2019 Acura ILX A-SPEC — More than just a glorified Honda Civic?

By Jim Prueter

(August 20, 2019) There’s an ongoing debate and discussion among my automotive journalist colleagues about whether Acura is a premium or luxury brand. Personally, I’ve always come down on the premium side of the argument and along the way included Volvo, Cadillac, Lincoln, Genesis, and Tesla as premium rather than luxury.

This is not a trivial position to be in for auto manufacturers and while journalists and consumers indeed often find themselves at an impasse over the classification, it often comes down to how persuasive one can be in positioning themselves.

Which brings us to this week’s test vehicle, the 2019 Acura ILX A-Spec. It’s based on the Honda Civic, which in my estimation is as plain vanilla, and as uninspiring to drive as a vehicle can be. But to metamorphose a Civic into a premium brand, Acura tarts it up with restyled front and rear design cues and adds an Acura badge here and there; it’s fool’s gold. Even more, adding a premium to the price borders on automotive slander.

The ILX is Acura’s smallest and least-expensive sedan, slotting below the larger TLX and largest RLX. It’s styling theme, both inside and out, is intended to make it conform to the Acura line. That’s nothing new. BMW does it with making the entry-level 3 Series look like a smaller version of the 5 and 7 Series. Ditto for Mercedes, Audi and Lexus. But where Acura falls short is not with its looks, but rather in the driving experience. It has a harsh, noisy ride, vague steering, and disappointing handling. The 201-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine is used in all ILX trim levels. It’s connected to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the only one offered.

All ILX trim levels are front-wheel drive only, with Acura’s SH-AWD not offered.

For 2019, Acura refreshed the ILX. Acura said it is new from the windshield forward, with new wheel designs. The new interior includes restyled sport seats, dual infotainment screens, and standard AcuraWatch active safety technology.

The A-Spec trim level was updated, adding dark chrome trim for the front grille and lower fascia, LED fog lights, a dark appearance for the headlights and taillights, and a gloss-black deck lid spoiler.

The A-Spec interior added a graphite-silver dash accent with chrome inserts, A-Spec badged steering wheel with contrast stitching, and aluminum sport pedals. The all-new sport seats are finished in exclusive Ebony or Red leather with black Ultrasuede ® center panels.

The ILX technology and operational controls are nothing special either. While the climate control system has its own dedicated center dash-mounted controls, the ILX uses a stacked two-screen infotainment system that’s frustrating to use, with a large controller knob located mid-dash that requires some getting used to. The upper screen is used for the Smartphone interface, Bluetooth interface and navigation, while the lower screen works in tandem with the upper screen mostly for the infotainment system, AppleCar Play and Android Auto. We wished Acura would have included Acura’s new infotainment system that’s found in the new RDX. The existing system feels dated for certain.

Our ILX Tech A-Spec included the Acura Watch suite of advanced safety features like blind spot information, rear cross-traffic monitor, Acura ELS Studio Premium Audio system with 10 speakers, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a power front passenger seat. Front seats are mostly flat, with little bolster or upper body support, but there is a two-way power lumbar support.

The ILX sits low, making getting in and out more difficult than most sedans. Most average size adults will find the interior room adequate; taller drivers will find it a bit tight, especially headroom, since the seats do not adjust down far enough to make more. Adults over 6 feet will find rear seat head and legroom inadequate for more than just a short ride.

Overall, we found the ILX a disappointment. It wasn’t very engaging to drive, felt dated and in need of a complete redo, since it’s basically part of a generation that debuted for the 2013 model year and feels more Honda EX than Acura. If you like vehicles at the size and price point of the ILX, you might also want to test drive excellent new vehicles like the Genesis G70, Kia Stinger, Mercedes A-Class or consider dropping down to the Honda Civic Touring sedan.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $31,550
Price as Tested: $32,545
Engine: 2.4-Liter 201-hp 4-cylinder connected to an 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
Fuel Economy: 24-mpg City – 34-mpg Highway – 28-mpg Combined – premium fuel required
Seating: 5

Where Built: Marysville, Ohio

Crash Test Ratings: Rated “Good” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the highest possible NHTSA overall rating of 5-stars.

Competes With:
Audi A3
BMW 2-Series
Genesis G70
Kia Stinger
Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Fab Features
Low starting price
Excellent crash test ratings