Acura’s newest car channels the spirit of one of its oldest, and its fans are here for it.
The 2023 Acura Integra takes its name from one of the models that helped launch the brand in 1986, and was spirited through three rod-era generations until it was last used in 2001. Like the previous Integras, the new one is based on the Honda Civic. , but has a unique four-door liftback design.
It comes standard with the same 200 hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine featured in the sporty Civic Si and is available with a six-speed manual transmission to add to the throwback vibe.
However, you should play for the joy of do-it-yourself shifting today. The Ohio-built, front-wheel-drive Integra starts at $31,895, three-grand more than a loaded Civic Si, but you need to opt for the top $36,895 A-Spec with Technology Package trim to unlock the stick-shift. choice Otherwise, it comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission that is programmed to pretend it has gears.
So far, about 65% of initial orders have been placed for manual transmission-equipped Integras, indicating increased demand for what has become an increasingly rare feature in affordable sporty sedans and nostalgia-driven interest. Acura anticipates that things will start to shift in the automatic’s favor as more orders come in, but to what extent remains to be seen.
The manual is bundled with a limited-slip front differential, which provides better traction under acceleration, and the Technology Package adds computer-controlled adaptive suspension and an ELS audio system that keeps the two in the ceiling. All Integra trims get the Acura Sensing suite of electronic driver aids, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and a lane-centering system.
The Integra is essentially the same size as the Civic, with a similarly roomy interior that’s more midsize than compact. In fact, the EPA classifies it as a large car. There’s enough legroom for six-footers to sit six feet behind, but they can press their heads under the low, sleek roofline in the back.
Test drive: 2022 Honda Civic hatchback is a throwback
The dashboard has a well-thought-out design with knobs and buttons for climate control, and the touchscreen infotainment system is much easier to use than the remote touchpads used by Acura in recent models. A seven-inch screen and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are included, while the Technology Package brings a nine-inch display, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a wireless charging pad to the mix. Deep sport bucket seats upholstered in synthetic leather and microsuede are equally fashionable and functional.
Along with the upfront cost, the manual transmission drops the Integra’s combined fuel economy rating to 30 mpg combined from the CVT’s 33/32 mpg, but the fun factor more than makes up for it. It’s as slick-shifting and easy to use as any stick in the business, and its 36 mpg highway rating is just one less than the CVT’s.
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The Integra offers Comfort, Normal and Sport driving modes, but also an individual setting that lets you program the stiffness of the shocks and how you want the throttle response and steering to feel.
Interestingly, the 2023 Integra has just five more horsepower than the 2001 Integra Type R, featuring the naturally aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder motor that made the model a legend in the hot hatchback scene. Low-mileage examples have sold for over $100,000 in recent years, and the allure of this level of performance continues.
The Integra gets plenty of punch from its turbo and can accelerate to 60 mph in just under seven seconds. It’s not exactly going to be a pocket rocket, but it’s quick enough to make good time on a real road without getting into trouble. The ride isn’t harsh in the Sport setting, but handling is excellent and puts down power perfectly even in those differential curves.
The Integra is a very sophisticated car, it’s a joy to cruise on the freeway as it tackles twisty mountain roads, and the 24.3 cubic-foot cargo area is big enough to carry enough luggage for a fairly long road trip. It may not have the Fast and Furious edge or image of its predecessors, but anyone who owns one of those has probably matured over the decades.
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Overall I’d say the Legend is back, but that’s the name of Acura’s other original launch vehicle, so it’s not technically there.
2023 Acura Integra
Base price: $31,895
As Tested: $36,895
Type: 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive, 4-door liftback.
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 200 hp, 192 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
MPG: 26 city/36 hwy