But was a real love affair born out of this test drive?
About 16 years after Acura shelved one of its most beloved cars, Acura has decided to resurrect the Integra. The Integra originally was developed in Japan and became such a hit there that Acura decided to bring it to the U.S. The Integra thrived and was a cornerstone of Acura’s lineup, until Acura developed the RSX. Bringing back such a classic 90’s legend is not an easy feat. Redesigning the 2023 Acura Integra for the 2020’s buyer, making it modernized and practical (and with a manual transmission in the top end model!) yet still retaining the qualities that made it so impactful when it debuted, is certainly a challenge.
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Nailing Sporty and Practical from Day One
The Integra was originally created in 1986 as a “sophisticated sports sedan,” designed to be “sporty as well as practical” according to the original press kit from Acura. Bold and fun, the Integra was also car that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive to that fancy restaurant. In developing the new 2023 Integra, Acura aimed to embody the same spirit as the classic. Today, the starting price range of $30,000 to $35,800 makes it a compelling consideration.
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Does It Look Like An Integra?
Designed in Japan and built in Ohio (the American-sold vehicles, at least), the Integra carries elements of both modern and past Acura design. Overall, the styling of the Integra is most reminiscent of modern Acuras, with a front clearly from the same family as the brand’s other sedans, stocked with the brand’s signatures — jeweled headlights, “chicane” daytime running lights, and the diamond pentagon grille, although this vehicle will be the first sold with a more subtle-looking frameless grille.
Walking around to the back of the car, there are definitely some elements of the classic Integra’s style. The sloped roofline gives this car a unique look; not quite a coupe, not quite a sedan, and the long one-piece taillights and square cutout for the hatch release are directly inspired by the older Integras. “Integra” embossed on the front and rear bumpers also harkens back to past generations.
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Heritage Models Carry a Heavy Burden
It needs to look like an Integra–embodying the heritage of handling and performance, and as the original did, offering a counterbalance to the luxury of Acura’s larger, less sporty, sedans. Whether this car looks like what car enthusiasts expect an Integra to look like or not, it is a good looking car. Acura’s angular styling gives the car an aggressive look, yet it maintains a luxurious feel as well. These aggressive angles are further accentuated by the metallic grey called Liquid Carbon, and a stunning blue (an exclusive color for Acura’s sport-focused A-Spec package). I would like to have seen the Integra offered in some more exciting color choices outside of the red, blue, white, silver, grey, and black offered — after all, the original concept car was a fantastic yellow!
For those who may want to add a bit of sporty styling to their Integra, the A-Spec package comes with 18” wheels, black trim, a black rear spoiler, and a black diffuser just under the front grille. Acura also offers optional 19” wheels, black underbody spoilers, and a carbon fiber package, with carbon fiber mirror caps and a carbon fiber rear spoiler. For the outdoorsy type, the Integra can be ordered with roof racks with bike, kayak, or ski and snowboard attachments.
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The 2023 Acura Integra’s Interior Did Not Disappoint
In the interior of the car, Acura delivers in the way the brand always does. While the new Integra may be built on the frame of the Honda Civic, when I sit in the driver’s seat I certainly don’t feel like I was in a Civic anymore (cue Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz?). The A-Spec package in the vehicle I tested had red heated suede front seats trimmed with leather with full leather backseats, which is great for easy cleanup when your friend spills his caramel ribbon crunch frappuccino, if you’ll let him in the car with that. While the front seats are heated and a heated steering wheel is an option, I do miss having ventilated seats.
Great Technology That Wows – and a Touchscreen!
Per Acura’s standards, the car is stocked with technology. The multimedia screen is a 10.2” touchscreen. I am so grateful that Acura elected to fit this car with a touchscreen. In many of their other vehicles, Acura uses a touchpad to control the multimedia screen that I, personally, do not love (perhaps the Integra’s touchscreen is a sign of things to come?). To me, the touchscreen is much more intuitive and significantly easier to operate. With the Technology Package, this car also has wireless charging, wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto (although wired versions are available in the base model), a heads up display, Amazon Alexa, and award-winning 16-speaker premium surround sound audio.
The gauges are fully digital, and I love the animation on them. While you are driving the instrument cluster displays an animated Integra image between the speedometer and tachometer. This animation shows you where you are in your lane, illustrating the car drifting back and forth between the two lane lines, and lights up the brake lights and turn signals when you do the same. No more question of “will the car behind me hit me?” when your adaptive cruise control slows you down…now you can see your brakes come on! On the subject of active cruise control, I will note that traffic jam assist and low-speed follow are only available in the automatic version of the car — the manual only has standard active cruise control.
Driver Assist and Safety Systems Deliver, But Maybe Deliver Too Much?
The blind spot monitors in the Integra are in the mirrors and are a more noticeable light compared to the A-pillar-mounted lights on the Acura RDX, although I do feel that the notification sound is a little quiet. I would like an alert that will actually grab my attention in the event that I am about to merge into another car. The lane departure system on the Acura feels a bit aggressive to me. Rather than a simple pull in the steering wheel to direct me back into my lane, the steering wheel vibrates pretty dramatically. To me, this was distracting, and a bit of overkill. The lane keep assist, though, is a nice feature. Able to be turned on and off independently of cruise control, this feature gently guides the steering wheel to maintain your lane. Friendly reminder: You do need to keep your hands on the wheel.
The Roominess Throughout the Integra is Notable
The backseat is roomy to say the least, and this is a benefit of being built on the Civic’s framework; for the 2022 remodel this compact sedan saw its length grow by 6″ and much of that extra space went into the rear seat. When I sat down, I began to think that I may have actually moved my driver’s seat forward by accident, because the leg room was so spacious. I’m 5’11”, for reference. With the sloped, fastback style roof, I expected to be short on headroom in the backseat, but was pleasantly surprised. Sitting bolt upright, my head did definitely touch the ceiling, but when relaxed, I barely grazed the headliner, which is a very different experience from other fastbacks that I have been in.
The storage space on the Integra is unmatched to other sedans in the class because of the hatchback design. With passengers in the backseat, the trunk is similar to a standard sedan, but when the backseat is empty, the seats fold, giving well over double the cargo space. There is a decent lip dropping down into the trunk, though, so maneuvering large objects into and out of the trunk might be a bit of a strain.
Yes, There is a Difference Between the Drive Modes
Most importantly, though, how does the new Integra drive? The simple answer: great! But then again, what else would you expect from an Acura? Like other modern Acuras, the Integra has three drive modes: comfort, normal, and sport. In comfort, the electronic power steering is softened, giving you a gentler feel on the steering wheel. Power is reduced, as well, and active suspension (available on the Technology Package) softens, to give a smoother ride, while engine noise, which is piped into the cabin, is quieted. In sport mode, the opposite happens, stiffening up suspension and sharpening the steering. Unlike some cars where drive modes seem to exist more for fun than function, there are actually pretty distinctive differences between drive modes in the Integra. No matter what mode you’re in, the Integra feels comfortable on curves with steering that adapts with speed, ensuring as much comfort when sitting in traffic as cruising on the highway.
Talking Up My Most Favorite Part of the Acura Integra
Now for the best (and worst) part of the car-the transmission. When I first hopped in the Integra, I was given a car with a manual transmission. Paired with the manual, the 200 horsepower four-cylinder engine feels peppy. Honestly, it feels like more than 200 horsepower. The manual is, in my opinion, easy to drive, although the shortness of the shifter and closeness between gears may produce some short-lived difficulty for some first-time manual drivers. The shifter is fairly notchy and stiff, and the clutch gives good resistance without giving you a left leg workout in traffic. The manual rev-match feature on downshifts is also excellent, allowing you to downshift with ease. On a side note, the manual (which is only available on the fully-loaded A-Spec with Technology Package) is accompanied by a limited slip differential, which provides greater handling and traction.
My Least Favorite Part of the Acura Integra
For those who may not want to struggle with driving manual, the Integra comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT. This is where my elation with the car ends. On the bright side, the CVT “shifts” smoothly (since it doesn’t truly shift at all). On the not-so-bright side, the CVT feels a bit sluggish, though this is more likely due to the 192 lb.-ft of torque than the 200 HP it generates. Less torque = slower acceleration, after all.
Acura fitted the CVT with a “step shift” feature and paddle shifters to give the illusion of shifting through gears, but the feel of power when a true automatic downshifts just isn’t there, not to mention the lag between when you put your foot to the floor and the car actually accelerates. The manual feels like it puts out a peppy 220-or-so horsepower, giving you more confidence to merge onto a highway or cruise past a truck than the the CVT does. At this price, $30,600 – $35,800 MSRP, I would like for a car that feels a little more spunky and powerful.
The Integra Meets the Criteria, But Needs a Minute to Make it Magic
The Integra gives the professional business woman a weekend fun car with both comfort and class. An entry level Acura, it delivers Acura’s luxury at a fraction of some other Acura price tags, and even competes with other luxury brands like Audi, Mercedes, and BMW. To me, the new Integra does embody the practical-yet-sporty image that the original Integra sought to attain. It’s for those who want a cool look while driving kids to school (and they’ll have plenty of room in the back seat), or the hard-working business woman who road trips on weekends. With the luxury combined with the cargo and passenger space, it gives an option outside of both SUVs and sedans. I, for one, am excited to see the Integra return to the streets.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Acura’s to test the new Integra, all opinions and impressions are my own.
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