2018 Acura ILX vs. 2018 Audi A3

As the luxury market grows, driving a car with a luxury badge has become as much a way of affirming you’re on a path toward affluence and success as it is one that you’ve arrived. So it’s no surprise that most of the established luxury brands have extended their reach downward, to cars that aren’t just a little smaller but a bit more affordable, too.

And if you’re shopping for a vehicle that will buy you into the luxury fold, yet is compact and sensible-sized for urban lifestyles, the 2018 Acura ILX and 2018 Audi A3 should certainly on your list.

In this comparison, we’ll dive into what makes these cars similar, what makes them unique, and let you decide which is the best option to meet your wants and needs as a luxury car buyer!

Performance and Fuel Economy

These two models skirt the line between comfortable, tech-savvy, and value-oriented on one side, and give you just enough of a tease of sportiness and an engaging drive on the other side. Between the basic versions of the A3 and the ILX, we think the ILX is the clear winner, though.

The Acura ILX sports a 201-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine—with direct injection. It utilizes a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and the two function harmoniously when the roads turn hilly and curvy.

In the A3, you have a choice between a base front-wheel-drive or an all-wheel drive model, both of which utilize the same 2.0-liter, 220-hp engine. A dual-clutch automatic gearbox is the only transmission.

On the fuel economy side, both the 2018 Acura ILX and 2018 Audi A3 are evenly matched, with the A3 narrowly beating the ILX in city mpg.

Interior and Technology

The refreshed Acura ILX also ends up a step ahead of the Audi A3 when it comes to cabin comfort and interior space.

Acura has made some improvements in front-seat comfort, while legroom and kneeroom are quite good—good enough for a couple of six-footers. There’s also a plethora of cubbies and bins. And Acura’s subbed in thicker glass and details like noise-attenuating wheels, and all ILX models include active noise cancellation.

Take a look at the Audi A3 and it’s a little tighter in most respects (although not nearly as tight in back as the Mercedes-Benz CLA). You don’t get the long-cushioned seats and softened console edges of Audi’s other models, there really aren’t many places to put smaller items, and things like power tilt-adjustable passenger seats or a heated steering wheel are omitted details.

But the ILX isn’t ahead in all respects; in fact it’s inferior to the A3, we think, in anything pertaining to aesthetics and design. The A3 knows how to impress up in front, nevertheless, with a great design and nice trims higher up in the dash.

Pricing and Options

Base pricing for the 2018 ILX leaves it in a league of its own compared to the Audi A3. While the A3 does offer AWD as an option, the standard MSRP is over $2,000 higher than the ILX. At $28,100 MSRP*, the ILX is one of the most value-packed luxury cars in its class, compared to the A3’s $31,200 starting price.

Once fully loaded, the 2018 ILX comes out even more on top, despite not having as many bells and whistles as the A3. (For example, the A3’s Prestige trim does offer a panoramic sunroof.) But if you can give up a few extra features, you can save over $7,000 by choosing the fully-loaded ILX over the fully-loaded A3. Our configured top-of-the-line ILX Technology Plus A-Spec Package came in at $36,050, while the similarly built-out A3 is listed at $43,150.

Conclusion

There’s no denying that there’s a lot to love about both of these vehicles. But the A3’s high premium price leads us to wonder why you’d pay so much for a compact car, when you could actually upgrade to a larger sedan, like the TLX, and get more bang for your buck.

And if you’re set on a compact luxury car, the price difference between the ILX and A3 is hard to justify with a few premium options. Not to mention, Acura’s reputation for reliability will provide extra added value without costing you a cent, especially in the long-run.

At the end of the day, the decision comes down to what you value as a buyer. Are you willing to pay more for a few options, or do you want to get the most value possible in a compact luxury car?

Disclaimers:

*Based on model year EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, battery pack age/condition (hybrid models only) and other factors.

**Prices shown are Acura suggested retail prices only and do not include taxes, license or destination and handling charge. Destination & Handling charge is $995 for sedans and $995 for SUVs. Acura vehicle accessory costs, labor and installation vary. Dealers set their own prices. Please consult your selected dealer.

***Star ratings sourced from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) New Car Assessment Program