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REVIEW
From Edmunds.com
2014 Acura  ILX Picture
PROS
  • Generous number of standard features
  • Balanced approach to ride quality and handling ability
CONS
  • Lackluster base engine
  • Smallish trunk
  • No automatic transmission or top-end features for sport-oriented 2.4-liter model

An entry in the growing, entry-level compact luxury sport sedan segment, the 2014 Acura ILX offers consumers something a cut above mainstream small sedans. Smaller and less expensive than more established German and Japanese stalwarts, the ILX is related to the Honda Civic. But this is not just a simple "badge job" of designers applying some Acura emblems and calling it a day. The ILX is longer and wider, with completely different styling, a more powerful base engine and many more standard features than the small Honda.

Available solely as a four-door sedan, the ILX offers two powertrain options (plus the ILX Hybrid, which is reviewed separately). The base version is fitted with a rather pedestrian but thrifty 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Driving enthusiasts will lean toward the ILX 2.4 model, which has a considerably more powerful 2.4-liter four that comes only with a six-speed manual transmission. The base 2.0-liter version does represent an affordable entry point into premium-brand car ownership. But its performance isn't in the same league as the entry-level versions of its rivals. With its sport sedan leanings, the 2.4 model is enticing, but the lack of an automatic transmission limits its appeal.

If you're shopping for a compact luxury sedan, there are other choices to consider. The Buick Verano is less expensive to start and offers a potent 250-horsepower engine upgrade as well as a nicer interior. And although the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has a smaller backseat and is likely to cost you a bit more, it comes with a considerably stronger base engine, a richer interior and, yes, the Mercedes name.

Potential buyers should also know that for the same money as a loaded ILX you could get a loaded version of a roomier midsize sedan such as a Ford Fusion, Kia Optima or Nissan Altima. Still, if you're looking for a relatively affordable small sedan that's good on gas and gives off a premium vibe, the 2014 Acura ILX is a good choice.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014

For 2014, the Acura ILX gets more standard equipment, which includes 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a power driver seat and heated front seats.

2014 Acura  ILX Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2014 Acura ILX entry-level luxury sedan comes in four trim levels: 2.0, 2.0 with Premium package, 2.0 with Technology package and 2.4 with Premium package. There is also the ILX Hybrid, which is covered in a separate review.

Standard equipment for the base 2.0 and 2.4 includes 17-inch wheels, a sunroof, full power accessories, keyless ignition/entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, active noise cancellation, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 5-inch information display screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, SMS text message functionality, and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod audio interface, satellite radio and Pandora radio smartphone app integration.

Moving up to the 2.0 Premium or 2.4 Premium gets you xenon headlamps, foglamps, a rearview camera and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The Technology trim (not available on the 2.4) includes all of the features of the Premium package along with a navigation system with a slightly larger display, voice commands and a 10-speaker ELS surround-sound audio system with digital music storage.

2014 Acura  ILX Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

The ILX's interior is well constructed, but the materials used aren't really a step up from top non-luxury sedans. Similarly, the design features Acura's typical high-tech vibe, but it's nowhere near as luxurious in here as in the classy TSX.

Nevertheless, if you're looking for high-tech features, the ILX definitely delivers. There is a 5-inch display screen topping the center stack for the myriad infotainment functions, and smartly placed buttons and knobs to control them. A 6-inch screen comes with the navigation system, as do voice command functionality (navigation and audio) and a nice-sounding ELS audio system.

Special care was used in designing the seats to be supportive, yet not give the impression of confinement or hardness. The ILX is also pretty spacious for a compact car, with a decent amount of backseat room. Still, headroom can be snug for 6-footers, due to the car's standard sunroof.

Trunk space, at 12.4 cubic feet, is average, and the opening is a little narrow. The rear seat folds down to facilitate carrying longer items, but the seatback is not split to permit a mix of long cargo and a passenger or two in the backseat.

The 2014 Acura ILX comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. A rearview camera is optional.

In government crash tests, the Acura ILX earned a top five-star rating for overall protection in crash tests, with four stars total for frontal impact safety and five stars for side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the ILX a top score of "Good" for the car's performance in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its head restraint/seats design also earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

In Edmunds brake testing, the ILX 2.0 Premium came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, which is a little better than average. Curiously, the supposedly sportier ILX 2.4 stopped in 130 feet, which is longer than average.

2014 Acura  ILX Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

Powering the base 2014 ILX is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission offered is a five-speed automatic that sends its power to the front wheels. In Edmunds performance testing, this powertrain brought the ILX from zero to 60 mph in 9 seconds. That's average for a compact economy car but slow for a compact sedan wearing a premium badge. Fuel economy is respectable at 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined.

The ILX 2.4 with the Premium package comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's rated at 201 hp and 170 lb-ft. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission. In Edmunds performance testing, the ILX 2.4 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. This is average for both entry-level luxury sedans with a base engine and regular midsize sedans with an upgraded four-cylinder or V6 engine. Fuel economy ratings stand at 22/31/25.

Nobody is going to mistake the 2014 Acura ILX for a BMW 3 Series, but overall performance is more than adequate for everyday commuting duty. The standard 2.0-liter engine is quite smooth, so wringing the most from it is not an annoying task. Equipped with the 2.4-liter engine, the ILX is a different animal, as its sporting exhaust note and greater horsepower translate to quicker acceleration. We're also quite fond of the precision-machined action of the six-speed manual transmission, which is one of the easiest and most enjoyable to use in any car. Still, the fact that you can't get the 2.4 with an automatic transmission limits this model's appeal for commuters.

Ride quality is a strength for all versions of the 2014 Acura ILX. This car offers a nearly ideal compromise between control and comfort, and it's quiet on the highway. Driving enthusiasts might be disappointed that the ILX 2.4 doesn't come with a sportier suspension tune, but the car is sure-footed around turns and generally enjoyable to pilot.

VERDICT

Attractive and well-equipped, the 2014 Acura ILX is a respectable choice for a compact luxury sedan. Still, there are a number of worthy alternatives that savvy shoppers should consider.

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