Youthful face, old bones. Walking up to the 2019 Acura ILX, you’d be forgiven for expecting a cutting-edge model. The angular grille, calligraphy LED headlights, and chunky rear pillars all point to youthful exuberance.

But underneath, the ILX hides an aging skeleton. It’s built on the bones of the last-generation Honda Civic. Honda replaced the car in 2016, but the underpinnings have survived in luxury form.

The sculpted exterior can’t entirely hide the ILX’s resemblance to the older car. The interior feels a little dated, too – base models get a center stack covered with buttons, and the air vents come straight from an economy car.

Sport sedan minus the sport. Although the new Civic boasts an engaging ride, the ILX hasn’t caught up yet.

In the Acura’s favor, the engine and transmission are both excellent. Only a single engine is available, but the 2.4-liter unit revs happily and provides plenty of thrust. The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is a highlight of the drive. Acura has added extra sound deadening to the cabin, so noise levels are low.

The steering is where things start to go wrong. It’s light and numb, with little to no feedback filtering up from the tires. The ride isn’t much better. It’s soft enough for long trips, but allows too much body roll to feel remotely sporty.

An A-Spec Package makes the ILX look sportier, but it adds nothing mechanically significant. The larger wheels do no favors for the ride, and the exterior body kit is about aesthetics alone.

Acura ILX

Premium features … One area where the ILX makes a decent case is features. It makes an affordable entry point into the world of luxury sedans. Most of the basics are included: synthetic leather upholstery, power features, USB charging, heated front seats, and a power moonroof.

Even better, Honda’s excellent safety features extend to Acura. Automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control are all standard. Those features join largely excellent crash-test scores from federal and independent testers.

The ILX falters only at the finishing touches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is optional, bundled into a package with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and leather upholstery. Adding the package doesn’t make the ILX prohibitively expensive (it costs $1,750), but more competitors are including these features as standard.

… But economy head room. That power moonroof may look the part, but it cuts into head room that was already scarce. The front seat gets 38 inches of head room, and the second row gets just 35.9.

That’s less than competitors like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which gets 40.3 and 37.2 inches, respectively, for the two rows. It’s even down on the new-generation Honda Civic.

The story improves slightly behind the rear seats. The ILX’s trunk can hold 12.4 cubic feet of cargo, which is better than the A-Class and about on par with the Audi A3.

It still feels small for a luxury sedan, especially one that prioritizes comfort over sportiness. And once more, the real competition here is the Civic – with 15.1 cubic feet behind the seats, the ILX’s mainstream sibling wins out yet again.

Final thoughts. The 2019 Acura ILX hits a few bright points. A zippy engine is a delight when paired with the ILX’s high-tech transmission, and Acura still manages to offer a luxury package for less than the competition.

But the reason for the price is clear. The ILX is built on a last-generation economy car, and no amount of styling can cover it up. The handling is bland, standard tech is less than stellar, and the cabin could use a few more inches of head room.

Most importantly, we’re left wondering … why not just get a Civic?

Check prices for the 2019 Acura ILX »