By Shari Prymak

2016 Acura ILX - The idea of a compact luxury sedan always had great appeal to me. You get the affordability and easy to drive nature of a compact car, combined with some of the prestige and affluence of a luxury car. Unfortunately, Acura’s previous take on the segment, the CSX, wasn’t the finest example of the breed. Thanks to budget restraints attributed to its Canadian exclusivity, the CSX was nothing more than a mainstream Honda Civic EX-L with a bit of lipstick and mascara. Really, you would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two.

All of that has changed though with the CSX replacement: the ILX. As a North American wide model, Acura could afford to go all out with the ILX, and indeed, it appears they have. The sheet metal is entirely bespoke and quite attractive, measuring up, not only to the Acura image in terms of elegance, but also to rivaling compact luxury cars like the Buick Verano, Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3. No one would ever know that, beneath the beautiful skin, lies the bits and pieces of a Civic.

The interior too is appropriately luxurious. The seats are extremely comfortable and supportive. Sound isolation from the outside is quite impressive. And the use of materials and finishes are up to usually high Acura standards. The base model ILX can be disregarded as it doesn’t quite offer the expected luxury car amenities, but the next-up Premium model comes nicely equipped, with heated leather seats, multi-view back-up camera, and a blind-spot information system. All ILX models come with "Jewel-Eye" LED headlights, smart entry with push-button start, and a comprehensive list of AcuraWatch safety systems.

Out on the road, the ILX proved to be a very pleasant ride. It manages to pull off a nice compromise between feeling agile and planted, yet quiet and comfortable. And thanks to its relatively small dimensions and great back-up camera, it’s easy enough to manoeuver and park in situations that larger sedans would struggle with.

The real strength of the ILX though is its potent, 201 horsepower, 2.4L, 4-cylinder engine, and 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission borrowed from the larger TLX. The transmission is a real marvel, operating smoothly and seamlessly under normal driving conditions, yet still able to deliver sports car fast shifts in sport mode with a flick of the steering wheel paddles. It's a fine match for the new 2.4L engine, which, despite being larger and significantly more powerful than the old 2.0L, returns comparable fuel economy with an average rating of 8.1L/100km.

The ILX has a starting MSRP of $29,490. The Premium and Tech models command $2500 and $4000 premiums respectively, and the largely cosmetic A-Spec model sits at the top of the range with an MSRP of $34,890. While the ILX may not have the most interior room or sport a fancy Audi badge, it is still an excellent choice for the budget-minded shopper who is adamant on having a luxury badge. As a stylish, sporty, luxury car wrapped around the innards of an efficient, reliable, compact car, none do it better than the Acura ILX.