sold in the U.S. at the time of publication. All information including prices, features and specifications is subject to change without notice.
Photos by Acura and CarNichiWa.com
Story © 2013 CarNichiWa.com