SCOTTSDALE, AZ – Acura says its new youth-oriented ILX compact sedan is not a Civic clone, despite the fact it rides on the same platform as the mass-market Honda model.

To attract buyers to the nascent entry-premium segment, which includes the Buick Verano and Lexus CT 200h, Acura says it wanted to offer something beyond a re-badged Civic as it has been doing in Canada with the soon-to-be-defunct CSX.

The ILX boasts a slew of updates from the ninth-generation ’12 Civic, which went on sale last year. These include more insulating materials, changed suspension and steering systems and a remapped engine-control unit for the hybrid model, ILX Chief Engineer Takeshi Nakamura says during a media preview of the car here.

The ILX has similar dimensions to the Civic but is 1.8 ins. (4.6 cm) longer and wider. This translates into more interior cabin space, providing rear-seat passengers almost the same amount of room as found in the slightly larger TSX sedan, Acura says.

The added length is evident in the vehicle’s nose, which designers made more prominent to give the car a greater presence. The '13 ILX also is 1 in. (2.5 cm) lower than the ’12 Civic, for a hunkered-down, sportier look, Nakamura says.

To improve ride and handling, the ILX’s body has more torsional rigidity than the Civic, with 18% improvement in the front and 11% in the rear. Some 62% of the ILX's body is made of high-strength steel, compared with 55% in the Civic.

An aluminum hood and front bumper beam are employed on all ILX variants to reduce weight, with the hybrid receiving an aluminum rear bumper beam.

Acura does not disclose the coefficient of drag for the ILX, but says the car is more aerodynamic than the Civic due to the use of three undercovers. The hybrid and 2.4L models add an engine undercover as well.

As with the Civic, the ILX has a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension, but friction-reducing bushings are added to smooth out small bumps in the road. Teflon-lined stabilizer bushings and inner-ring-style lower bushings are used in the front and rear. An inter-ring-design knuckle bushing also is employed in the rear.

To maintain ride comfort while increasing roll rigidity, the ILX front and rear boasts rebound springs. The Amplitude Reactive dampers, with a piston rod, stopper spring, support spring and two piston valves, also balance ride comfort with sportier handling, Nakamura says.

The main valve minimizes slight inputs from rough surfaces, while the second activates when encountering deeper bumps in the road or in hard cornering.

To boost rigidity and offer a “high-quality steering feel,” Nakamura says the ILX has a larger steering shaft than the Civic, 1.2-ins. (3.0 cm) in diameter compared with the Honda’s 0.9-in. (2.3 mm) version.

More precisely machined gears improve steering linearity, giving the ILX a direct feel, he says. A forged yoke joint provides an improved initial response time over the Honda model. The Civic’s steering ratio is quickened 6.8% in the ILX to improve responsiveness.

To meet luxury-levels of refinement, Nakamura says noise, vibration and harshness levels are greatly improved. The ILX uses sound-insulating windshield glass and thicker front- and rear-door glass. Insulation also can be found in the fenders, trunk and doors. A triple-layered material is used in the dashboard.

To limit vibration, engineers revised the Civic’s engine and transmission mounts, and the ILX's steering hanger is more rigid as well. Melt sheets, including a plastic-constraining type in the ILX's floor, limit body vibration, Nakamura says.

Acura’s Active Noise Control system in the audio speakers reduces booming interior noise in the 2.0L and 2.4L ILX models.

The hybrid system, one of the three powertrain choices offered with the ILX, is shared with the Civic. The 1.5L SOHC gasoline engine is mated to a 17.2-kW (23-hp) electric motor. The hybrid system includes a continuously variable transmission and lithium-ion battery pack.

However, Nakamura points out one difference. “Our concept was this vehicle (ILX) should have easy city driving,” compared with the Civic Hybrid, he says. Drive-by-wire settings were changed to allow the ILX's throttle opening to be wider with a lower-pedal angle, adding more assist from the electric motor.

As with the Civic version, the ILX Hybrid, to be priced at about $30,000, is a mild hybrid, with its motor supplemental during startup and acceleration. The car is able to travel solely on electric power at 10-45 mph (16-72 km/h), Acura says.

The ILX Hybrid's 39/38 mpg (6.0-6.2 L/100 km) city-highway fuel economy is below that of the ’12 Civic Hybrid’s 44/44 mpg (5.3-53 L/100 km). The ILX model is roughly 100 lbs. (45 kg) heavier.

The 201-hp 2.4L ILX with a 6-speed manual will begin at about $30,000, while the 150-hp 2.0L ILX base model with a standard 5-speed automatic transmission with paddles should start at about $27,000. All three ILX grades go on sale in the U.S. May 25.

Standard features include keyless entry, USB with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, Pandora Internet radio and SMS text messaging. An available premium package for the 2.0L and 2.4L models includes heated leather seats, a multi-view rear camera and 17-in. aluminum wheels.

A technology package for the 2.0L and hybrid ILX models offers a hard drive-based navigation system and Panasonic ELS 365-watt audio system with 15GB of music storage.

cschweingberg@wardsauto.com