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2016 Acura ILX

Mark Hacking/The Globe and Mail

Acura's compact, quasi-luxurious runabout is a nice enough little sedan. But the marketplace has spoken and Acura is missing the mark with the ILX.

ILX sales have tanked, down 20.4 per cent through the first half of this year. Will they turn around in the second half?

Not because of glorious pricing. The base ILX starts at $29,490, which represents a $1,300 bump over the 2015 model. And if you're looking for a deal, it's slim pickings. Acura has a $1,000 loyalty incentive in play and 0.9 per cent financing for 24 months. That's the best you'll do barring concessions from the dealer. Acura is asking you to pay a lot for a dressed up, front-drive Honda Civic.

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And really, if you want a starter premium sedan, you have other choices. Mercedes-Benz has the CLA250 for $34,600, minus a grand or two in factory sales sweeteners. BMW has the 320 for $35,990, also minus a G-note or two in factory money.

Point is, you can get a Bimmer or a Merc for a number so close to the ILX, the monthly payment becomes a wash. Young, status-conscious buyers lean toward the German brands.

So why buy an ILX?

The ILX scored second in its class in J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study, a tidy plus. You can tick the box for resale value, too; Acuras are among the best in the business.

The standard new 2.4-litre motor (201 horsepower/180 lb-ft of torque) is strong and a vast improvement on the wimpy 2.4-litre it replaces for 2016. Better still, the eight-speed dual clutch transmission provides snappy, sharp shifts with rev-matching for down-shifts. This is a better gearbox than you get with comparably priced Bimmers and Mercs.

The chassis is up to the job of taking advantage of the powertrain. It's tight and responsive – to its limits – yet comfortable managing poor pavement. The ride is quiet, too.

The exterior looks fine, although the long nose speaks to earning great crash test scores, not aesthetics. The cabin is comfortable, the seats are very good and the gizmo interfaces are quite modern. Acura certainly didn't scrimp on the materials.

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We're talking a good car, but the ILX is $5,000 too much for the segment and the brand.

You'll like this car if ... You want to stay in the Honda family as you start your premium car journey.

TECH SPECS

  • Base price: $29,490
  • Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmissions: Eight-speed dual clutch automatic
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.3 city/6.6 highway
  • Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz CLA, BMW 320i, Audi A3, Buick Verano, Mini Cooper five-door

RATINGS

  • Looks: Not unattractive, but not a case of glorious styling, either. The nose is too long and the sheet metal is bland. For starters, Acura should have pushed the wheels the corners. The LED headlights are delightful and the grille has a powerful design.
  • Interior: + – The quiet ride is a product of sound-deadening materials and Active Noise Control technology. The materials look and feel premium, with stitching on the steering wheel, parking-brake handle and shift knob. The silver trim for the instrument panel and other areas is just right.
  • Performance: + A nice balance for most drivers, though the limits of the front-drive layout become quite obvious when you push too hard in corners. The eight-speed dual clutch gearbox is state of the art.
  • Tech: + Keyless access has “smart” entry and there’s push-button start. Acura is touting the long-range remote engine starter, one-touch turn signals and hands-free Bluetooth. The 7-inch touch screen on Premium, Technology and A-SPEC grades is clear and easy to use.
  • Cargo: The space there is fine. It’s a compact sedan, not a cargo van.

The verdict

7.5

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I want to like this car , but the pricing – too high for a second-tier luxury brand – holds me back.

Editor's note: Automobile reviews by nature are opinionated. Occasionally, Globe Drive will re-assess a car from another writer's perspective.

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