Emily Chung: Mummy Mechanic


Why Acura Broke Away from Honda’s Best Seller

They may be "sisters," but they're distinctly different

Honda Acura

Not to date myself, but I still remember when the Acura brand was first introduced in Canada. For the longest time it was just Honda, and Acura was introduced as their luxury brand.

The Honda Civic is such a popular car – it’s almost a rite of passage! During my time, almost everyone’s first car was either a Honda Civic or Chevrolet Cavalier. In fact, the Honda Civic has been Canada’s best-selling vehicle for 17 years.

The Acura brand then produced the 1.6EL and followed by the CSX, so closely modelled after the Civic that it was commonly thought to be just pricier versions. Often, at our auto repair shop when we’re pricing out parts for our clients for their Acura 1.6EL or CSX, we have to ask for the Honda Civic part equivalent as there’s no listing for the Acura in the parts catalogue.

For many, the Acura product was seen as riding on the coat-tails of the Honda Civic’s success. When Acura announced that they were dropping the CSX and introducing the ILX, it definitely piqued my interest – it’s a big gamble, to walk away from Canada’s best-selling car. At the same time, it made sense if Acura was to attract customers from other luxury brands… time to break the stigma of being just an expensive Honda.

2015 Acura ILX profile

I had the opportunity to speak with Ricky Mak, Product Planner with Acura Canada. Indeed, the Acura ILX was intended to be a completely different product than the Honda Civic. Ricky conceded that the Civic was a strong brand, but noted that Acura wanted to take their entry level car to the “next level”. The interior of the ILX has quality finish consistent with the Acura brand. Standard features include ‘Smart Entry’ (keyless), moonroof, and HID headlamp bulbs.

2015 Acura ILX centre console

We reminisced being part of a generation of car owners, decking out and modifying the Honda Civic, Prelude or Acura Integra. One of the targeted segments that the Acura ILX is trying to reach are young couples who want driving performance, but don’t have the time to tune the car. The reality is that we’ve had to grow up and with the demands of career and family, there just isn’t as much time for tinkering with the car!

2015 Acura ILX rear

I road tested the 2015 Acura ILX Dynamic (2.4L iVTEC engine, 6 speed manual transmission) and when compared to the 2015 Honda Civic, its handling felt responsive and the ILX had a smoother ride (in part due to its amplitude reactive damper).  I was happy to see that the ILX has a more traditional instrument cluster (sorry Honda, I’m just too old school for the fancy digital gauges!) and despite being a small sedan, it had enough trunk space for my Costco run. Now personally, THAT is a test that any potential vehicle on my "to buy" list must pass.

2015 Acura ILX Instrument Panel   

  2015 Acura ILX trunk

As for what’s next, Ricky tells me his team is already planning products 3 years out. As for the near future, the 2016 ILX borrows from the TLX’s 2.4L direct-injected engine. What does that mean? It should feel like it has more "umph" compared to the TLX because the same engine is working in a lighter weight car!

Only time will tell if Acura made the right move. Given what Acura wanted to accomplish with its entry-level luxury sedan, I personally think they made a good choice.

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