Acura has offered a combination of sleek style, reasonable prices, and high reliability since the late 1980s. The sporty feel was lost over the years but is making a comeback. Will that finally make it stand out in the crowd?
Are Acura Good Cars?
Acuras are good cars because they’re famous for their above-the-average reliability, sporty flair, and great design. This brand is not popular because it aims mostly in the North American and Chinese markets.
Now let’s get into details.
Pros of Acuras
1. Well-rounded style
Design-wise, Acura has done a great job distancing itself from Honda.
Acura is Honda’s luxury brand, that is, a division created to work with models which the parent company could not sell under the main brand. In this case, the problem is that Honda built its image around generalist models, so creating a separate brand would allow it to develop and properly execute a separate marketing and sales experience for a wealthier target audience. Its primary market region is North America.
Since such a strategy is risky at first, Honda took the conservative path and took upscale models originally sold in Japan to North America under the Acura badge. Over time, their sales performance motivated the company to develop specific models to replace them. Nowadays, after experimenting with some design identities of questionable taste, Acura seems to have found who it is in the world of car design.
2. Sporty flair
During its first years, Acura distinguished itself for a welcome focus on performance.
Models such as the Integra coupé and the NSX supercar made the up-and-coming luxury brand stand out in the North-American market back in the early 1990s. That gave Acura a competitive edge which was quite handy considering it had to face both direct competitors Infiniti and Lexus, created by Nissan and Toyota with similar goals, and the German automakers which have always been a reference in this market.
Acura lost part of that character in the following years because cost-cutting needs forced it to remain closer to the Honda models from which they were derived. Nevertheless, the luxury division ultimately understood that it takes money to make money: its target audience prefers to pay more for a distinguished image than to drive a fancy version of a generalist car. This is why Acura has drawn a plan to go back to its young roots.
Both the TLX sedan and the MDX sport-utility vehicle have just been completely redesigned and offer more sporty features than ever, including the performance-oriented Type S. Rather than make them race cars, it gives them an emotional character just to the right extent that their customers appreciate.
3. Overall reliability
In general, Acura cars inherit Honda’s reputation for low maintenance.
The close relation with Honda makes Acura cars borrow many parts from it, especially mechanical ones. As a result, consumer reports everywhere indicate few complaints about Acura cars and often about moderately serious issues – the biggest ones concern excessive vibration from the engine under severe conditions and transmission failure.
Among the most recent models, the TSX sedan and the RDX compact SUV are often recommended for their reliability; they have been praised for well-engineered mechanics and overall safety. On the other hand, the TL and its replacement TLX had their reputation tainted by successive recalls executed some years ago.
Cons of Acuras
1. Weak corporate image
Acura has not yet built a strong image in the market, and that affects its whole operation.
In an increasingly competitive global market, simply being a luxury brand is far from enough. Developing a clear image sets a direction for the company to follow and that helps draw who its target audience will be. Acura’s lack of assertiveness in this regard makes it generic and unable to stand out in the crowd.
Being unappealing minimizes people’s interest in its cars and ultimately harms its sales. Unfortunately, that issue makes it receive smaller investments and its corporate image ends up with an even smaller potential to be developed. Over time, this vicious circle leads to a smaller line-up and less attractive models available.
If Acura does not truly invest in its corporate image, it will never have a real chance to compete in the luxury market as intended, let alone pose a real threat to references such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
2. Market value
Acura cars are seen merely as fancy Hondas, which definitely harms their value.
Because of the previous topic, Acura has not gone far from its parent brand as, for example, Lexus. This is a problem because, no matter which product it releases, customers will always tend to search the Honda from which it was derived and make mental comparisons. In most cases, they will conclude that whatever the Acura adds is simply related to appearance, so it ends up considered an unnecessary upgrade.
That problem is particularly present on the ILX, the smallest (and cheapest) Acura currently on sale. The car is heavily based on the previous-generation Honda Civic and, as a result, gives an impression of outdated infotainment, smaller cabin, and generic dynamics. That impression only gets worse when it is compared to models such as Audi A3 Sedan, BMW 2-Series, Mercedes A-Class Sedan even being cheaper than them.
Fortunately, the bigger brother TLX is an exception to that. The all-new generation was designed to try and bring back the sportiness which almost became Acura’s competitive edge years ago, and it delivers: its sleek style, performance-oriented tuning, and attractive prices give it an excellent value in its market segment.
Also read: Are Japanese Cars Good? Best in the World?
3. Limited operation
Acura exists only in North America, China, and a few much smaller regions.
Such a reduced scope caps the brand’s sales potential and, therefore, reduces how much the parent company can safely invest in its development. That leads to Acura having fewer exclusive models to offer and sharing more components with Honda models, which goes back to the image issue already mentioned.
Even though Acura has been in the market for over three decades, parent companies will always give priority to what is bringing them money. If Acura eventually starts struggling more than usual to bring appropriate sales volumes, Honda will surely consider ending it altogether. The same event happened with Scion some years ago: it was supposed to be Toyota’s young and playful side but succumbed to low sales.
If that ever occurred to Acura, even though Honda would provide full support to the owners, those models would certainly suffer excessive depreciation from the beginning. Besides that, once the parent company moved on to newer projects, it would become difficult to find specialized maintenance and genuine parts.
What are the Best Acuras to Buy?
The 2022 MDX and TLX are the best Acuras to buy. They are reliable, come at relatively low prices, offer great design, and are fun-to-drive.
Both the SUV and the sedan received all-new generations whose design builds on the company’s latest visual identity and keep distancing themselves from Honda models, even the latest ones. Besides that, powertrain and chassis were improved with focus on sporty driving while keeping components which already had good reception on the previous generations, such as the Super Handling AWD system.
They are also competitive when it comes to rational aspects. Their prices are competitive and attractive even in those sporty versions, given that some of their direct competitors come from Germany. Nevertheless, all customers should be satisfied: both models offer a list of trim levels which includes the A-Spec for those who only want sporty looks, the refined Premium, and the cost-oriented Base.
What are the Best Alternatives for Acuras?
The best alternatives for Acura might be Honda if you don’t want to overpay for a car with similar features. However, if you’re looking for something more premium, you should consider buying Lexus, Infinity, Audi, or BMW.
Some people may like Acuras but not to the point of paying the price charged for them. In this case, Hondas would be the best alternative because they have some parts in common, especially mechanical ones – that should contribute to making repairs easier. However, there will be a difference in the overall quality and feel, since Acura is the company’s brand chosen to focus on premium customers.
In case you enjoy the balance of refinement and affordability presented by Acura but simply did not like its style or have not found an appropriate model for your needs, Infiniti and Lexus are strong contenders simply for being its most direct rivals. Lexus is a particularly interesting alternative because it frequently updates its design language and has a larger line-up.
Finally, any customers who want a premium feel but believe that Acura cars do not quite offer that should definitely consider German models from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz. Honda’s luxury brand designed its own line-up based on theirs but exchanged some sophistication for lower prices. Therefore, the more luxury you want in a generalist car, the more you should move to the base models of those three.