2023 Acura Integra
Certain models define a brand. What would Chevrolet be without Corvette? Ford without the F150?
Acura once had a model like that — the Integra.
And now it does again.
What It Is
The Integra is Acura’s upmarket version of the Honda Civic Si, which is the high-performance version of the otherwise economy-minded Civic.
Both cars are similar mechanically, being powered by the same 200 horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, paired with a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT automatic — but the Acura version is (interestingly) a five-door hatchback, while the Civic Si is a four-door sedan.
It’s interesting because the hatchback layout nearly doubles the Integra’s available space for cargo, making the Honda the less practical car of the two.
The new Integra’s base price is $30,800.
An A-Spec equipped with larger (18-inch) wheels/tires, LED fog lights, contrast-color rear spoiler and interior trim upgrades (stainless steel pedals, contrast-stitching for the seat covers and door panels) lists for $32,900.
This version of the Integra is also the only version of this version of the Civic Si that is available with a six-speed manual transmission, which is offered as a no-cost option for those who prefer to shift for themselves.
The Integra returns after a 22-year hiatus.
A more practical version of the Civic Si.
Available with a manual transmission.
More subtle-looking than the Civic Si.
What’s Not So Good
A more expensive version of the Civic Si.
No more engine than you get in the Civic Si.
Manual only available in the most expensive A-Spec trim.
Under The Hood
Like the Civic, the Integra comes standard with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s been turbo-boosted to make 200 horsepower.
That is “a lot” of power out of just 1.5 liters.
To gain some perspective, have a look at the specs of the last (2001 model year) Integra, which came standard with a larger 1.8-liter engine that made … 140 horsepower. To get close to the output of the new Integra’s standard engine back in 2001, you’d have had to buy the highest-performance version of the old Integra, the GS-R.
And that only got you 195 horsepower — as well as just 128 foot-pounds of torque. The is latter not until you raced the engine to 6,200 RPM, which is close to the redline of the new Integra’s engine.
The new Integra’s 1.5-liter engine makes 192 foot-pounds at just 1,800 RPM, chiefly because it’s turbocharged, which swells torque production at low RPM. This makes it a very different engine versus the old Integra’s engine, which was designed to be a high-RPM engine and relied on airflow at high RPM to make power, to make up for the torque it didn’t make.
The new Integra will appeal to those who like a quicker Integra, with less work. It gets to 60 — with the six-speed manual transmission — in the same seven seconds it took the highest-performance ’01 Type-R to make the same run.
The catch is that, unlike back then, you can only get the manual with the A-Spec equipped with the Technology Package, whereas back in ’01, the Integra GS-R came standard with a manual.
On The Road
This car is a study in contrasts.
It is a much easier car to drive — fast — than the old Integra was. It is not necessary to keep the revs up to always be in the right gear for the moment because the torque is always there.
On the other hand, it’s less exciting to drive this Integra than the old one. Driving that one was a lot like riding a two-stroke motorcycle with no power at first … and “then.”
That happened at around 5,000 RPM in the old Integra GS-R, which was when the VTEC (variable valve timing and lift) system wide-opened those swirl-polished valves and great gulps of air were inhaled and exhaled. This engine would spin to more than 8,500 RPM before it hit the rev limiter.
The new Integra’s engine redlines at 6,500, and revving it even that high isn’t necessary to wring every last bit of power out of the thing — which is a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about it.
At The Curb
The Integra is dimensionally almost identical to the Civic Si sedan that it is under its skin.
Both are compacts at about 185 inches long. The meaningful difference between the two is that the Integra, being a hatchback, has room for nearly twice as much stuff (24.3 cubic feet) as the Civic sedan (14.4 cubic feet). That difference is more meaningful than the numbers convey, too, because of the fact that the Integra’s hatchback opens wider than the Civic’s trunk and because the Integra’s layout makes it feasible to use most of the rest of the interior as continuous cargo space, too.
If 200 horses and six speeds isn’t enough, wait.
Honda has a Type-R version of the Civic Si on the pipeline that’s packing a larger, 2.0-liter engine and more than 300 horsepower. An Acura version of this most-ferocious-ever Civic is likely on deck for 2024, too.
The Bottom Line
Nothing’s ever the same as it was.
But it’s nice that you can get something similar again.
View the Acura Integra this week.
Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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