2023 Acura Integra offers front-wheel-powered fun with a stick shift

Building my Integra in 3 minutes
Building my Integra in 3 minutes

2023 Acura Integra offers front-wheel-powered fun with a stick shift

Honda’s luxury brand has restored the Integra nameplate, and all the fun the little sedan has. Pity they can’t slip in super handling all-wheel drive, although the 6-speed will take your mind off it.

The revived 2023 Acura Integra replaces the never-loved ILX nameplate on the low end of the brand's lineup. A stick shift is offered, but not all-wheel drive.

2023 Acura Integra A-Spec with Tech Package: A return to ‘90s fun?

Price: $35,800 as tested. The only extra: $500 for fancy paint.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “eager handling, available six-speed stick, attractive design inside and out,” but not that it’s “noisy on the road, rear seat lacks creature comforts, the Civic Si offers similar driving fun for less money.”

Marketer’s pitch: “Power with spirit.”

Reality: The Acura branding folks nailed it.

What’s new: The long-awaited revival of the sporty hatchback from Honda’s upscale make has finally arrived, this time with four doors. This replaces the ILX, which Mr. Driver’s Seat liked just fine but almost no one else seemed to.

Competition-ish: Honda Civic Si; Mercedes C-Class; Audi A4; BMW 3 Series; Lexus IS 350; Genesis G70. (The Civic is cheaper, while the others are far more expensive.)

Up to speed: The 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine creates 200 horsepower, plenty of pep for the small vehicle, especially with Sport mode engaged. It took 7 seconds to get to 60 mph, according to Car and Driver. That may not be a race-winner, but the Integra offers such fun performance in normal driving situations, with plenty of passing oomph without downshifting too much and nice pickup on small hills.

Shifty: Mr. Driver’s Seat smiled broadly when he realized he’d received an actual stick shift, the Integra’s six-speed manual transmission option.

The shifter features nice throws, close enough that I couldn’t tell just by feel which gear I was in. A dashboard readout with the gear number would help.

I also couldn’t quite get myself lined up comfortably with the pedals. I found myself adjusting and readjusting the seat many times over the course of the week, even changing shoes, hoping I’d find just the right combination. Alas, it remained elusive up to the end. It could be just a Mr. Driver’s Seat thing but worth noting if you find the same issue.

A continuously variable transmission is the other choice, so I’d probably try wearing two different shoes or even just one shoe to enjoy the clutch pedal.

On the road: Still, the Integra is just boatloads of fun, especially for the price and especially for a front-wheel-drive vehicle. It hugs the road as if it were on rails, rounding curves like a slot car when in dynamic mode.

And for a small sporty car, the highway ride is not bad at all. I got onto highways and never crashed into any seams or small potholes.

Driver’s Seat: Despite Mr. Driver’s Seat’s whining about lining up with the pedals, the seat itself is comfy. The sedan sits fairly low, although not “man in his 50s groans when getting out” low.

I do wish it raised a little bit more, just for lining up with the steering wheel and gauges.

Friends and stuff: Rear-seat space is a little better in some respects than expected, with good legroom and foot room. Headroom, though, is beyond challenging, where Mr. Driver’s Head is in full contact with the ceiling.

The center seat is better than one would think, though, with a modest hump and a console that doesn’t intrude from the front.

Cargo space is a generous 24.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat. And again, yay, hatchback.

Play some tunes: The 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D stereo takes a page from other Acuras and the Honda Odyssey, providing some of the best sound quality I’ve experienced. I still believe that the Odyssey was the best unit of all, but even in the Integra I picked up instruments playing in places I’d long forgotten about. Still, I think we’re in “A” territory here for a sound grade.

Operation of the system is fairly simple, with a dial for volume and a touchscreen for everything else.

Keeping warm and cool: Acura may have found a way to make rectangular blower vents offer the easy control of round vents — tiny joysticks in the middle of the vent. I don’t recall seeing these before, and now I can’t understand why no one else has thought of this yet. Easy directing the air.

The rest of the operation is just as simple — dials for temperature and fan speed and buttons controlling where the air comes from.

Fuel economy: The Integra was averaging 27 mpg even before I got my mitts on it, with an average speed of 28 mph, so I think better consumption numbers await if you spend some time on the highway.

Where it’s built: Marysville, Ohio

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts a 4 out of 5 for reliability.

In the end: This column started out as a head-to-head between last week’s Subaru WRX GT and the Integra. But it seemed unfair, because the Integra is so fun and much easier to live with, even as the Subaru cost about $7,000 more. So I vote Integra, unless I’m in the back, or really need all-wheel drive.

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