A true compact premium sedan? | The increasing cost of owning and operating a larger vehicle have helped to push premium compacts.
The concept of a compact luxury car isn’t new. Over the last few decades, almost every manufacturer has tried their hand at selling them, and up until the last few years, the majority of these attempts have been miserable failures. Recently though, the increasing cost of owning and operating a larger vehicle have helped to push a new trend with consumers moving towards more upscale smaller cars. Now, an optioned out compact is one thing, but compacts such as the Buick Verano and Acura ILX take it a step further as they are actually marketed, badged and equipped as any premium sedan would be, only smaller. Theoretically, this formula of a pint sized premium sedan should make for an excellent commuter. As a long-haul commuter myself, I was happy to spend a week with the 2014 Acura ILX Tech.
One of the biggest challenges in designing a premium compact is definitely the look. In my mind it’s easy to make a full-sized car look elegant, but getting it right on a much smaller canvas is where many of the premium compacts of the past have fallen short. I do think Acura has nailed it with the ILX though; the subtle swooping lines, low-slung roof, wide rear stance, standard HID headlamps and tasteful 17” rims make the ILX look both elegant and purposeful without being overdone. My tester looked great in Pearl White and felt right at home with the BMWs, Audis and Mercedes’ I parked alongside at a corporate function – a status few compacts have been have been able to achieve.
The interior follows suit and is just as well finished as any other Acura. The black leather seats are incredibly comfortable and the leather used on the seats and steering wheel feels luxuriously soft. The rest of the interior uses a lot of soft touch plastics with just a hint of metallic accents such as on the gauge needles as well as chrome around the shifter. My one complaint from the inside of the ILX is the headroom; I stand at 5’11” and sitting up straight with the seat all the way down, my hair just slightly rubs on the headliner. This is the price both front and rear passengers pay for that sexy low slung roofline. Overall though, the interior feels very well put together and if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was in a TLX or RLX. This speaks to the fact that the ILX is a true Acura, and not just a gussied-up Civic.
The ILX looks and feels like a true premium car, and its interior will have every one of your passengers thinking you spent a lot more than you actually did. Where this particular model of ILX falls a little short to me as an enthusiast, is behind the wheel. The standard 2.0L 4-cylinder puts out 150 horsepower and must use all of them to get moving when you ask it to. Acceleration leaves a fair bit to be desired, and the automatic is reluctant to downshift without intervention from the paddle. The steering is very, very good though. The ILX’s driving experience is a bit isolated, a trait typical to some larger luxury cars. I was hoping that with its Honda/Acura pedigree, the ILX would be more. To be fair though, the ILX Dynamic we’ll be driving in a couple of weeks is really the ILX for the enthusiasts with its 201 horsepower 2.4L and slick 6-speed manual lifted straight out of the Civic Si. Interestingly, the ILX Dynamic comes with the exact same equipment as the Tech, and for the exact same price. As an enthusiast that seems like a no-brainer to choose the Dynamic, but as a commuter I can easily understand how someone would forgo the extra power in favor of an automatic transmission and some additional fuel savings.
When it comes to the daily commute though, the ILX Tech is well prepared; it’s quiet and comfortable inside. The ELS 10-speaker 365-watt sound system does an excellent job of easing the stress of the day and the Bluetooth functionality is simple, reliable and clear. Additionally, despite heavy traffic I managed to average 7.6L/100 in the ILX – right in line with other compacts I’ve tested and significantly better than anything I’ve managed in larger premium sedans.
Acura has kept their pricing pretty tight amongst the four different packages, excluding the hybrid. The base ILX, with cloth seats, can be had for $30K, stepping up to the premium package will cost you an additional $2,000 and going for the fully loaded Tech or Dynamic packages will be another $2,000. This does make it easier for a shopper to justify stepping up to the next level, and I think they’ll be glad they did. At just over $34,000, my ILX Tech tester has everything I would expect in an Acura, save for maybe a power passenger seat, and I am not sure it would feel right any other way.
Back to my original notion about this formula making for an excellent commuter; my answer is a resounding “yes”. When I am grudgingly travelling to and from work, the Acura ILX Tech meets every one of my needs. It’s refined, comfortable and efficient, and on the occasion that I need to take a client or colleague out it’s upscale enough that I would feel great about showing it off. It’s ideal for someone who recognizes that they don’t need anything more than a well-equipped compact sedan, but wants the grown-up image and refinement of a premium sedan, and doesn’t mind paying a bit extra for it.
2014 Acura ILX Tech Gallery