Luxury automakers from around the globe have just recently started to recognize the importance of fun-to-drive, entry-level vehicles, but Acura built its reputation in this arena thanks to the iconic Acura Integra.
Aside from the high-performance and high-dollar NSX, the Integra remains one of Acura’s most enthusiast-minded models that has existed since the brand launched in 1986. While the RSX and TLX succeeded the venerable Integra, it wasn’t until the Acura ILX came along in 2013 that Acura has a true successor that was small, sporty and affordable.
Based on the ninth-generation (2012-2015) Honda Civic, the Acura ILX was initially panned for feeling too much like a gussied-up Civic, and Acura needed to step up its game to take on rivals such as Cadillac ATS, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and a number of new compact and subcompact luxury sedans that have been introduced in recent years. Whatever weaknesses the ILX originally had, Acura aimed to improve upon them with this refresh doing everything possible to distance its entry-level sedan from the Honda Civic. Did it work? I recently spent a week test driving the 2016 Acura ILX, in its loaded with the Tech Plus and A-Spec packages, to find out.
2016 Acura ILX Exterior:
Right off the bat, this updated 2016 Acura ILX just looks better than the 2013-15 model thanks to styling updates borrowed from other Acura models. As with most mid-cycle design updates, visual changes to the 2016 Acura ILX are limited to fasciae, lights and wheels. The original ILX was an attractive sedan, but adding elements such as Acura’s Jewel Eye LED headlights and a three-dimensional shape to its signature shield grille gives this sedan a more eye-catching appearance. The A-Spec Package, available on 2016 Acura ILX equipped with either the Premium Package or Technology Package, takes the sedan’s styling up a notch with sporty side sill accents, a trunk spoiler, front fog lights, new 18-inch, 10-spoke machined alloy wheels, and several unique interior appearance touches.
2016 Acura ILX Interior:
Fewer upgrades were necessary inside the 2016 Acura ILX as this car already provided all of the luxurious traits for which Acura is known. The refresh did bring some of Acura’s latest cabin tech including the dual screen infotainment system with the lower screen controlled by touch and the upper screen with a rotary knob and a series of buttons, and the rest of the cabin materials are up to the usual Acura standards with plenty of high-quality leather, stylish contrast stitching and matte-finished metallic accent trim.
The front and rear seats also have a nifty mesh-like suede insert creating a further distinction from the leather interior offered in the Civic. My one complaint about the 2016 Acura ILX comes from the rear seat. Surprisingly, there is a decent amount of legroom and head room for taller passengers, but my gripe come from the bolstering of the outboard seats. Playing on the sporty nature of the ILX, the bolstering ends up leaving a center seating positioning that is little more than a rounded hump almost like a 2+2 removing any illusion of trying to comfortably sit three adults back there.
2016 Acura ILX Performance:
When it comes to the drivetrain of the 2016 Acura ILX, less is definitely more. The biggest improvement Acura made to this sedan was pairing down the trio of engine options to just one. The base 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine just didn’t have the power to make the ILX a credible luxury vehicle, and the 38-mpg hybrid model was underpowered and didn’t return the fuel economy to warrant the cost. All three engines directly correlated with the Honda Civic, but this all-new 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder is plucked straight from the larger Acura TLX sedan.
Despite having the same displacement and 201 horsepower rating as the previous engine, the 2016 Acura ILX produces more torque (up to 180 lb-ft from 170 lb-ft), and it pairs to an equally new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Sadly, there is no longer an option for the short-throw six-speed manual gearbox, but this new gearbox can be just as fun. This new engine and eight-speed transmission combo delivers a “best of both worlds” scenario that delivers the performance of the sportier engine while bringing better fuel economy than the previous base engine with EPA-rated estimates of 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway** (compared to the 2015 ILX 2.0 rated at 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway).
Since its launch, I have driven all of the previous variants of the ILX (the ILX Hybrid that was dropped after 2014, the base ILX 2.0 and the sportiest ILX 2.4), but this 2016 Acura ILX is the best all-around version of the ILX Acura has made yet. The new engine and transmission are to thank for most of that, but Acura made the ILX more fun to drive with improved electric power steering, upgraded suspension components and bigger brakes. Acura also made this car quieter with standard Active Noise Cancellation, added sound insulation and thicker front door glass.
2016 Acura ILX Safety:
Thanks to the new AcuraWatch suite of safety and driver-assistance technologies, the 2016 Acura ILX has earned top safety ratings such as a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. AcuraWatch is standard on the ILX with Tech Plus, and it includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation with lane departure warning and the Collision Mitigation Braking System with pedestrian-sensing and Forward Collision Warning.
2016 Acura ILX Overall:
Not too long ago, the idea of getting a luxury car priced in the $30,000 range would leave you with a serious reality that you get what you pay for, but today, this market is ripe with competition that are both affordable and luxurious, which is a win for buyers. Among traditional luxury brands, the 2016 Acura ILX is one of the lowest-priced cars starting at just $27,900*. As is usually the case, if you want all the extra goodies it will cost you… just not a whole lot in this case. This fully loaded 2016 Acura ILX with Technology Plus and A-Spec had a reasonably affordable as-tested price of $35,810.
It’s been exactly 30 years since the introduction of the Acura Integra, and the 2016 Acura ILX finally proves to be a worthy replacement. Even more remarkable is the fact that this ILX is still based on the previous Honda Civic, so the next-gen ILX promises to be even more exciting. For now, though, Acura has definitely made the ILX a stylish, sporty and luxurious sedan that is one of the best in the premium small car segment.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated Acura dealership and test drive the 2016 Acura ILX sport sedan today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2016 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.