New Car Review: 2013 Acura ILX

Front view of 2013 Acura ILX on desert road

On paper, it had the makings of an unmitigated disaster: Take Acura, the upscale brand of Honda struggling for an identity, and base its new entry-level sedan on the Honda Civic, a compact that has lost its edge to the point that Consumer Reports ripped it apart and Honda felt compelled to rush a thorough refresh...but not until after the debut of the Acura.

Well, disaster averted. The Acura ILX isn't a bad car. And that's what I'd feared most. But it's not a winner, either.

The ILX does a commendable job of taking the platform of the Civic and turning it into a nicer, more upscale machine. But what that upgrade costs you is the flaw that undermines the ILX.

The base ILX costs $7,735 more than a base Civic. It costs $2,135 more than the top-of-the-line Civic EX-L with nav and voice recognition. Yes, your climate control in the Acura is dual-zone, you've got a nicer audio system and a two-tenths of a liter larger, 10 horses more powerful engine (the advantage of which evaporates under the ILX's added 200 pounds of weight...while costing you 4 miles per gallon in both city and highway fuel economy estimates, from 28 to 24 and 39 to 35, respectively), but that's it.

And the ILX is just getting started.

Rear 3/4 view of 2013 Acura ILX driving on mountain road

Our tester was the second most-expensive, the 5-speed automatic with Technology Package...at $31,400 (there's a hybrid with tech for $34,400). Now you're $10,635 above that loaded Civic EX-L with nav and voice recognition.

Instrument panel of 2013 Acura ILX

Break out the spec sheets and you'll see how small the differences are. The ILX is about an inch and a half wider than the Civic, and 200 pounds heavier, but only 10 horses more powerful. Sure it rides a bit smoother and more quietly (some of those 200 pounds are sound-deadening materials), they fixed the Civic's funky bi-level instrument panel and there are nicer materials and options than the Civic offers.

But $10,635 more? No. This is Ford Granada-Lincoln Versailles/Chevy Citation-Cadillac Cimarron silk purse stuff. And, after the refresh we're told (haven't had one to test yet) the Civic is no sow's ear.

Our advice? Get the loaded Civic. Or, if you want to spend in the low 30s for an Acura, step up to the Acura TSX. Bigger, more powerful, honest and one of our favorite cars.