By on June 10, 2016

2017 Acura ILX blue

There is a new Honda Civic on a new platform with a very well-equipped Touring trim available. The tenth-generation is a hot seller and it claimed top sales honours among passenger cars in April.

Yet sales of another car, based on the old Honda Civic’s platform, are on the rise. Indeed, sales of the Acura ILX, admittedly updated for 2016 but very much a close relative of the ninth-generation Civic, have risen nine percent in a car market which tumbled eight percent through the first five months of 2016.

Why?

No seriously, why?

Despite Honda conditions that suggest ILX sales should be falling, we’ve got a few theories about why ILX sales are on the rise.

HORSEPOWER?
The 2016 Honda Civic’s 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, hooked up to a continuously variable transmission that really isn’t so bad, is essentially just as quick as the 2.4-liter-powered Acura ILX with its eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but the official specs may lead you to believe otherwise.

The ILX’s 2.4 produces 201 horsepower; the Civic’s 1.5T only 174. Perhaps buyers believe the extra 27 horsepower will be evident, but because the Civic’s 1.5T makes all of its torque so low in the rev-range, the Civic is just as punchy in the real world, if not more so.

2016 Honda Civic white

HONDA MONEY?
Second: is the potential buyer of a $28,930 compact Acura going to look at a $27,335 compact Honda, even if the Civic Touring features adaptive cruise, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, 20-percent more cargo volume, 6-percent more passenger volume, and 3.4 inches of additional rear legroom?

Mainstream compact car pricing reaches into some uncomfortable regions. Regardless of how well-equipped and spacious that Civic Touring may be, for some potential ILX buyers who could (and should) be looking at an alternative Honda product, $27,335 will seem like too much for a non-performance Civic.

PRESTIGE?
After spending a week in a ninth-generation Civic Coupe, another week in the 2016 Acura ILX, a week in a 2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring sedan and a final week in its two-door equivalent, it’s beyond certain that the tenth-generation Civic is a far more modern piece of kit than the ninth-gen-Civic-based Acura ILX.

The Civic’s structure is more solid, enabling superior ride and handling balance. The cabin is significantly roomier. The tech interface is better. The steering is sharper. The brakes are better. A $27,335 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring feels like what a $30,000 Acura ILX should feel like, while a $28,930 Acura ILX would line up better against a $24,000 Honda Civic.

And in this environment, with the Honda Civic improved to the extent that demand for the Acura ILX should dry up, sales of the ILX are on the rise. Could it be down to reason number three, the flip side of reason number two, that we’re not giving enough credit to Honda’s upmarket brand for the cachet of the Acura badge?

Is the Acura ILX, dare we say it, desirable? Does it make people jealous?

One thing is certain: it’s still not popular. Acura is on track to sell 20,000 ILXs in the United States in 2016, the ILX’s best total since 2013. Yet Buick is killing off the Verano, a car which has typically sold twice as often as the Acura. Pricier entry-level luxury cars at Audi and Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, are significantly more common than the ILX, though U.S. sales of the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA are both declining in early 2016.

[Image Source: American Honda]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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95 Comments on “Now That There’s A New Honda Civic, Why Are Sales Of The Old Acura ILX Rising?...”


  • avatar

    Most likely because acura is aggressively leasing them.

    ilx lease offer is $219 per month for 36 months.

    “Sales Figures” don’t differentiate leases from finances typically.

    If you took a look at leases vs. finances you’d suddenly realize, few people are actually keeping these things.

    Why buy a “honda” when I can get a guzzied-up honda for just a bit more money?

    If the badge on the back says “acura” it must be good right?

    honda (and toyota) I notice are not very flexible when it comes to negotiation on price. As far as I’ve seen, they are “take it or leave it”.

    Hyundai however will bend over backwards to keep you from leaving and giving you a chance to shop at their Japanese rivals.

    The Genesis Htrac lease I just got: 10,000 miles, 3-years for $350 a month makes the rlx (and the rest of acura’s cars) look really, really, really bad. I almost lamented having to give hem back my 2013 Azera lease. It was a very good city car.

  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    Acura – decent lease and finance deals.

    Honda – stingy dealers refusing to budge on price because of the popularity of the “new” Civic. You can get a better deal on an Accord Sport right now than a Civic EX. I looked at an EX-L sedan and the dealer wouldn’t budge one cent on the MSRP. So we walked out… he didn’t make the usual salesman follow-up call.

    • 0 avatar
      MrKiwi

      Has this always been the case? The last time I shopped for a car was in 2011 or thereabouts, and I remember leaving the Honda dealership very quickly because the salesman acted like he was doing me a favor to even talk to me. I showed them the offer I had on a Ford Fusion, and he kind of sniffed and informed me that his car was just better, so I should quietly accept that I’d need to pay more.

      I got the Fusion.

      Now that I’m beginning to look again, I’m really liking the availability of manual on Hondas (I’ve decided this time is no compromises – manual transmission is a requirement). I could go for either the Accord or the Civic, really.

      But with so many good cars to choose from (albeit limited selection with stick), I have no desire to spend several thousand dollars so I can be treated shabbily by a salesman.

      Problem is (and I realize I’m digressing wildly from the topic here), what checks all the boxes if you want a fun, reasonably sporty car, that will also do good duty as a daily driver, and has a stick shift?

      Ford Focus? Long in the tooth, and too tight a back seat (if that’s a consideration).

      Mazda 3? Everything I’ve read says LOUD, like they haven’t yet figured out NVH properly.

      Cruze? Too divorced from the driving experience.

      Honda? Expensive compared to the competition.

      Ugh.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        GTI/GLI?

        I’d probably just lease a 320i or 328i personally.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Golf/GTI. And VW dealers would love to deal, and they’re quiet.

        At least experience the Mazda3 yourself. I imagine it would be worth the effort. A 6 can be had at the same price, or for a bit more. Probably not many manuals to choose from though. Again, it’s probably not as bad as you want to imagine. And it’s not like Hondas are known for being quiet, so I don’t know why you’re holding it against Mazda.

        • 0 avatar
          MrKiwi

          @TMA1, you’re right – I will have to take the Mazda out for a lengthy test drive.

          I keep coming back to the Focus, and I’m not sure why. Am I delusional?

          • 0 avatar
            HotPotato

            You are not delusional. Modern Fords drive great. But yeah, a VW will give you more room, an equally good drive, possibly better brand cachet and resale once the diesel thing blows over, and a dealer willing to deal until then.

            And yes, drive a Mazda too, and see if you can get an OK deal. I love Mazdas but the new 3 is small, odd looking and priced VERY dear. The basest base model is priced OK, but I’d rather not have the small engine and chintzy plastic wheel covers.

          • 0 avatar
            MrKiwi

            Car and Driver just did a comparison (July issue). Vehicles were the Cruze LT, Civic EX, Elantra Limited, Mazda 3i Grand Touring, and Nissan Sentra SL (!). No Ford and no VW. And no explanation for why they left them out.

      • 0 avatar
        Reino

        Honda is losing the manuals. Civic only available on LX. Accord only available on 4-cylinder Sport.

        If you want manuals, go see Mazda.

        • 0 avatar
          fvfvsix

          Honda’s announced that they will have an upper trim 1.5T/6MT combination available by the end of the year. I’d buy this over a Mazda 3 in a heartbeat.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @fvfvsix

            I don’t know if you’re fool or not but you talk like one. Pick Civic [even touring hatch 1.5T-MT] over Mazda3 in a heartbeat…

            You don’t know what you are talking about. For that kind of money you can get 2.5L MT loaded, fast and fuel efficient, with no extra components like turbo. Made in Japan and not UK, with highest quality craftsmanship.

            Show me why would you pick Civic – I see no good reason. Leave your heartbeat to yourself.

          • 0 avatar
            fvfvsix

            @slavuta

            I could certainly be a fool, but here are my reasons:

            1) Honda has had six or seven personally-owned cars to prove its reliability to me, and they haven’t let me down. I don’t have that experience with Mazda, so statistics will have to do.

            2) I like turbo fours or NA sixes for small daily drivers. Mazda’s 2.5 won’t do. Sorry.

            3) The Mazda dealers in my area are at least twice as crappy the Honda dealers, which are passable.

            4) Best manual transmission in a small car. Period.

            5) I have a world-class Honda-only mechanic that I trust

            I could go on, but I suspect you really only care about defending your small-car favorite, rather than my reasoning behind my preference. That’s okay… I just don’t give a crap about the Mazda 3. You do. Fair enough.

            You see, I actually _buy_ and use cars; not just discuss them on the Internet. So, what works for me, works for me. YMMV.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Your Honda dealer experience is totally consistent with mine.

        Test drive everything. But if after test driving the Accord or Civic you find that it’s your favorite, just be ready to play hardball. Pick your price, walk out repeatedly if you have to, deal with as many different dealers as you can. It’s worth going through an unpleasant shopping experience to get to the right outcome.

      • 0 avatar
        Redshift

        MrKiwi Check out a Subaru WRX
        Most of their models can be had with a manual (at least here in Canada) but the new WRX is actually a pretty nice car and has the driver involvement thing covered.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Plus, with Acura you get a year longer warranty, and better dealership experience, which is something of BS BUT does include the availability of a loaner for service, which can be invaluable.

      There’s also the fact that I drove a Honda Civic in high school and college, as did a lot of other people. That’s what I associate the car with. I don’t really want to drive one as a reasonably successful professional. Does that make sense? Not really. Is it shallow? Sure. But it’s real.

      • 0 avatar
        an innocent man

        And not just a year longer on the warranty, but it’s 50k, so 14,000 more miles also. Plus the dealer experience as you noted. I have an Acura and a Honda, the dealers are from the same group and next door to each other. I get a loaner on my Acura (2004, with 242k) on any service. I only get a loaner at Honda if the work will take longer than 4 hours, and need to schedule further out even for that.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        @S2K Chris – I’ve had 4 Honda Civics, so they’ve been a part of our lives both as broke-ass college students, and as successful professionals. They fit in extremely well in all social circles if properly maintained. If we didn’t get a really good deal on the used TSX we bought a few years ago, I would definitely be looking to add a 10th gen Touring to our lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      They’re selling basically all the CRVs, HRVs, and Civics they can make at this point with multi-month long backlogs for the HRV so dealerships just aren’t going to give big discounts. But the cars that aren’t moving they’re more than willing to give you huge discounts on, a larger Accord can come within a couple thousand of a Civic of the same trim level. I wouldn’t really blame the dealers though, if they only have 500 cars to sell then they’ll sell them to the 500 people willing to pay full price because they only have so much inventory. If you want a good deal buying the latest car that just launched is never going to get you a good deal, almost all new hot models will go for MSRP or worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Why would anyone “follow-up” with a tire-kicker who cannot take the price? Enough with the bargaining. Go to local Carmax and bargain there.

    • 0 avatar
      Sketch

      It’s not just new Hondas. We were recently car shopping for the wife and the resale value on used Civics is ridiculous in our area. We bought a high mileage 03 Civic two years ago…and asking prices don’t seem to have dropped at all since then. The only cars you see that are cheap, relatively speaking, are coupes with manual transmissions. What I did notice is that, at least in the 8+ year old range is you can get an Accord (usually V6) for significantly less money.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Die, big gaudy alloys, die!

    Lumbar pain just looking at ’em..

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Seems to me the big story in that GCBC article isn’t the Acura – I’m sure the reason for the bounce is that Acura’s doing some kind of lease deal.

    No, that big story is actually the Kia Forte, which is up almost 24% for the year. If you’re in the market for a compact, drive one – it’s a pleasant surprise.

    As far as the Civic goes…I want to like it but after seeing one in the flesh, one thing really stood out – ridiculous panel gaps. Check this page out – not crazy about the review but there’s a good photo gallery that you can full-screen. Check the panel gaps between the hood and fenders, and the bottoms of the doors. That’s not just the car in this article – they all pretty much look like this.

    I haven’t driven a Civic but based on this, and the whole messed up engine thing, I’m not sold.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2015/10/19/2016-honda-civic-first-drive-review-video/#slide-3660898

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Hyundai/Kia, like Ford, either can’t seem to deliver on the performance its specs promise, or it does deliver them at a price (problematic DCTs). In the mainstream realm, anyway. There’s no current Civic Si, but the last one handily thrashed the stickshift Forte Turbo in all metrics. Strangely enough the Forte Turbo is significantly faster with an automatic than the manual, and both are way faster than the current Sonata/Optima 2.0T despite having 50-60 less HP. And Hyundai/Kia steering feel is abysmal. GTI, Focus Titanium, 3 2.5… all drive a good bit nicer than the Forte.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The TLX has an ILX problem.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Maybe it’s just the fact that some people (myself included) just can’t get past how ugly the new Civic is.
    The ILX is no beauty, but it’s not repulsive.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    As I read this, I’m trying to realize the last time I actually saw one of these in the wild.

  • avatar
    horsey

    The 10th Gen Civic is a fantastic car. My only issues is the “shelf” type chrome grill, and the fact that a fully loaded Civic is priced the same as a well equipped Accord. Although I wouldn’t buy the ILX over the Civic, I would definitely ask myself the questions that were mentioned in this article.

    I want to like the ILX. I want to like Acura in general. I just can’t. I am interested to see how Acura incorporates their new grill scheme into the redesigned ILX, however. Assuming it gets the new Civic platform.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    Auto journalists and people who read about cars are aware of the Civic/ILX relationship. But the car buying public isn’t. Acura buyers generally think they are getting Honda quality but little else. The cars are not meant to be cross-shopped. When Acura goes to market, it does not talk about how the cars fare vs. Hondas. That would defeat the purpose of the brand.
    Still, I have no explanation for ILX sales bump. People should not have bought that car before and they certainly shouldn’t now.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Honestly, I think the B&B is right. This year is the first year with the 2.4L/8DCT combination. The old 2.0 was seriously underpowered. If you cross-shopped literally anything else, you would not have bought an ILX. Now, they’re reasonably responsive; and with a great lease deal, why not?

  • avatar
    VW16v

    A lot of people that purchase an Acura, purchase the car on the name alone. The bumperless rdx and this ilx are prime examples.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      What’s wrong with the RDX? It’s one of the few 5-person CUVs you can buy with a real live V6 instead of a wheezy four, that isn’t made in Korea (so it doesn’t seem like a soul-sucking compromise on life). And our loaded (tech pack AWD) one cost about $38k. Pretty fantastic deal relative to the competition. It’s not as good as the Germans, but it’s also about 25% off.

      • 0 avatar
        Reino

        How is the SH-AWD on that? I hear its one of the most underrated systems out there.

        • 0 avatar
          VW16v

          Rhino, sh-awd is subpar compared to other systems. Still helpful in snowy conditions.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            The latest SH-AWD implementations are now mentioned with the same reverence as Subaru’s symmetric AWD and Audi’s Quattro.

            I went from a Subaru to a MDX SH-AWD and it’s quite nice in the handling department when I tried it in muddy snow 2 months ago.

            The subpar system you’re thinking of is the non-SH-AWD one used on things like the CRV and RDX.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          RDX doesn’t have SH-AWD, it has the same crappy on-demand system as the CR-V. Frankly, they could give us a FWD car and as long as they put an AWD sticker on the back, my wife and the millions of other milfs driving these things would never know the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        The latest sales monkey told my wife and I the rear hatch acts as a bumper due to the rear bumper being flush with hatch. I just looked at him and said ” really “. He just shrugged his shoulders and we both laughed.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Terrain/Equinox has a 3.6l V6 with 300+ horsepower. The Denali recently tested in Motor Trend had similar figure-eight lap time as the RDX. Acura has updated it but with its sales on the east coast it doesn’t need to be.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      Very true, but this is a positive for Acura. They are well regarded among the upper-middle class as a luxury car that “isn’t too snobby”. Just ask my mom, who could easily afford a Mercedes, but is on her 2nd Acura in ten years for this exact reason.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      There are plenty of good reasons to buy either car that have nothing to do with the brand name. They’re both dead reliable, they both have LED headlights, they both have smooth running, fuel efficient, simple and low maintenance powertrains and they’re both competitively equipped. Neither is on the level of cynical brand whoring of something like the CLA. And for quite some time your beloved VWAG was selling fancy Passats as Audis, with great success I might add. This is a stupid assessment.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I know that when I’m car shopping, I ALWAYS look to see at what rev-range the torque is available at. Hi-revving rice-burners have never really been my thing, because I (and I suspect most people) do not routinely run the engine up to near the redline, with all the noise and commotion that follows.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    To me the ILX is like a modern day Infiniti G20. A bit pricey considering its pedestrian roots. Mildly sporty and available with a good engine. Overall pretty inoffensive and an okay entrant in the junior-premium car segment that attracts aspiring yuppie types.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Wife looked at the ILX when she bought her Golf. She wouldn’t look at the Civic as she thinks it is in a lower category than the Golf. Ssshh, don’t tell her, I just shake my head and smile. But she likes torque, not that she knows what it is.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I took my 26-year-old Integra to the Acura dealer for an oil change. Why? Because it was $30.

    Also, the lone PO had never serviced the car anywhere but the Acura dealer. Why break the streak?

    While I waited for my service…

    “Would you like a fresh-baked cookie, sir?”
    “Would you like a hand-pulled cappuccino, sir?”
    “Here’s your free Acura-branded detailing kit, sir!”

    I can tell you *precisely* why people buy the ILX over a similarly-priced Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I’d like to the tally on 26 years of overpriced, dealership services.

      And you’ll be back for multiple airbag replacements too.

      • 0 avatar
        Sketch

        26-year old airbag is too old for the Takata recall. Presumably they didn’t cheap out until around 2000.

        In the early days of airbags they said they should be inspected every 10 years or so. Current wisdom says “they should last the life of the car.”. Of course, that was pre-Takata recall….

  • avatar
    omer333

    I had a loaner ILX while waiting for a key to get made at the local Acura dealer. Although I didn’t have the car very long, I thought the ammount of kit that you can get, like a moonroof, along with the transmission, made it feel a little bit better than my Accord with the CVT.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    How about the Civic vs ILX is kind of like the old “Ford vs. Mercury” back when Mercury’s actually had nicer/quieter interiors.

    Well Sir, the the Mercury is on $XX more per month…

  • avatar
    65corvair

    I August 2014 I needed a reliable car with good gas milage. Fiesta let me down too many times. I looked at and tested a Civic. I liked it. I thought I’d look at the next step up, the Accord. August 2014 Honda was going to sell you an Accord cheap. The Accord was a lot nicer for very little money. That’s what I got. Today I might have gotten a Civic. Might have looked at the Acura. I like small and nice. Not low end.

    As good as the Fiesta was for gas milage the much bigger and faster Accord gets a little better in the winter, summer only 3 mpg less.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      ” August 2014 I needed a reliable car with good gas milage. Fiesta let me down too many times.”

      This is an example (multiply it by tens of thousands of times here, and on other forums, especially Ford vehicle owner forums) as to why I point out TTAC’s bull$hit pro-Ford bias.

      Whether the Fiesta, Focus, Escape, Fusion, Edge, various Lincoln clones, or what have you…as to transmissions, coolant systems, electronics, body panel or interior parts quality or fit/finish, suspensions, etc.

      FORD QUALITY IS NOT ONLY NOT JOB #1, FORD QUALITY IS ALARMINGLY ABSENT.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        TTAC tests cars, they don’t live with them, for the most part. And Bark M. doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to pull any punches about his ownership experiences. It’s not that serious bro.

      • 0 avatar
        theoldguard

        I had 2012 Ford Focus. Love it—except for infamous PowerShud-d-d-er transmission. Rented a Mazda 3 a couple of days, and didn’t really think it handled any better than Focus. But the Mazda 3 didn’t have PowerShud-d-d-er transmission.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’m an Acura owner so I’m a bit prejudice. With Acura you get a free loaner, even if all you want is a oil change/service that will cost you $150. It’s usually a TLX if that impresses anyone. More importantly every Honda I’ve sat in has poor thigh support in the front seats, where Acura’s do. That’s about all I got tho.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Y’know.. the best luxury is never having to see the inside of the service department. Our TSX turns six this year, and I do most of the routine stuff myself. So it goes in for alignments and brakes. It’s been there once. My BMW service rep, by contrast, became someone I knew personally by the time my relationship with my X3 was over.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      IIRC, we both have the TSX Wagon. I had to bring mine in for service to replace drive axles (under warranty) and we got a loaner car — the 2106 ILX with only 50 miles on it. It was nice, but neither my wife nor I would consider buying it. There was a dull droning sound as we drove it, and driver entry was impeded by plastics at the knee level. The TSX, while older, is still the better vehicle.

      I haven’t test driven the new Honda Civic, but I think it’s better than the ILX as well. The ILX’s rise is sales is probably due to lease deals, and the Acura badge (which the B&B tends to value less).

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    This is proof that people need to get out and actually test drive the damn cars. This isn’t a designer jeans purchase. Just because it says Acura on the trunk lid doesn’t mean your getting the newest and best tech.

    A good friend of ours just bought his second Buick Verano. I asked him if he test drove the new Cruze or Malibu which are also in the same price bracket as his smaller Buick. Nope I bought it because it’s a Buick. Well imagine his surprise when we showed up at his place in a new 2016 Malibu LT with the convenience package and moonroof for less than what he paid for the Bu. He liked the car so much that he now wished he test drove one instead.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It’s based on the old platform, but it was substantially improved for 2016, and at real-world prices the 2016 improvements made it a decent value. Excellent powertrain, pretty good dynamics by FWD standards, good equipment levels, passable interior.

    Certainly a far better car than the Mercedes CLA being offered at a slightly higher price point.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Hi Tim, it’s a puzzler for sure. I’m with a few of the previous comments on looks, but … maybe the ATP tells a tale? MSRP to MSRP comparisons are always silly, do you have data on what both go for in real sale and lease deals?


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