There's something to be said about slow and steady truly winning the race. About how less flash can equate into more dash. Or about being understated to the point someone thinks your Acura is really a hot, new Honda. (Well, they are practically cousins.)

So if I were Acura, I wouldn't necessarily take it as an insult to find out a recent passenger in your 2005 Acura TSX thought it was an Accord.

See, Acura has gone to great lengths to make the TSX a memorable experience, not a mimic of something else.

Hoping to slot itself in between the hot little Acura RSX Coupe (consider it the wild-child little brother) and the slightly more upscale TL (the older sibling), the TSX is the entry-level luxury sport sedan that most first-time Acura buyers will naturally gravitate toward.

The real secret? This is a steal.

Yes, the styling is forgettable. But, no, the TSX will not be quickly forgotten. Especially after a few spins in this sub-$30,000 vehicle.

With that typical Honda four-cylinder engine that loves to rev, and sounds very good doing it, the TSX offers the wonderful blend of sharp handling, an upscale (again, understated) interior, a laundry list of standard equipment and even a navigation system that is one of the easiest I've ever used (should you need such a thing).

It's fun, fuel-efficient and even somewhat affordable - not to mention Honda reliable. But how could a "four-banger" ever earn a key into the sport sedan room, you ask? To which I say: Have you ever driven Honda's four-bangers? Have you?

The 2.4-liter, 200 horsepower, double-overhead cam i-VTEC motor actually doesn't find its stride until you're at about 6,800 rpm (that's past red-line levels for us domestic folks). That means the TSX, with either its six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with Sportshift feature, finds its peak power, torque and acceleration when it is revving the most, not at the typically domestic low levels. Fun quotient just moved up a notch, or 10.

Inside, though, it won't give you any German car flashbacks. This is functional at its best. The seats are sporty, but nowhere near Audi or Volvo when it comes to true support. The instruments and gauges are easy to read, but they don't have that level of refinement found in more expensive offerings.

But where the TSX makes up ground is on the price sheet. Available in only one trim, but with gobs of standard features (17-inch wheels, power-adjustable driver and passenger seats, leather, dual-zone climate control and an eight-speaker, 360-watt audio system) I'll bet the car you walk up to is the car you get.

You won't find much better handling at this price (under $27,000 in base mode). With a heavy-duty suspension up front and in the back, there is barely a hint of body roll. In everyday driving you might forget that they've labeled this "luxury sport."

Exterior aside - and, really, there's nothing wrong with a car that doesn't beg to be stared at - the TSX is a great start for Acura with a car that was, until recently, offered only in European markets as a (surprise!) Honda Accord.

Enjoy the arrival.

2005 Acura TSX

Vehicle type: Front-wheel-drive, front-engine, four-door, five-passenger sport sedan

Key competition: Audi A4, Infiniti G35, Saab 9-3

Base engine: 200-horsepower 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder

Transmission: Five-speed automatic or six-speed manual

Standard safety equipment: Four-wheel ABS; dual front air bags; traction control; stability control; side-impact and side-curtain air bags

MPG rating: 21 city/30 highway

Manufactured: Japan

Warranty: Basic warranty is four years/50,000 miles

Base price: $26,990

Price as tested (including destination and delivery): $29,560