Exterior view of the 2014 Acura ILX.

Acura calls the ILX its “gateway” vehicle. I know you always have to start somewhere, so if you’re in the market for luxury cars, this is not a bad place to begin, writes our automotive editor Sally Miller Wyatt.

It’s good to be first in something, and Acura claims that distinction with its advanced safety systems. Acura’s 2014 models with review cameras have been recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as becoming the first vehicles (along with Hondas) to have met the government’s Advanced Technology Feature performance criteria.

I’ve always thought those rear view cameras were not only a safety feature, but a convenience, as well. Think about it: with a car packed with kids, dogs and lots of every day distractions, it sure is nice to have something backing you up – no pun intended – when you’re backing up. The camera is just another layer of safety to alert you to obstacles you may be headed toward.

This feature is one of many safety features on board the Acura ILX, which was totally remade for 2013 and receives just a few tweaks for 2014, in addition to the nod from the NHTSA.

This ILX model is a smaller five-passenger sedan, but it is not short on the standard features and safety technology that you would expect to find in any Acura.

(Above): Interior view of the 2014 Acura ILX.

The ILX offers a choice of three powertrain options, as well as a hybrid model. Base model pricing trends up with the addition of Premium and Technology Packages. Buyers can choose from either the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is paired with a Sequential SportShift five-speed automatic transmission, or a gutsier 2.4-liter with a six-speed manual transmission. The Hybrid models have a 1.5-liter inline engine that is paired with an electric motor. The hybrid model receives an MPG rating of 39 for city driving and 38 for highway driving.

The base model offers such high-end standard features as Keyless Access with pushbutton start, Pandora internet radio interface, a power moonroof, aluminum wheels and Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, and heated door mirrors.

Standard safety features start with Acura’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE body structure, and add side-impact door beams; front, side and side curtain air bags; anti-lock brakes; Electronic Brake Force Distribution; Hill Start Assist; and Vehicle Stability Assist.

(Above): Exterior view of the 2014 Acura ILX.

Our test car was the Premium model, and it had leather seats, heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, upgraded stereo system with XM radio, HID headlights, fog lights, and that powerful six-speed manual transmission. It becomes a nicely assembled package for the price, which was $29,200.

The 2014 Acura ILX is a sporty-looking sedan with sweeping lines. Behind the wheel, you’ll find supportive seats and a cleanly designed dashboard. Visibility is very good to the front, sides, and even to the rear. Out on the road, I immediately noticed its smooth ride, intuitive and responsive handling and almost total lack of road noise. Acura’s sound-dampening efforts are extremely effective.

The rear seat is comfortable for passengers in the outboard positions. Even the rear middle seat is made just that much more comfortable, thanks to a flat floorboard.

The trunk is good sized and easily accessed through a lid that lifts up and away.

The 2014 Acura ILX is a smartly designed, feature-packed sedan and a very nice start for those looking for luxury’s “gateway” vehicle.