Honda has been building hybrid cars since 1999, but it's taken until now for the company to offer a hybrid model in the company's upmarket Acura brand.
We spent three days with, and covered 300 miles in, a new 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid four-door sedan.
And we have to say, while we like the ILX as a car--and it delivers good gas mileage, averaging 41.4 mpg over our test--the 2013 ILX Hybrid suffers from the same challenges as the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid.
The ILX is Acura's smallest model in several years, but underneath, it's very similar to the Civic. The three separate ILX powertrain options match those available in the Civic range. And it's assembled in the U.S. at a Civic manufacturing plant to boot.
Our ILX Hybrid had a 111-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a 15-kilowatt electric motor sandwiched between the engine and Honda's continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The EPA rates the 2013 ILX Hybrid at 38 mpg combined, versus the 44-mpg rating of the lighter Civic Hybrid that shares the same powertrain.
There are also two more powerful models, one with a 1.8-liter four and the other with a 2.4-liter--which we'll test later on.
The main challenge with the ILX Hybrid is its notable lack of power under some driving circumstances. It's decent off the line, with the mild-hybrid system restarting the engine fast enough to provide a manageable lag away from a stop.
But the ILX Hybrid falls down badly on power for acceleration in the critical 45-to-75-mph window. Whether it's accelerating to make a light that's about to change, or merging onto a fast-flowing freeway, the car simply doesn't provide the acceleration that a $35,000 near-luxury sport sedan ought to.
The styling of the ILX is modern and hits the latest Acura design themes. We're not entirely convinced we like the rising accent line on the sides, but overall, the Acura ILX is handsome without being particularly distinctive.
2013 Acura ILXEnlarge Photo
The interior is a pleasant place to spend time, with a far nicer interior than the widely criticized 2012 Civic interior. It has soft-touch materials on most surfaces, and our test car came with a fetching two-tone interior and leather upholstery that felt luxurious for the size of the car.
The seats were comfortable and rear-seat legroom is adequate with a bit of horse-trading between front and rear passengers. Trunk space is good, albeit through a relatively short opening.
And we particularly liked Acura's central control knob for moving through the screens on its central dash display.
Our hybrid ILX (serial number 509) came with a buzz in the center console that appeared on a number of different road surfaces and grew irksome over three days. We could fix it by pressing hard on the top of the center stack, but it was an unexpected and disturbing quality glitch in a new vehicle.
We also noticed very occasional creaks from the braking system, but couldn't reliably replicate the condition.
Our test car was the 2013 Acura ILX Tech Hybrid, with a base price of $34,400. For the first time in years, there wasn't a single option; the sticker price had only the mandatory $895 delivery fee, for a total sticker price of $35,295.