Next month, the curtain will go up at the Los Angeles Auto Show and bring with it the flurry of new models from around the globe. Hoping to soak up some spotlight time will be Honda, which is bringing two especially significant vehicles to the show that will help shape its impact on the U.S. market in the future.
The first is an Acura: A new ILX, the luxury division’s entry-level offering, which needless to say hasn’t exactly been a highlight in Acura’s sales reports of late. The second is the Honda HR-V, a small crossover SUV based on the same platform that also carries the popular Fit hatchback. Both of these cars are significant to the company, but for different reasons.
Let’s start with the ILX. In a time when luxury sales are burgeoning and companies like Mercedes-Benz are having trouble keeping up with the demand, Acura has been noticeably absent from the rush of late. As I’ve discussed before here, Acura has long suffered from a clear lack of direction, dabbling in — but not committing itself to — various segments like hybrids and utility.
Utility vehicles are right now Acura’s bread and butter, as the RDX and MDX SUVs supply much of the brand’s growth. But luxury brands need more than an affluent soccer mom vibe on which to thrive, and Acura knows this. But beyond that, Acura hasn’t been sure of which direction to take. Its hybrid offerings have been remarkably lackluster (though the new RDX Sport Hybrid proves to be a different beast), and styling hasn’t been Acura’s forte either (that chrome beak of 2009 still haunts its cars to this day). Last week, it was announced that the brand might pursue an all-wheel drive formula as a central pillar of its strategy, much in the same way Subaru has made it a defining factor in its ethos.
The ILX, see, is supposed to be Acura’s volume seller. It’s priced competitively to undercut the Mercedes CLA and the Audi A3. But it’s among Acura’s weakest performers, and is being thoroughly upstaged by the new TLX, which looks sharper and is larger and more exciting. Simply put, the Acura ILX is a bland, beige entrant in a popular segment where excitement is key.
Hopefully, there will be some changes for the 2016 model year, which will debut in Los Angeles. Its design language will likely mimic more closely that of the TLX, as well as “a sharper performance focus while delivering a greater set of high-value comfort, convenience, and safety features that consumers desire in the increasingly competitive entry-luxury field.” Acura also promised a new powertrain, more forceful, sporty exterior styling, and substantially upgraded interior design.
Joining the ILX on Honda’s stage will be the HR-V, a small sub-crossover that will slot in below the ever popular CR-V, which has also been redone for 2015. The HR-V, as mentioned earlier, is built on the same platform that supports the Fit hatchback, but the higher riding HR-V will undoubtably offer more cabin versatility and ability. The HR-V has been revealed previously in pictures, but will make its debut in North America next month.
Honda promises “a versatile and spacious interior thanks to an innovative center fuel tank layout,” and the “Honda-exclusive Magic Seat, which allows for multiple seating configurations and the ability to fold the second row seat completely flat for added cargo space.” It will go up against the likes of the Nissan Juke and Subaru Crosstrek, as well as the upcoming Chevrolet Trax and the Mini Countryman.