Pedro Arrais review: Acura ILX offers value, dependability

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Acura is hoping a major facelift of their 2019 ILX will be enough to hold off newer competitors in the compact luxury sedan segment.

More than ever, manufacturers are incorporating newer technology in their offerings. These can range from drive-by-wire controls, digital dashboard screens, multiple cameras and electronic accessories.

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Increasingly, consumers are attracted to all this eye candy, which is difficult to incorporate in older designs.

The ILX has been offered in Acura’s lineup since 2012. While the overall design and powertrain has remained the same, 2019 represents a major facelift and refreshening.

You don’t have to look far for the reason — the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Much is at stake, as the two rivals battle for younger buyers. Both are the least expensive offerings in their respective brands.

The ILX starts the ball rolling with a starting price of $30,490. Apart from the base model, there are three upper trim levels, culminating with the Tech A-Spec, with a MSRP of $35,390, which I tested.

The 2019 ILX retains most of the major sheetmetal, but institutes major revisions on both ends of the four-door sedan. The Benz A-Class is an all-new design.

In front, Acura’s Diamond Pentagon grille and jewel-eye LED headlamps now reflect the manufacturer’s current design language.

In the back, the rear taillights are more angular and complement changes in the front. The most visible change is the relocation of the licence plate from the trunk lid to the bumper.

My tester was the top-of-the-line A-Spec, a package meant to convey a sporty demeanour.

The seats are new and, for the first time, can now be ordered in red leather (with black ultrasuede inserts) on contrasting exterior colours (exclusive to the A-Spec trim).

As is the current trend, dark grey 18-inch alloy wheels are fitted on all four corners.

Step inside and you will be confronted with a dated, but timeless, cabin. Gauges are analog and controls mechanical. Although one side of my brain tells me the dash is a generation old, the other side is mollified by how well the design has held up.

Fit and finish is top-rate, and every lever, knob and button is logically placed and falls easily to hand. The Benz can boast of a more cutting-edge digital layout, but many traditionalists will still warm up to the ILX’s complement of analog displays and knobs.

One thing I would change is the bin at the bottom of the centre stack. It is just a few millimetres too short to accommodate the newest batch of larger cellphones. Not only that, but it also lacks wireless charging, a sought-after feature in this market segment.

Although it will swallow most phones, the shift lever gets in the way of retrieving the phone elegantly when it is placed in Park.

I also missed having a heated steering wheel, another convenience that is rapidly becoming an asked-for feature for us northerners.

Instead of one large centre display, Acura opts to give two smaller screens stacked on top of each other. The upper seven-inch infotainment screen serves as the navigation system, back-up camera and vehicle settings. The lower screen controls the climate control and audio system.

You know the audio system is dated when you find it still comes with a CD player. In its defence, it also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The ILX now comes with AcuraWatch, a suite of safety and driver-assistance technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

As a compact car, the best seats in the house are naturally up front. If the femurs of the front occupants are on the long side, the comfort of the rear passengers will suffer. If they are average, you can even squeeze three people in the back for short trips.

The trunk is also average, holding up to 348 litres of cargo, but falls behind the A-Class.

Regardless of the trim you pick, the ILX is only available with one powertrain, a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine producing 201 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. Power is delivered to the road via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The engine is silky smooth and will rev easily, making for an entertaining ride.

Unfortunately, the competition, which uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre, is quicker and more fuel efficient, to boot.

Even its poorer cousin, the Honda Civic Si, uses a turbocharged, direct-injection 1.5-litre engine that is more powerful and frugal.

In this group, they all use premium fuel for optimum performance, so budget accordingly.

Although the ILX is a front-wheel-drive car, torque steer is almost imperceptible, a testament to many years of development.

There is minimal lean on corners and the car is equipped with paddle shifters, making for an engaging partner when dancing on back roads.

I don’t know if it was my particular tester or common on all ILXs, but the brakes on this car were overly sensitive — it stopped me with a jolt the first time.

While I am not privy to Acura’s upper management, I sense the 2019 ILX refresh is just to tide the model over for long enough until the next-generation car arrives in a couple of years.

It might not be for those who demand cutting-edge technology. But its combination of value and reputation for rock-solid dependability will help see it through until its successor appears.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Compact luxury four-door sedan, front engine, front-wheel drive

Engine: 2.4-litre four cylinder, 201 hp at 6,800 r.p.m., 180 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,628; width, 1,794; height, 1,412; wheelbase, 2,670

Curb weight (kg): 1,430

Price (base/as tested): $30,490/ $36,615 (includes $2,200 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Tech A-Spec $3,325, metallic paint $500

Tires: 225/40 VR18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 9.9 city/ 7.0 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car, five years/100,000 km powertrain

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