• AcuraWatch safety and driver-assistance features now standard
  • Fresh new styling empowers a proven powertrain
  • 2019 Acura ILX starting price has decreased to $26,895

If you’re the younger sibling to a bigger, more popular brother, you can identify with the Acura ILX. Acura’s smallest sedan has stood in the shadow of the TLX, which has been outselling the ILX by nearly a 3-to-1 ratio.

But rather than sulk in a corner, the ILX is fighting for its own attention with a refresh for 2019 that grants new looks, new standard equipment, and best of all, a lower price point. After driving the 2019 Acura ILX in its home state of Ohio (it’s made in America at a plant in Marysville), we think this updated version of the ILX has the best chance yet of stepping outside the shadow of its older brother.

Still a great platform and powertrain

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: Yes, the Acura ILX is still based on the previous-generation Honda Civic (Acura is the luxury division of Honda). Is this a detriment? Well, maybe not as much as you think. First off, that previous-gen chassis remains really good.

It is taut and nimble. On the mostly 2-lane country roads around East Liberty, Ohio, where Acura invited us to test the 2019 ILX, we found this entry-level luxury sedan composed, solid and gratifying. And while its front-wheel-drive architecture won’t be confused for that of a proper rear-drive sport sedan, the ILX is fun to throw around corners. It’s eager to please. Our biggest complaint in higher-speed driving was the road noise that crept into the cabin, especially on rougher asphalt.

A second thing the ILX has going for it despite being based on a previous-gen Honda is its powertrain. There’s only one engine/transmission setup in the ILX, but it’s a strong one. Standard is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 201 horsepower. That’s more than rivals like the Audi A3 (186 horsepower) and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz A-Class (188 horsepower), though the Acura’s 180 lb-ft of torque is less than the figures of its German rivals.

We found that power satisfying in both initial acceleration and higher-speed passing. Unlike its rivals, the Acura’s engine isn’t turbocharged. Instead it’s larger and naturally aspirated. Again, we approve. Since it’s not a turbo, there’s no turbo lag, that initial instance of waiting for power to come on in such force-fed engines. Sometimes the older ways of doing things aren’t necessarily worse.

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Then there’s the transmission, another way in which the ILX stands out among its competitors. The Acura uses a unique 8-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. And here again, it’s gratifying. The transmission is smooth yet feels more involved than a standard automatic. The engine/transmission pairing is a good one, and the engine even has a good voice. Throw this compact sedan into sport mode, point it to a curvy, open road, and it will sing you an aggressive little tune.

Standard safety, new tech and a lower price

Outwardly, the 2019 Acura ILX gets a needed freshening. Most obvious is up front, where it becomes the final Acura vehicle to receive the signature Diamond Pentagon grille. With it, the ILX now looks like the rest of the lineup, and could even be mistaken for a smaller TLX. In back, there’s a new decklid, LED taillights, and lower diffuser.

Unseen but arguably even more important, the Acura ILX gains the AcuraWatch suite of safety and driver-assistance features as standard for 2019. The system bundles features like forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control, which allows the ILX to pace the vehicle ahead. These features were available on previous ILX models, but now they're standard on all trims.

Also important for today’s buyers, especially the younger professionals for which the ILX is aimed, Acura’s least-expensive vehicle is finally available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. It isn’t standard on the base model, but does arrive when you step up just one trim to the Premium model. All versions of the 2019 ILX are now on sale.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

And that brings us to pricing. To move the needle, Acura has dropped the starting price of the ILX by $2,200. The base price of a 2019 Acura ILX now begins at $26,895, including destination charges. For an ILX with the recommended Premium package, it’s still only $28,645. And even if you go all out on an ILX with the sporty A-Spec package and loaded it up with Technology package, it still arrives at only $32,545. How good of a value is this? Well, Acura ILX pricing ends below where an Audi A3 starts.

With this refresh, the 2019 Acura ILX packs good driving manners, great features, and excellent value. And that is how an attention-starved younger sibling can finally get the respect it deserves.

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