Two Words Came to Mind While Testing the 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid: ‘Why’ and ‘Ouch’

Images courtesy Acura

When I first saw the all-new ILX from Acura at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, I wondered to myself, “Why?” Acura already had the TSX sedan with premium content and an attractive appearance, so why would the “luxury” division of Honda create what appears to be a competitive model in its own stable?

The new ILX is based on the Honda Civic architecture but looks little like its pedestrian counterpart. And short of calling the new Acura a modern Integra, the automaker comes close by choosing “I” for its moniker.

Style-wise, the new ILX reminds me of a small Buick and features a rear shoulder bump similar to the Acura ZDX cross-thingy. Up front, Acura has tamed down the garish mono-beak as well.

Acura calls its target customers for ILX “youth with maturity” and while I am sure there are many out there filling this bill I still see a lot of 20-somethings living at home. This YWM crowd, the younger members of Gen X and Y, are successful, urban, young business professionals moving into the luxury car segment but still very much in touch with their youthful mindset and lifestyle.

The 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid we recently tested is for the youth-with-maturity-with-a-conscience-but-not-a-lead-foot crowd and is one of three powertrain options available on the new ride.

While only offered as a sedan initially, the ILX competes against the Audi A3 and Lexus CT200h, according to Acura, as well as going up against the new Buick Verano, another new entry premium sedan with Buick styling (go figure).

After a week with the new ILX I am still asking myself, “Why?”

The hybrid powertrain is the same as used in the Civic Hybrid – an anemic 1.5-liter SOHC I-4 engine mated to Honda’s fifth-generation hybrid electric motor system using Lithium-Ion battery technology and pared with a CVT gearbox. If the fuel economy results mimicked those of the Civic it would be tolerable but coming in at a mere 39 mpg city and 38 mpg highway is not enough, in my opinion, to satisfy customers. By comparison, the Civic counterpart achieves 44 mpg across the board weighing a mere 100 lbs. less.

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict response to the ILX Hybrid akin to that of the Lexus HS250h hybrid (a poor response for those of you not familiar with that model).

One of the things I truly missed in the ILX is the Acura feel – the car just did not ride and drive like an Acura – pity. And on the point of interior space and design, while the layout is sufficient, I kept hitting my head on the headliner every time the car went over a bump and I had the seat lowered all the way. I am not a tall person and feel this is a bit of an oversight as well. If the vehicle was designed for the 90th percentile female, fine, come out and say that, but for any average male (or larger) this car is gonna hurt you.

Again, all my experience with the ILX was with this Hybrid model, I hope it improves with the gas engine cars that feature different wheels and tires. These seemed so overinflated occupants hear and feel every ripple in the road surface.

Our tester arrived in the Tech version so it was loaded to the gills with gadgets and devices including voice-recognized navigation, multi-view rear camera, Acura-Link infotainment, surround stereo system, satellite radio, GPS-linked dual-zone climate control, and leather sport seats.

Pricing for the ILX Hybrid with Tech rolls in at $34,400 with emissions ratings very high thanks to auto-stop and the hybrid technology.

Perhaps “youth with maturity” will be drawn to this vehicle but “mature with maturity” consumers may do a bit more browsing.

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