Acura ILX offers more snap than Honda Civic

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      For at least the past three decades, one of the most popular cars sold in Canada has been the Honda Civic. People like this little sedan or coupe, and Honda has made it highly accessible through a variety of discount and lease programs over the years. These days, you can pick up a base version for around $16,000 (before extras) or lease one from about $160 a month, and they continue to move off the lots in impressive numbers.

      But if you’re a Civic aficionado with tastes that are a bit more extravagant and you’ve got a few bucks burning a hole in your bank account, Honda also offers an Acura version of the Civic, and has done so for many years: the ILX. Introduced in 2012, the ILX replaced the CSX, which in turn replaced the EL, which in turn replaced the Integra sedan.

      Offered in four trim levels, the ILX definitely feels like a Civic behind the wheel—think of it as a Civic in a tuxedo—and, for 2016, it gets a bit of a restyle and more snap. Power is now delivered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers 201 horsepower. This is up from the 2.0-litre, 150-horsepower version sold in 2015. Your garden-variety Civic, by comparison, is powered by either a 1.5- or 1.8-litre four-cylinder, except for the Si, which has the same engine as the ILX.

      Confused? Don’t be. The short version is that the ILX is much livelier than the Civic, while delivering a combined fuel-economy rating of 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres. A Civic will net you 7.7 combined rating.

      But what sets the ILX apart from its predecessor is a new direct-injection fuel-delivery system, and a dual-clutch, eight-speed automatic transmission. In a nutshell, this latter item controls the transmissions gears by splitting them up between two clutch assemblies. This is supposed to deliver smoother and quicker shift points, resulting in improved performance and better fuel economy. To be honest, I didn’t notice much of a driving difference between this model and last year’s, although this one is certainly livelier, with all kinds of reserve power and off-the-line acceleration. For those who like to get into it once in awhile through the twisty bits, the ILX has a manual shift feature, with steering-wheel–mounted shift paddles.

      There are lots of modcons and convenience features, too. My tester, the A-Spec version, came with all kinds of goodies, including push-button start, multiview backup camera, remote start, hill start assist, hands-free connectivity, text-messaging capability, leather interior, and GPS. This is in addition to the usual upscale bits and pieces such as one-touch power windows, a climate-control system, cloud-based satellite radio, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and on and on. The A-Spec also has larger 18-inch wheels and tires.

      A word about remote start: this somewhat controversial feature will allow you, by pressing a button on the remote, to get the car warmed up in cold weather, or cooled off in hot, without having to actually get into it. For those who like comfort, it’s a godsend; for those who put the environment ahead of everything else, it’s a curse, as an idling automobile creates more emissions.

      Here’s something kind of cool: according to Acura, the ILX will not need any kind of maintenance for the first 160,000 kilometres. Says the company: “The ILX’s engine does not require scheduled maintenance for 160,000+/- km or more, other than periodic inspections and normal fluid and filter replacements. The first tune-up includes water pump inspection, valve adjustment and installation of new spark plugs.”

      A couple of observations about the ILX. First, this is not a quiet car. On the highway, road noise is excessive, and Honda-Acura needs to do some more work regarding soundproofing and noise isolation. This has been a recurring issue with many Honda products over the years and is still not resolved, from what I can hear.

      Second, the A-Spec version has too much…stuff. A lot of the additional features are simply not necessary and appear to be there just to give the illusion of luxury and prestige. The vehicle-driver interface is a good example; it’s overly fussy and distracting.

      Third, this car needs premium-grade fuel—although it will run on regular. These days, that could add up over the long run.