2023 Acura Integra: Controversial Comeback

Strong points
  • Surprisingly fun to drive
  • Great fuel economy
  • Comfortable seats
  • Versatile interior
Weak points
  • A bit too expensive
  • No all-wheel drive
  • Same power as the Civic Si
  • Manual gearbox in A-Spec Elite trim only
Full report

Acura’s new compact car would have been a fantastic surprise if it had launched under any other name. The big wigs thought it was a good idea to revive the Integra because of all the fond memories that are associated with this iconic model, but they made two mistakes in the process.

First, Acura announced the return of the Integra without initially specifying that there would be no two-door coupe this time around. Second, the garish prototype that came a few months later looked like a poorly executed throwback to the tuning era of the early 2000s.

Enthusiasts quickly lost interest upon learning that the new Integra would be a five-door liftback only, and the aforementioned prototype was such an ugly sight that there wasn’t much hope left.

After some of the dust had settled, Acura released the specs and another disappointment quickly hit people in the face: the powertrain is exactly the same as the Honda Civic Si’s, meaning the Integra is little more than a replacement for the old ILX.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

The Civic-Integra Relationship

While the company doesn’t necessarily want you to associate the new Integra with the Civic, it’s worth remembering that the first three generations spanning over 24 years have all shared components with the Civic—from the chassis to the transmission to the suspension. Similarly, the 2023 model uses the same platform and powertrain as the Civic Si, while the dashboard design is nearly identical. Is that a bad thing? Consider that the one of the Integra’s main rivals, the Audi A3, has a lot in common with the Volkswagen Golf and no one has ever complained about that.

On the other hand, Acura definitely could have spiced things up a little. Maybe a few extra ponies, or possibly all-wheel drive. Alas, the turbocharged 1.5-litre mill in the Integra delivers the same 200 horsepower as the Civic Si. And while a manual gearbox is available in top-line A-Spec Elite trim, many customers will likely opt for the automatic transmission. Not a dual-clutch unit like the one the ILX offered, but a boring CVT. For driving enthusiasts, that’s not going to cut it—no matter how good of a job said CVT does.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

With the manual, the Integra proves surprisingly fun to drive. This transmission also comes with a limited-slip differential and adaptive suspension (the latter can be had with the CVT-equipped A-Spec Elite, too), which adds another layer to the driving experience. Even more impressive is the combination of performance and fuel economy, with a rating of 7.4 L/100 km if you choose the CVT or 7.8 L/100 km if you go with the stick.

Without any doubt, a lot of fans are wishing for a Type S or Type R model. Remember, there’s a new Civic Type R on the way for 2023, as well, packing over 300 horsepower under the hood. It’s not impossible that Acura is working on a hotter Integra as we speak.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

More Handsome Upon Further Review

As previously mentioned, the prototype from last year looked awful, but now that I’ve spent a good amount of time with the production model, I must say the new Integra has grown on me. In A-Spec guise, it actually looks sharp. Highlights include 18-inch wheels (instead of the standard 17-inch wheels), gloss black accents all around and a rear spoiler. Few people will be attracted to the base Integra, which is more conventional and available in white or silver only.

The A-Spec looks sportier inside, too, and you have the choice of black or red leatherette (the A-Spec Elite even adds micro suede inserts). The cockpit is quite similar to the Civic’s including the dashboard, instrument cluster and centre touchscreen. It’s nice and ergonomic, but again, not distinctive enough. Typical Acura customers will not get the luxury feel they’re used to.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Fancy a loaded Integra A-Spec Elite? The list of goodies starts with a head-up display and amazing 16-speaker premium sound system, but there’s more such as heated headrests and additional seating adjustments. Incidentally, finding a perfect driving position is easy and the seats provide plenty of comfort.

Rear-seat occupants enjoy more room than in the outgoing ILX, while trunk capacity is a generous 688 litres. Bless the liftgate that makes the Integra way more convenient than the four-door sedan. In case you forgot, the original Integra was available in a five-door configuration, so I guess you could say it has come full circle.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Ricky Move

While small luxury cars keep losing market shares (the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, for one, will not return after 2022), Acura maintains the new Integra is relevant—even though the Americans have always disliked hatchbacks. It’s a risky move, for sure, but one that could pay off for Honda’s luxury brand, especially if manual transmission die-hards seize this rare new opportunity.

Obviously, Acura is not counting on the Integra to become its best-selling product. SUVs like the RDX and MDX will always be more popular. However, there’s clearly a place for an affordable, sporty and fun-to-drive car that burns very little fuel in today’s market. As for pricing, the new Integra is significantly more expensive than the ILX. At just over $45,000 in top trim, it stands $8,000 above the priciest Civic Hatchback you can buy, which has 20 fewer horsepower.

Watch: 2023 Acura Integra Makes Official Debut

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